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Client Success Story: Damages for Retail Worker Assaulted by Suspected Shoplifter

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Please note that this post was written for Victorian audiences and the information within may not apply to other regions.

Zaparas Lawyers successfully assisted an injured retail worker to obtain damages following an assault by a suspected shoplifter.

In 2017 near the end of the workday, our client, a Retail Sales Assistant working by herself, was assisting a customer in a clothing shop when a Shopping Centre Security Guard indicated that a person who had just entered her shop was acting suspiciously and had put something in her stomach region. Our client finished serving the customer and tidied some racks when the suspicious character removed an item of clothing that she had hidden in her own clothes, threw them on the ground and as she went to leave the store she grabbed our client, forcefully pushing her to the ground.

Unfortunately, our client, Ms P, suffered a serious and long-term injury to her lower back and referred symptoms as well as psychological. Despite treatment, her symptoms remain and she has not been able to return to work since the incident. Her family and friends report that the incident had a tremendous effect on Ms P who had become like a different person from someone who used to be outgoing, social, vibrant and upbeat to now someone who is withdrawn, introverted and with a lower demeanor.

During a recent trial for compensation in the form of damages, Ms P alleged that there was a failure to take reasonable care to provide a safe and proper system of work and safe place to work. Ms P also alleged that it reasonably foreseeable that an individual working alone in a shop with a suspicious character within a Shopping Centre that has a history of crime including thefts and armed robberies could become a victim of an assault. The Employer denied they had breached their duty of care to our client noting it was an unprovoked assault not due to any short coming of their fault whilst the Centre Security denied they were under a contractual obligation to provide security services within our client’s retail shop and they did not owe a duty of care to our client to control the criminal conduct of a third party.

The Employer essentially left our client to fend for herself. She had received little to no adequate training on what to do in such circumstances, no risk assessments appeared to have had been undertaken, there was no in-store CCTV installed, no entrance way buzzer, no duress button, no security related signage, a failure to acknowledge and/or understand and/or act on the limits of the Centre Security  and she was required to work alone near closing time.

Interestingly the Employer had though instructed staff to contact Centre security relating to incidents of shoplifting or theft. The Centre security whilst claiming to have the responsibility to maintain safety and comfort of all customers, tenants and staff had no system in place to prevent known shoplifters from entering the worker’s shop. Further, although the Security Provider was meant to be responsible for the security and safety of the property, its perimeter, its tenants and visitors, the provision of security for retail tenant premises was specifically excluded. A Security Officer who suspects a person has committed an offence were not allowed to make arrests and were not to chase the suspect around the site nor approach the person but instead to observe and report the situation to Police if that person was violent or posed a threat to the safety of an individual.

Although the Employer and Centre Security denied they were negligent, refused to make any offers in the lead up to the Trial and took the view that our client was likely to lose against both Defendants, Zaparas Lawyers along with Counsel were ultimately able to negotiate a positive outcome for our client part-way through her proceeding which will result in her receiving lump sum damages; helping ease the financial burden the incident has left her with. Ms P acknowledged our services, reporting that we were able to ‘give her peace of mind and helped her with her confidence’. She is ‘grateful that she could have our representation in this difficult process’

We congratulate our clients that remaining steadfast in their pursuit for fair compensation, especially in circumstances hard fought as this matter.

You can find other blogs on successful Zaparas Lawyers cases below: