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Bus Driver Liable For Slip and Fall After Failing to Drop Passenger Off at Curb

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing the responsibility of transit operators to drop their passengers off at a safe location.
In last week’s case (Falconer v. BC Transit Corporation) the Plaintiff (who the judge and defence counsel described as “one of the most honest and direct people I have ever come across“) was a passenger on a bus in Kamloops, BC.  It was a winter day and the bus “was not brought to a stop at the bus stop where there was a curb“.   As a result, the Plaintiff  “had a greater distance to step down from the bus than if the bus had been brought to a halt right at the bus stop“.
The Plaintiff slipped on a skiff of snow and was injured.  In finding the bus drier 75% at fault for this incident Mr. Justice Abrioux provided the following reasons:
[44]         In my view, a prima facie case of negligence has been established by the plaintiff. Although Mr. Falconer may not have been able to say what caused him to fall, I have found it was the lower level, icy surface upon which he stepped off the bus due to where the bus driver chose to stop the bus.
[45]         The issue then becomes whether the defendant has presented evidence negating the prima facie case of negligence that has been established. In my view it has not. The reasons for this include:
·       it has led no evidence as to why the bus stopped where it did. Perhaps there was another bus which had pulled up at the stop sign in front of it, but there was no evidence to that effect;
·       it has led no evidence from which I could conclude that the location where the rear doors opened was a “reasonably safe place for [Mr. Falconer] to debark”. See: Grand Trunk Pacific Coast Steamship Co. v. Simpson;
·       viewed within the context of the “very high degree of care” required of a public carrier, the fact Mr. Falconer erroneously believed it was safe for him to debark cannot be interpreted to mean it was in fact reasonably safe for him to do so;
·       the defendant has led no evidence as to whether a warning to passengers was not required under the circumstances.
[46]         In my view, there was a “heightened need to adduce evidence in response, either to prevent the drawing of adverse inferences or to negate a prima facie case”. See: Parsons and Sons Transportation Ltd.
[47]         In addition, Mr. Rogers breached the standard of care expected of a bus driver by leaving the bus stop. An elderly passenger had slipped and fallen in the immediate vicinity of the rear door of the bus. The fact Mr. Rogers left the scene can only mean he did not perform the appropriate check in his right mirror. To quote Mr. Cameron, “I don’t see how a person can drive away in a bus without checking the right mirror to see that they are clear.… You could have a kid reaching in there for a ball under the tires or whatever”. Although this breach of the standard of care did not cause the plaintiff’s injury, it indicates to me a “general lack of care and inattention” by Mr. Rogers in so far as his responsibilities to passengers were concerned. See:  Donald v. Huntley Service Centre Ltd., (1987) 61 O.R. (2d) 257 (S.C.J.) at para. 9.

bc injury law, Falconer v. BC Transit Corporation, Mr. Justice Abrioux

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