British Columbia Bus Accidents and the Law
Reasons for judgement were released today dismissing the claim of a Plaintiff against the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority for injuries sustained while on a bus in White Rock in 2005.
At some point after boarding the bus the Plaintiff stood up, “She held the floor-to-roof stanchion adjacent to the courtesy seat with her right hand. She rotated clockwise so that her back was to the collapsible seat. As she did so, she changed her grip in order to hold the stanchion with her left hand. (the Plaintiff) let go of the stanchion she had been holding with her left hand as she proceeded to sit down in the collapsible seat and before she was seated. (the Plaintiff) testified to her recollection that the bus accelerated from the bus stop causing her to lose her balance and to descend with some force. The sacral-lumbar portion of her back struck the plastic armrest affixed to the left side of the collapsible seat. A photograph of the injury taken later in the day indicates that the point of contact was directly on the sacral-lumbar area or the coccyx, and not to the left or right of the spine.”
The court dismissed the claim finding that “On the evidence that has been adduced, I conclude and find as a fact that the sole cause of the accident was (the Plaintiff’s) omission to take precautions to ensure her own safety on a moving bus. She omitted to hold the stanchion that was readily available to her as she sat down. I am not persuaded on a balance of probabilities that the bus was operated in any manner which could be classified as negligent.”
While this is by no means an exciting claim, Mr. Justice Pitfield did a great job in summarizing some of the authorities that deal with the duty of care owed by bus drivers to their passengers. He recited the following well known principles when dealing with injured occupants on a bus:
Although the carrier of passengers is not an insurer, yet if an accident occurs and the passenger is injured, there is a heavy burden on the defendant carrier to establish that he had used all due, proper and reasonable care and skill to avoid or prevent injury to the passenger. The care required is of a very high degree
…once an accident has occurred, the defendant must meet the heavy burden of establishing that he used all proper and reasonable care and skill to avoid or prevent injury to the passenger. The standard of care imposed is the conduct expected of a reasonably prudent bus driver in the circumstances. The court must consider the experience of an average bus driver, as well as anything that the particular driver knew or should have known about the passenger. The standard of care required is higher when the driver knew or ought to have known that the passenger was handicapped or elderly.