Osley Baptiste Plaintiff v C K Greaves & Company Ltd Defendant [ECSC]

JurisdictionSt Vincent and the Grenadines
JudgeMitchell, J
Judgment Date31 May 2001
Judgment citation (vLex)[2001] ECSC J0531-6
CourtHigh Court (Saint Vincent)
Docket NumberCIVIL SUIT NO.192 OF 1997
Date31 May 2001
[2001] ECSC J0531-6



Osley Baptiste
C K Greaves & Company Limited
Mitchell, J

This was an occupier's liability suit. It involved a customer at a supermarket who claimed that he slipped on the premises and suffered injury as a result. One issue for the court was whether the payment by the Defendant of the Plaintiff's medical and other bills shortly after the accident amounted to an admission of liability in negligence that was binding on the Defendant.


By consent at the commencement of the trial, the only issue at the trial was liability. It was agreed that the question of damages if any was to come up on a summons for assessment of damages at a later stage.


By a specially endorsed writ issued on 5 June 1997, the Plaintiff claimed that on 16 July 1994, while he was shopping at the Defendant's supermarket at Arnos Vale, he slipped in some meat water and fell; that as a result he received injuriesand suffered pain and loss; and, that this was caused by the negligence of the Defendant in failing to take steps to prevent meat water from being on the floor of the supermarket and from failing to warn the Plaintiff that the floor was wet and dangerous. As a result of a court order of 3 December 1999, the Plaintiff delivered Further and Better Particulars of the Statement of Claim. In particular, he claimed that he was only aware of the water when he got up from the floor and saw that there was bloody and slimy water running from the freezer of meat and other cold stuff. By a Defence filed on 30 July 1997, the Defendant denied that the floor was wet or dangerous or that the Plaintiff suffered any injuries. The Request for Hearing was filed on 20 January 2000 and the case has been ready for trial ever since.


A major part of the cross examination of the Plaintiff was directed to questioning whether he had ever slipped and fallen on the day in question. A great deal of evidence was given by the Defendant as to the impossibility of any water having leaked from the freezer in question and causing the Plaintiff to slip. The Defendant called witnesses to testify that the freezers had been properly maintained, that the floor was regularly mopped and cleaned, that no water as alleged was on the floor by the freezer in question, and that the Plaintiff had never made any complaint to the staff of the Defendant. Indeed, a member of staff whom the Plaintiff had testified had been assisting him at the time of the alleged fall came to testify that the Plaintiff had never slipped and fallen at all. The manager of the supermarket at the time of the incident gave evidence that the Plaintiff had never complained of a fall, though he had himself asked the Plaintiff about the report of a fall. The evidence which the court accepts is that the Plaintiff did make a compliant to the Defendant company immediately the alleged fall occurred. The Defendant sent the Plaintiff to see a local doctor, made the doctor's appointment for the Plaintiff, and paid the medical bill. The local doctor referred the Plaintiff to specialists in Trinidad. The Defendant gave the Plaintiff money to cover his travel and expenses in attending the specialists in Trinidad. These payments were made freely and promptly, and without any reservation orqualification. Despite the treatment locally and in Trinidad, the Plaintiff could not find any relief from the pain he suffered as a consequence of the accident. He was referred to doctors in Canada to have further tests and treatment carried out. The Defendant thereupon ceased providing further funds to cover the Plaintiff's expenses. Meanwhile, shortly after the incident, the Defendant completely rebuilt the supermarket in question and disposed of the allegedly defective freezing equipment. The planning work for this rebuilding work was far advanced at the time of the incident, and the rebuilding was not related in any way to the incident.


The Defendant refused to pay the Plaintiff's later medical bills, and the Plaintiff has had to sue. The Defendant urges the court to find that the Plaintiff has not proved his particulars of negligence. The question that arose for the court in this regard was, does the Plaintiff have to prove each and every particular of negligence alleged? Or, does the payment by the Defendant of the Plaintiff's initial medical and travel bills, shortly after the incident, when the circumstances were fresh in all their minds, amount to a legally binding acceptance of liability?


The Plaintiff urged that such payment was an admission of liability. The Defendant submitted that the mere payment of monies to the Plaintiff did not amount to an admission of liability. The Defendant relied on a number of authorities, including:

Blundell v Rimmer (1971) 1 All ER 1072

Rankine v Garton Sons & Co Ltd (1979) 2 All ER 1185

JR Munday Ltd v London County Council (1916–1917) All ER Rep 824


In theBlundell case [supra] the money had been paid into court. The Defendant wrote to the Plaintiff notifying him of the payment into court. The...

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