A woman who fell on a bus as it moved off at almost zero miles an hour from a stop has lost a €60,000 personal injuries claim for damages against Bus Éireann.
Judge John O’Connor heard in the Circuit Civil Court yesterday that guidance counsellor Jacqueline Howard (64), of Station Road, Duleek, Co Meath, had walked the full length of the bus to a favourite seat and had not been holding on to any safety rail at the time of her fall.
Barrister Kevin Callan, who appeared for Bus Éireann, pleaded in a full defence to Ms Howard’s claim that she had been the author of her own misfortune on the basis of having failed to take any reasonable care for her own safety.
Ms Howard told the court she joined the bus at Duleek on February 8, 2017, and walked to a favourite seat at the back where she always sat.
She claimed the bus jerked suddenly on moving off, throwing her on to the floor.
“I didn’t have time to reach for a hand rail, it happened so suddenly,” she told Judge O’Connor. “I was thrown on the floor and my rib cage and back struck the edge of a plinth on the floor.”
She told her counsel she suffered severe pain following the incident and later had to have an injection into her back. At times the pain was such that she was unable to do anything for herself and felt her fall had exacerbated issues she previously suffered from a back injury.
Judge O’Connor said that while Ms Howard was a particularly nice and genuine person who had suffered a fall, he had to look in detail at a Court of Appeal judgment that was handed down by Mr Justice Michael Peart.
In that particular 12-year-old incident involving Dublin Bus, the Court of Appeal had held that the defendant had a duty to take reasonable care for the safety of a passenger, but stressed the need of passengers to avail of clearly visible hand rails.
Judge O’Connor said a bus driver was entitled to assume – unless a passenger was impaired in some way, which could place upon him a greater duty of care than usual – that the average able-bodied adult would take reasonable care for their own safety by using safety rails.
He said that in the circumstances of the incident before his court, and in accordance with the ruling of the Court of Appeal, he had to dismiss Ms Howard’s claim.