Florist loses appeal against Slip Compensation Claim

A florist, who has been sued for damages after a man slipped on a petal and injured himself, has lost her bid to appeal the decision.

Brian Piccolo, aged 50, of Witham, Essex, slipped on a petal as he walked past Chiltern Flowers in Marylebone Station in London on 10 March 2003, on his way to his job at BNP Paribas. He fell onto his right hand and knee and was hospitalised for six months after sustaining a serious back injury. After enduring a period of paralysis he now struggles to walk with the aid of a stick.

Mr Piccolo lodged a £1.5 million negligence claim against Chiltern Flowers and The Chiltern Railway Co, which has overall responsibility for running the station.

In July 2007, High Court Judge John Altman ruled in favour of bank worker, Mr Piccolo, after ruling that the shop was negligent in failing to have a “reasonably effective and safe system for dealing with the danger of fallen petals.” He added that the presence of petals on the light beige concourse floor presented a foreseeable hazard of slipping and that despite those responsible being fully aware of the risk, their “clean as you go” system was ineffective. He said: “The petal had been on the ground longer than it would have been if an effective system had been in place and that therefore the accident was caused by that breach of duty.”

The Chiltern Railway Company was cleared of negligence by the judge as it was heard in court that they had on numerous occasions made it clear to the florist that debris on the pavement could pose a potential hazard to customers, and they had threatened to revoke their concourse licence if appropriate safety measures were not implemented.

Bella Patel, aged 45, who runs the florist, insisted that there was no evidence to suggest that a petal from her shop was to blame for Mr Piccolo’s accident. She said: “At the time this happened there was a leak in the station roof and water on the concourse could have contributed if he indeed did fall over – but we have maintained it was not a petal from our shop that was to blame.”

Mrs Patel who has run Chiltern Flowers for five years said her insurance would not cover Mr Piccolos claim. “I have been told that our insurance runs to something like £800,000 so if the judge awards Mr Piccolo the full amount then we will be bankrupt and I will be financially ruined. I cannot believe this has been going on for so long and that the judge has now ruled against me”, she added.

At the Court of Appeal, lawyers for the florist asked for permission to challenge the ruling that neither Mr Piccolo nor The Chiltern Railway Co should bear part liability. Lady Justice Smith ruled against the appeal saying that although Mr Piccolo was aware of the presence of the flower display, there was no reason why, he should have been looking down at his feet in order to avoid slippery petals as he walked by. Nor was the Chiltern Railway Co to blame.

The amount of damages to be awarded is yet to be decided, but Mr Piccolo is seeking £1.5 million.

Mr Piccolo who lives with his wife Diana and their two sons Alexander and Dominic said: “I was walking along minding my own business and through no fault of my own I have ended up like this. My life has been turned upside down. I can’t do the things that I want to do with my boys or around the house. I have been told that my condition will probably deteriorate and I may end up in a wheelchair.”

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