Claimant in M & S Slipping Claim Loses Case

An accountant who claimed he injured himself by slipping on a grape in a Marks and Spencer car park has lost his High Court bid for damages.

Alexander Martin-Sklan, 55, from Golders Green, North London, was trying to claim more than £300,000 over the incident which happened as he left the Finchley Road store on 18 June 2004.

He claimed that as he left the store into the car park he slipped and tore the tendon in his right leg. He blames a grape which was on the underside of his shoe, for the fall, claiming it was from inside the store.

Mr Martin-Sklan who represented himself in court through written submissions said: “The claimant upon conclusion of his shopping in the store and having just passed the fruit and vegetable section, exited into the car park. Walking onto the ramp outside and while pushing the trolley down the slope a car appeared to his left. The car was driving at speed and the claimant was startled and compelled to stop suddenly – and as he did so his right foot slipped outward and he fell awkwardly. He ripped his quadriceps tendon as a result. A piece of stepped upon grape was found on his right shoe.”

The accountant, who charges £225 an hour for his services, told the court that his claim centred on the fact he had picked up the fruit somewhere on the company’s premises. He claims his injuries prevented him from recruiting new clients for his accountancy business due to deep depression and a loss of confidence. He also said his injuries had stopped him from participating in regular sports such as football, tennis and skiing.

Marks and Spencer was defended in the case by barrister James Aldridge and denied any negligence. Mr Aldridge argued that Mr Martin-Sklan could have walked into the store with the grape already on his shoe, and that there was no evidence that the reason he fell was the grape.

He was claiming a total £315,815 in damages from the company after discovering that the car park was swept only once a week creating what he claimed was an “intolerable hazard”.

Judge John Leighton Williams QC said: “I am afraid I am unable to find for him on the evidence. In my judgement it is one of those accidents that could happen to any one of us.” He concluded that he was in no doubt that there was some sort of crushed fruit on Mr Martin-Sklan’s sandal, which he showed in court, but was not convinced that this caused him to slip.

He ordered Mr Martin-Sklan to pay around £15,000 towards Marks and Spencer’s court costs, and was given 28 days to pay an interim sum of £7,500.

Mr Martin-Sklan refused to comment after the judgement.

A specialist personal injury solicitor at Macks Solicitors said “This case highlights the need for potential claimants to seek advice from a legal expert. If this gentleman had done so the outcome may have been different or he may have been advised that his case had little chance of success and he could have saved himself the £15,000 costs he has to pay to Marks and Spencers.

“At Macks we are always happy to give legal advice on a personal injury matter without any obligation. As we also work on a No Win No Fee basis so it would cost nothing to have us pursue a claim”.

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