Mon | Oct 16, 2017

Costly fall

Published:Tuesday | May 26, 2015 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett
Part of the fleet of Jamaica Urban Transit Company buses.

A St Andrew woman who was sent crashing to the floor of a Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) bus that was negotiating a corner has been awarded just over $3 million in damages for her injuries.

Janet Stewart-Earle suffered injuries to her hip, lower back and buttocks in the December 2007 incident and may require hip replacement surgery.

According to the award made in the Supreme Court in March, Stewart-Earle, a former practical nurse, is to receive $2.5 million in general damages with three per cent interest annually; $172,000 for loss of earnings and US$1,000 (J$116,000) for future care.

In her claim of negligence against the state-owned bus company, Stewart-Earle recounted that she was on her way to work onboard a number 44 bus heading towards Havendale, in St Andrew.

She said when the bus got to Swallowfield Avenue she rang the passenger bell and got up out of her seat - with a bag over her right shoulder and a small gift bag containing her dinner in her left hand - in preparation to get off the bus.

Stewart-Earle said she managed to hold on to the overhead rail with her right hand while using her left hand to hold on to the back of the seat directly in front of her.

However, the former practical nurse said on reaching the intersection of Park and Swallowfield avenues the bus swung to avoid a pothole causing her to fall between the seats, hitting various parts of her body as she fell to the floor.

Court documents show that the driver denied swerving to avoid a pothole and the JUTC, in its response to the suit, denied any liability or negligence on the part of the driver. Further, the bus company asked the court to find that Stewart-Earle was either solely responsible for the mishap or that it was due to her own negligence.

However, High Court Judge Marcia Dunbar-Green, in her ruling, said she accepted that the woman "fell because of a sudden or sharp swing or swerve of the bus".

"I believe her that there was a violent swerve, which caused her hand to twist around over the hand rail until she lost her grip and fell to the ground," Dunbar-Green concluded.

Seeking to underscore what she described as the duty of care that bus drivers have to their passengers, the high court judge said the driver of the number 44 bus should have contemplated that it is normal for passengers to rise from their seats in preparing to disembark and that they will not always be in a position to hold the hand rails firmly with both hands.

"Therefore, the bus should be manoeuvred such that a passenger would not be put in a state of imbalance to occasion a fall," Dunbar-Green said in her ruling.

Managing Director of the JUTC Colin Campbell told The Gleaner yesterday that the company provides extensive training for all its drivers on the duty of care they have to all passengers.

"We have the biggest driver training depot in the country and that is a part of it," he said while conceding he was not aware of Stewart-Earle's suit.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com