A woman who suffered a ‘nasty’ injury after falling backwards down the stairs of a Dublin Bus which moved off before she was seated on the top deck is not entitled to damages, the Court of Appeal has ruled.
Margaret McGarr’s appeal raised an important question about the extent of Dublin Bus’ duty of care to passengers on a double decker bus, the three judge court noted.
It was “utterly unreasonable and unrealistic” to impose a duty of care requiring Dublin Bus drivers to check passengers are securely in their seats before driving off, Mr Justice Michael Peart said.
To require the driver not to drive away until he was satisfied Ms McGarr had reached the top of the stairs would impose an “impossible” standard of care that “completely ignores the realities of modern day bus travel”.
Dublin Bus was also entitled to assume “common knowledge” that buses, because of their sheer size and the volumes of traffic they typically travel in the city, “tend to sway and lurch a bit”, even when driven with great care, he said.
People know this, and know they need to hold onto the rails provided when standing on either of the decks or moving around, he said.
Drivers are required to take “reasonable care” and the evidence in this case, including from CCTV footage, was the driver did not move forward in any abrupt, sudden or violent manner, he said.
While railings were provided on each side of the stairs, Ms McGarr failed to keep hold of either railing as she mounted the final three steps of the stairs, he said. That alone was what caused her to lose balance when the bus moved off and there was “no breach” of the duty of care owed to her by Dublin Bus.
While having “every sympathy” for Ms McGarr over her injury, and the obvious distress she suffered at the time, he agreed with the High Court she was unfortunately the “author of her own misfortune” by mounting the stairs in the manner found.
He was giving the court’s unanimous judgment dismissing Ms McGarr’s appeal over the High Court’s rejection of her claim.
Ms McGarr was home from England and staying with relatives in Glasnevin when the accident happened on October 3rd 2008. She boarded the No 19 bus about 8.30pm on her way to meet a friend in the Temple Bar area.
In her evidence, she said, as she approached the top of the stairs on the bus, there was a “very sudden jerk” of the vehicle which caused her to fall backwards and all the way down to the bottom of the stairs.
Another passenger gave evidence that, just before Ms McGarr landed at the bottom of the stairs, the bus jerked or jolted “quite violently” as it moved away from the stop.
Having viewed CCTV footage and heard all the evidence, including from engineers, the High Court found the bus had not moved away violently, Ms McGarr was not holding a handrail at the precise moment of her fall and she had not proven negligence against Dublin Bus.
Mr Justice Peart said he and the other members of the court had viewed the CCTV footage carefully and agreed with the High Court findings. The footage showed, at the time Ms McGarr fell, a male passenger continued to drink undisturbed from a can, he noted.