In the Media

Grotto grandmother wins her ?30,000 battle over an elf and safety

PUBLISHED December 16, 2011

A grandmother who fractured her leg when she slipped at a Santa?s grotto has won the right to up to £30,000 damages, after a court ruled that Santa and his little helper had failed to spot the plastic icicle that felled her.

Joan Dufosse, 73, was having a photograph taken with her family in the grotto at Selfridges in London when she slipped on a icicle-shaped Christmas tree bauble that had fallen on the floor.

She needed surgery to plate and screw the fracture of her left thigh and has yet to make a full recovery from the accident in November 2009.

Mrs Dufosse, from Southampton, was at Selfridges with her son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren.

She claimed compensation from Melbry Events Ltd, which ran the grotto, but her claim was initially rejected by a judge at Southampton County Court in March.

After a hearing in which the Santa, David Warren, and his elf, Sarah Chamberlain, were the star witnesses, Judge John Sparrow said the icicle was ?not in plain view? and ?not obvious? and cleared Melbry Events of blame.

That decision was reversed yesterday at the Appeal Court in London, where judges ruled that the ?offending icicle? should have been spotted by Santa or his little helper.

Lord Justice Rix praised the ?excellence of the system? of safety checks that Melbry Events had in place, but went on to conclude that human error had led to the accident. ?The accident happened when Mrs Dufosse, at the request of the elf, stepped sideways and backward into the corner,? the judge said. ?It was not her duty in these circumstances to ensure there were no tripping hazards.?

John Bate-Williams, for Mrs Dufosse, said: ?This accident had very serious consequences for Mrs Dufosse. We were warned off by Judge Sparrow from any lightheartedness and so we were unable to use the phrase ?elf and safety?.?

The exact amount of damages will now be either agreed or assessed at a further court hearing.