A pot of gold may yet cushion her fall.

A Clifford Chance secretary who sued Sainsbury's for £500,000 after she slipped on a puddle of coconut oil is one step closer to a big payday after the supermarket admitted it was in breach of duty.

Georgina Hennessy fell over at the grocer's Chingford branch as she was leaving the shop in July 2019.

"Upon turning a corner by the self-service checkouts, the claimant slipped on a split coconut oil product, sustaining a serious injury to her right ankle and a laceration to her right hand", her claim form stated.

An ambulance was called and Hennessey was taken to Whipps Cross Hospital for treatment, and subsequently had surgery on her ankle which required two screws.

But as a result of the accident she also experienced "significant psychological symptoms" including PTSD, said Irwin Mitchell, her solicitors.

Hennessey underwent a course of cognitive behavioural therapy and a course of "eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing", a therapy which helps people overcome their trauma, such as bowling over on coconut oil, by focusing on the incident.

Hennessey's lawyers said a half million pound bounty was warranted because Sainsbury's staff negligently "caused and/or permitted the floor to be or to become or remain wet/slippery with a split oil product". 

In the defence submitted to the High Court, Sainsbury's has conceded that it was in breach of its duty. But it did not roll/slip over completely. The supermarket, represented by Clyde & Co, alleged that any loss or injury suffered by Hennessey was partly caused by her own negligence in "failing to keep any or proper lookout", "failing to notice the oily substance", "failing to take any or proper care in the placing of her feet", "failing to keep her balance", "failing to note and heed the wet floor sign", and "failing to take any or proper care for her own safety". 

Angling for a payout of under £100,000, Sainsbury's questioned whether the legal secretary's claim should be heard in the High Court, or batted down to the County Court given "the potential upper value of a claim where the claimant has returned to work and has limited ongoing care needs".  

Tip Off ROF


Anonymous 30 September 22 09:06

PTSD requires exposure to death, threatened death, a serious injury or sexual violence.  How on earth did that occur with slipping over in a supermarket??

Dark Ages 30 September 22 10:00

@? 09.53


Please, please, for the love of god, don't put ideas in their head. I'd be completely fucked without my secretary. She is a massive lifesaver. In fact, my job would be substantially worse without our whole team of support staff. I'd probably leave.

Sumoking 30 September 22 10:03

you need to brush up on your torts RoF, it's (IIRC) duty, breach causing damage to win one of these and then haggling over the price etc

just saying "yeah we breached our duty" is like watching 6 seasons of Game of Thrones and then saying "wow, this is the best show ever, bet those dragons are going to be fun to watch!"

Anonymous 30 September 22 10:13

Nothing wrong above, Sumoking.  You're right of course, in that to succeed a claimant must prove negligence/beach of duty, causation and quantum, but the article sets out (accurately, as far as I'm aware) a fairly vanilla contributory negligence contention on the part of the defendant.  'We admit that we breached our duty by allowing a coconut oil carpet, but we say (and are required to prove) that you were also negligent in not seeing it, and were negligent in slipping over on it'.

FF 30 September 22 11:21

If I was the judge I'd be inclined to quietly reduce any payout I felt was still valid (given her failure to note the wet floor sign) purely on the basis of her phony PTSD claim. How pathetic and insulting to actual sufferers of PTSD.

anon 30 September 22 11:21

"A Clifford Chance secretary who sued Sainsbury's for £500,000 after she slipped on a puddle of coconut oil..."

Most middle class/first world problems sentence ever...

Dairmuid Short. 30 September 22 11:33

"surgery on her ankle which required two screws."??? Were the screws administered by the same person or did 2 people get the chance?  I must say that my limited experience of surgery never involved a screw even once.  I must talk to my doctor about this.  He may not be up to speed on the latest developments in surgery.

Roger That 30 September 22 11:38

@09:06 she did sustain "a serious injury" to her right ankle (and a laceration to her right hand) according to the claim form...

