Dublin Bus passenger loses damages claim

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‘Utterly unreasonable’ to impose a duty of care on Dublin Bus

A woman who fell down the stairs on a Dublin Bus double-decker after it moved off before she sat down has lost her claim for damages, the Irish Independent reported.

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 of Appeal noted, but it said 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.

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,’ Mr Justice Michael Peart said.

Dublin Bus was also entitled to assume common knowledge that buses, because of their 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.
He added: “People know this, and know they need to hold onto the rails provided when standing on either of the decks or moving around.”

CCTV footage showed that the driver did not move forward in any abrupt, sudden or violent manner. 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. The ruling was that 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.

Michael Peart said: “She was unfortunately the author of her own misfortune.”

In her evidence, Margaret McGarr said that 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.

However, after viewing the CCTV evidence, the 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. It was notable that at the time Ms McGarr fell, a male passenger continued to drink undisturbed from a can.