An 82-year-old woman has been awarded £10,000 in damages after falling downstairs on a bus when the driver drove off before she had sat down. Mrs Steel was travelling home to Dunoon when she boarded a McGill's bus at Braehead Shopping Centre. She walked up the aisle to a free seat, however, before she managed to sit down, the driver pulled away from the stand. The bus jerked causing Mrs Steel to fall head first down the emergency exit stairs.
In determining the case, the court accepted that the driver was aware Mrs Steel had boarded the bus and watched her moving up the aisle towards a seat. However, the court did not accept the driver's explanation that Mrs Steel had fallen because she took a dizzy turn and was unsteady on her feet. Nor did it accept the driver's evidence that he had waited until Mrs Steel was seated before setting off and that there was no jerky movement.
Despite the Defender having a policy in place instructing the driver that passengers must be seated before the bus can commence travel, they defended the claim. The court found in favour of Mrs Steel and held that the driver had been negligent in failing to ensure she was seated before driving.
Driver's duty of care
This case serves as a warning to bus companies, and their drivers, who have a duty to be aware of their passengers' movements, particularly vulnerable people such as the elderly or disabled. A crucial element contributing to success was discovery of the bus policy which provided that passengers must be seated before the bus can move off. The bus company were therefore found to have breached their own safety rules.