Bus Driver Partly Liable For Passenger Injury After Stopping Too Far From The Curb
Reasons for judgement were released recently by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, finding a bus driver partly liable for injuries after a passenger fell while disembarking the bus.
In the recent case (Isaacs v. Coast Mounatain Bus Company Ltd) the Plaintiff fell while getting off the bus. At the time the bus stopped some 12-14 inches from the sidewalk contrary to their policy of stopping closer to the curb. The Plaintiff attempted to jump to the curb resulting in injury. The Court found both parties equally to blame for the incident. In holding the Defendant 50% liable Madam Justice Watchuk provided the following reasons:
 If the distance of the front door of the bus from the curb was greater than ten inches, there is potential negligence on the defendants. As stated above, Translink has in place guidelines for a standard bus stop that state that buses should be stopped parallel to the curb and within six to ten inches of that curb. However, the defendants’ negligence is not to be measured against a general policy, but rather must be considered in light of the circumstances that presented themselves at the time of this specific accident (Heyman v. South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority (c.o.b. Translink), 2013 BCSC 1724 at para. 68).
 Although the defendants’ policy directive is not determinative, in light of these specific circumstances I find that the policy of stopping less than ten inches away from the curb reflects the standard of care required by a reasonably prudent bus driver. Thus, if the distance between the front door and the curb was greater than ten inches, there would be a prima facie case of negligence and it would be for the defendants to establish that the plaintiff’s injuries occurred without negligence on their part or due to a cause for which the defendants were not responsible.
 Ms. Isaacs’ evidence is that the bus came to a stop at an angle with the front of the bus further from the curb than the back of the bus. Her evidence was that the distance from the bottom step to the curb was 12-14 inches. In cross-examination she disagreed with the statement that the distance was only six inches from the curb, and responded, “Oh no – it was wider, quite wide”. This is consistent with her evidence that when she was on the sidewalk after the fall, Ms. Isaacs observed that the rear of the bus was closer to the sidewalk than the front.
 I accept Ms. Isaacs’ evidence in this regard. I have noted that her memory of the number of steps at the front of the bus is incorrect, as she recalled one step at the front when there are three steps on this type of bus. However, other than this point, her evidence with regard to the location of the bus when it was stopped is persuasive and is consistent with the other details of the scene at the time of her fall.
 The evidence of Mr. Payne is, I find, evidence of his usual good practice with regard to stopping the bus with the front and rear exits at an equal distance, and six inches from the bottom of the steps to the curb. However, his evidence with regard to this stop is internally inconsistent. He testified that he drives the bus straight in the curb lane. He also testified that he angles the wheel to the left prior to the stop so that he is ready to pull out into traffic when the bus leaves the stop. On the evidence of this stop of this bus prior to this incident, I find that Mr. Payne angled the steering wheel to the left prior to the bus coming to a complete stop. Thus the front of the bus and the front door were further from the curb than the back of the bus and the back door.
 I accept Ms. Isaacs’ evidence that the bottom step of the front door exit was 12-14 inches from the curb, and therefore greater than ten inches from the curb. I accept her evidence that the distance is the reason that she jumped from the bottom step to the curb rather than going down the bottom step to the pavement, crossing and stepping up on the curb to the sidewalk.
 That the bus was parked further than ten inches from the curb is contrary to the defendants’ internal policy. In these circumstances it was a breach of the defendants’ standard of care owed to the plaintiff.
 A further breach of the defendant Mr. Payne is that, having stopped the bus further than ten inches from the curb, he did not warn Ms. Isaacs of the potential hazard being the excess distance. Although he considered a warning as he observed her moving quickly, he decided not to startle her. Given his observations, when he saw Ms. Isaacs exiting without use of the railing at more than 10 inches from the curb he should have provided a warning.
bc injury law, bus accidents, Isaacs v. Coast Mountain Bus Company Ltd, Madam Justice Watchuk