Retailers could be hit with a flood of compensation claims after a woman who tripped on a supermarket trolley while reaching for a pork pie won £44,000 in damages.
Jean Palfrey, 79, shattered both limbs and was left permanently disabled after tripping on the flatbed trolley at a Morrisons store.
The L-shaped trollies are used at thousands of bigger supermarkets and DIY shops by customers carrying larger items.
Jean, of St Anne’s Chapel, near Callington, Cornwall, was hurt after spotting a pork pie on a shelf and taking two steps forward to reach it.
She tripped over the trolley which had been left briefly unattended by a shelf stacker and fell headlong forwards.
The damage to Mrs Palfrey’s shoulders and arms was so severe she had to spend three months in hospital.
She remains disabled with one arm shorter than the other and it was over two years before she could carry out even basic domestic tasks.
Jean, who still has to take painkillers, has now been awarded £44,000 in damages by the Court of Appeal.
Lord Justice Moses said the trolley, which had been left in the centre of an aisle when the stacker went off to help another customer, was ”dangerous”’.
He said the low-slung trolleys pose a ”foreseeable risk of serious injury” because shoppers look at the shelves – not the floor.
Legal experts say the ruling could cost retailers millions of pounds in compensation claims from injured customers.
Lord Justice Moses said: ”Shoppers walking up and down aisles in supermarkets are expected to be attracted by what is on the shelves.
”They do not expect to have to look towards the ground. Their attention will be on their shopping and other shoppers.
”Mrs Palfrey was intent on indicating to her husband that she had found the pork pies and all of that would have deflected her attention away from the long, low-based, trolley.
”The mere fact that this type of trolley is in widespread use throughout the industry does not mean that it is safe.”
The judge ruled Wm Morrisons Supermarkets Plc was 80 per cent liable for Jean’s devastating accident at the store in Tavistock, Devon, in November 2008.
He stopped short of ruling that such trolleys could never be used safely but said it would be ”absurd” to expect members of staff to be posted beside them at all times.
Leaving such a low-lying trolley in the middle of an aisle ”did create a foreseeable risk of injury” and Morrisons had to bear the share of responsibility for the accident, he said.
Morrisons also now face having to pay the legal costs of the case, which have been estimated at around #200,000.
Jean declined to comment yesterday.