Coles shopper loses battle for compensation

The Melbourne woman claimed she was injured after slipping on lettuce and fought the supermarket giant for compensation.

A Coles shopper has lost her court battle for compensation after she slipped on a piece of lettuce at the supermarket and claimed the fall caused her knee and spinal injuries.

Kanwaleen Bhelley claimed that she suffered a whole person impairment (WPI) of more than 5 per cent following the incident at a Coles store in the suburb Wyndham Vale in May 2020.

The Melbourne woman had told a medical panel that the lower back injury meant she experienced pain after driving for an hour and did not run out of “fear” of her knee and back becoming “painful”.

She said the spinal injuries had also “reduced her attendance at concerts, general socialising, and attendance at her temple, which requires long periods of sitting”, the court judgment noted.

The woman said she slipped on lettuce.
The woman said she slipped on lettuce.


She sought compensation from Coles after supplying a medical report from a sports physician. But the supermarket giant rejected the report and referred the matter to a medical panel who determined Ms Bhelley’s injuries did not meet the threshold required for compensation.

Instead, the panel found Ms Bhelley had suffered age-related degenerative changes to her spine and sacroiliac joints which was associated with rehabilitation treatment of her right knee.

“She can stand for about 10 minutes before she has to stretch her back,” the panel wrote in its report.

“She can walk for about 30 minutes, (but) after about 500m she notices mild right knee pain, so stops walking to sit or stand for about 10 minutes. She can traverse stairs without difficulty, using alternate stair treads for both ascending and descending, with no lower back or right knee issues.”

The panel also ruled her condition was stable.

The supermarket giant sought a medical panel review.
The supermarket giant sought a medical panel review.


The 43-year-old then lodged an appeal taking her case to Victoria’s Supreme Court, alleging the panel did not apply or misapplied the guidelines used to determine her impairment.

“Mrs Bhelley submitted that, absent such error, the panel would have determined that her degree of whole person impairment resulting from her spinal injury was 5 per cent, satisfying the significant injury threshold and in turn entitling her to claim non-economic loss damages,” the judgement read.

But Judge Andrea Tsalamandris handed down her ruling on Friday finding the panel had not erred in its assessment and dismissed her appeal.

However, she acknowledged that Ms Bhelley could still experience pain or symptoms.


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