Bus Driver Not at Fault for Passenger Injury

The appellant was travelling on the respondent’s double decker bus, when the bus driver nraked suddenly, casuing the appellant to be thrown forward and another passsenger to fall onto her.  As a result of the accident, she suffered a back injury and fibromyalgia.

At the liability only trial, the appellant argued that she was standing near the front of the bus looking out of the front window, when the bus approached a queue of standing traffic without slowing down and then suddenly performed an emergency stop.  The respondent denied negligent driving on the part of the driver on the basis that the bus driver had no alternative but to perform an emergency braking manoeuvre in order to avoid a collision with a red vehicle.  Stills from the CCTV footage showed a four-second gap between a red vehicle starting to cross into the bus’ path and the bus stopping.  At the liability only trial, the Judge preferred the evidence of the bus driver over that of the appellant and found the defendant not liable.  It was considered that the red vehicle had caused the driver to brake, the braking was not hard or sharp and that he should not have braked earlier than he did.

The appellant appealed against the dismissal of her claim for damages and argued that the Judge had erred as to the causes of the bus driver braking and that the Judge was wrong to find that it was reasonable for the bus driver to delay braking to the point when he actually did.

The appeal was dismissed.  The Court was mindful that various authorities esrtablish that an appellate Court must exercise the greatest restraint before overturning findings of fact made at first instance.  It was considered that there was not any principled basis for the appellate Court to interfere with the Judge’s careful findings of fact at first instance.  The Judge at first instance was in a far better position to assess the oral and photographic evidence that the appellate Court.

Jade Christian v South East London & Kent Bus Co (2014)