Anonymous 30 September 22 14:35


If she has pleaded that she has suffered PTSD, one might reasonably assume that she does so on the basis that an independent medical expert has examined her and provided a report addressed to the court containing a diagnosis of PTSD, with the report itself requiring to be footed by a declaration under Part 35 confirming, amongst other things, that the doctor owes duties only to the court, and that he/she owes no duties to the lawyer instructing them or the person they are reporting on.

Do you say that know the claimant's condition better than the qualified, independent doctor who has actually met and examined her?  If so, on what basis do you say that?  If not, will you concede that you really ought to jog on?

Anonymous 30 September 22 16:52

Roger That, serious injury in the PTSD context is in the life-changing bracket.  There is nothing to indicate that's actually happened, and I am struggling to work out how that could have happened.

Anonymous 30 September 22 22:41

@14:35 -Speaking of assumptions, you seem to have made a massive one.

There is nothing to indicate what evidence was used for the PTSD claim, and it is certainly possible to get EMDR treatment from unaccredited practitioners in the UK without a psychiatric assessment. 

So, no-one is claiming to know the claimant's condition better than "the qualified, independent doctor who has actually met and examined her" because there is no indication such a doctor actually exists at this point.

Given how much the term "PTSD" is abused by those who don't recognise how severe a condition it actually is, I look forward to seeing how this claim is evidenced and what the court says. 


Confused Little Toe 01 October 22 16:05

What I'd like to know is how come a pair of prison officers had to do the surgery on her ankle. 

Anonymous 03 October 22 05:37

To succeed in a claim for damages for PTSD, you need evidence in the form of a medical report.  You can’t get there simply by saying ‘I have PTSD’.  So yes, it is overwhelmingly likely that there is independent medical evidence confirming the diagnosis.

What claim? 03 October 22 10:33

Wouldn't the warning sign will be enough to discharge the occupier's liability under S.2(4)(a) of the OLA 1957? Surely it would have been fairly easy to show Sainsbury's discharged this duty - why say they they 'breached their duty'.

@ 10:13 notes they are clearly going for a contributory neglicence approach, but I dont get why they wouldnt fight it on the duty grounds as well?

Anonymous 03 October 22 12:01

@5:37: Medical reports do not always have to be filed with the claim so, again, you are making assumptions. You may think its overwhelmingly likely that the report exists; FF thinks its overwhelming likely that a broken ankle and a cut hand does not constitute a life-altering level of serious injury required for a legitimate PTSD diagnosis. 

Wait for the facts. 


Anonymous 03 October 22 13:05

We'll never get to know the facts, but what I can say from almost 30 years experience in litigating PI claims is that you wouldn't plead PTSD absent evidence of PTSD.  What I know of IM's litigation practice is that they wouldn't either.

tommy atkins 05 October 22 14:28

as someone who sustained near constant artillery bombardment for weeks, each explosion overhead sounding louder than a hundred fireworks all at once, and under constant threat of sniper fire, I feel so sorry for my fellow PTSD sufferers who braved the trenches of Sainsburys

Anonymous 05 October 22 20:51

Why wouldn't we get to know the facts, 13:05? Are you suggesting this theoretical medical report will be kept confidential?

You are speculating as the report's current existence and speculating as to its supposed contents.  So what if you've got over 30 years' experience litigating PI; I've got 45 years of experience with PTSD.  It's still all speculation, so stop attacking people for making assumptions when you are doing exactly the same thing.

Not surprisingly, given the severity of the condition and the degree of suffering of those who have it, there will be a lot of people deeply interested in the outcome of this case and a lot of people will be very very angry if transpires either the claimant or the firm are seeking to use this terrible condition to force a settlement and make money.  We are all on tenterhooks waiting to see which psychiatrist is prepared to say that breaking your ankle and cutting your hand in a supermarket qualifies as suitably life-altering injury, given how hard it is to get this diagnosis when you desperately need the support.

Anonymous 06 October 22 11:33

"you wouldn't plead PTSD absent evidence of PTSD"

Because no-one ever pleaded anything that wasn't true in a PI claim.  I mean, why even bother with a court process?  We should just rely on your 30+ years of experience as an ambulance-chaser, I mean PI litigant.

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