12 Sep Slip and Fall on a City Bus
The mere fact that a passenger slips and falls while riding on a transit bus does not establish a prima facie case of negligence. The Plaintiff has to prove the bus driver breached the standard of care expected of a reasonable and prudent bus driver. Once the Plaintiff establishes this, the burden shifts to the Defendant to show that he was not negligent.
In the past, our courts have established that if a bus driver starts up before all passengers are seated, that is not in itself a breach of the required standard of care, unless it is apparent to the driver that the passenger is disabled or heavily burdened. The courts have also determined that movement which is a part of the normal and careful operation of the bus does not establish a breach of the standard of care.
In the case of Dahl v. South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority, 2017 BCSC 629, the Plaintiff sought damages for injuries she suffered when she fell on a city bus. She alleged that the bus driver was negligent because he failed to ensure that she had reached a place of safety before proceeding, he accelerated away from the curb at excessive speed and/or he turned too sharply as he left the curb.
The Plaintiff claimed that the bus accelerated away from the stop, just as she was about to take hold of the vertical stanchion attached to the front row seat. She was launched in the air and landed on the floor of the bus unconscious. According to the Plaintiff, two men (including the driver) yanked her up. The driver sat her on the handicapped seat, asked her if she was okay and then continued to drive.
Later that day the Plaintiff called a friend who drove her to the hospital. At the hospital, she did not report hitting her head nor did she report any head pain. She was released with crutches after being diagnosed with bruising. The Plaintiff claimed that as a result of this accident she suffered serious injuries and her life would never be the same.
The Plaintiff’s credibility was challenged in cross-examination due to a second complaint she made against the bus company a few months after the initial incident. In the second incident, she claimed to have lost her balance on a city bus. However, when the video from the bus was played in court it depicted a bus trip completely opposite to what the Plaintiff had described in her testimony and complaint. The bus driver from this second incident was called as a witness by the Defendant. He testified that there was no incident on his bus that day and nothing like she described happened.
With respect to the original slip and fall, the driver of that bus testified that after the Plaintiff got on the bus he closed the doors and did his usual mirror checks. He looked in his overhead mirror to look down the bus and saw the Plaintiff in the area of the first row of the seats. Satisfied that all was in order on the bus he checked his mirrors for traffic and pulled out. He had not even driven into a lane of traffic when he heard a thud and pulled back to the curb.
The bus driver parked the bus, got out of his seat and saw the Plaintiff on the floor of the bus. He alone helped her to a seat. When he asked the Plaintiff if she would like him to call for help, she told him not to bother. He then asked if it was alright for him to carry on and she said it was. He recalls her saying that she had a job interview to get to or something like that. The bus driver realized that the Plaintiff had hurt her leg because she kept rubbing it, but he did not think that she was badly injured. He stated that there was nothing unusual about the way that he pulled away from the bus stop. It was not fast or sharp. In fact, he had hardly moved when the incident occurred.
The first issue that the Court had to decide was whether the Plaintiff’s fall was due to any negligence on the part of the bus driver. The Court found that it was not.
The Court did not accept the Plaintiff’s evidence regarding the fall, finding that it was beyond belief that she was propelled into the air and flew through the bus. Nor did the Court accept her evidence that she was rendered unconscious and came to lodged under the front seat. Her credibility was found to be questionable given that she made a false complaint a few months later. In all, the Court found the Plaintiff’s evidence to be exaggerated, over dramatized and unbelievable.
The Court accepted the bus driver’s evidence that he pulled away from the curb when the Plaintiff was in a safe area, and that he did not pull out sharply or too quickly. The Plaintiff agreed that she was in an area of the bus where there were many devices for passengers to hold onto. There were hanging straps and vertical and horizontal stanchions. The Court noted that the Plaintiff was an experienced bus rider so would know that when the bus moves so would she.
The Court also found that there was nothing abnormal about the bus driver’s driving. The movement of the bus that caused the Plaintiff to fall was consistent with the normal and careful operation of the bus. The Court noted that accidents do happen and some of them, like this accident, will not give rise to a right to damages.
The Court also addressed one other ground of liability that was raised in the Plaintiff’s case, which is that there was water on the floor of the bus. According to the bus driver, it had rained earlier in the day. The Court stated that if there was water on the floor, it was not a factor and the bus driver could not be obliged to keep the floor dry. That would place an undue burden on him or her, especially in Vancouver.
The Plaintiff’s case was dismissed.