THE High Court has awarded more than €126,000 to a Limerick City woman who was injured when the bus she was travelling in slowed down suddenly to avoid a collision.
Jennifer Quaid (38), a mother-of-two from O’Malley Park, Limerick, sued Bus Éireann over the incident on March 19, 2014, which she said left her with a persistent back injury.
Ms Justice Emily Egan found that the need to suddenly halt the bus arose out of a “wholly avoidable” emergency because the driver was not driving with reasonable care at the time of the incident.
She found that Bus Éireann acted in breach of its duty and there was no contributory negligence on the part of Ms Quaid, who was seated at the time of the incident.
The court was told that the accident happened as the bus moved from a minor road on to Roxboro Road. Dashcam footage showed the bus slowing to two km/hr at the edge of Roxboro Road.
The driver looked in both directions, and the vehicle gained speed to about 11km/hr as it neared the centre line of the road to turn right.
The driver did not initially notice a car approaching in the far lane. As the bus crossed the centre line, the driver applied the brakes and the car veered left to avoid it.
The judge said footage suggests the reactions of passengers on board the bus “are very subtle”.
Ms Quaid appeared to lift the lower part of her left arm towards the top of the seat in front, the judge said.
The camera angle makes it difficult to see if her torso moves forward or back at the time of the braking incident, although if it does this would have been only to a small extent, she said.
Ms Quaid alleged she experienced a persisting back injury due to being severely jolted when the bus driver braked suddenly to avoid collision, said the judge.
Bus Éireann denied negligence, although it accepted heavier than normal braking was applied to prevent an accident. It maintained Ms Quaid could not have sustained an injury as a result of the event.
Ms Quaid had previously been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and had twice before seen her doctor complaining of back trouble. The judge accepted her pre-existing degenerative condition rendered her more vulnerable to injury.
Medical experts for both sides agreed, however violent or non-violent, the jolting she experienced was likely the triggering event for Ms Quaid’s subsequent back difficulties.
She had attended her GP within 48 hours of the incident and a few months later was referred to an orthopaedic consultant who found she had spinal disc protrusion and disc bulges.
Despite various treatments, the pain persisted, and a March 2021 examination found she continued to suffer from chronic lower back pain, secondary pain and a radiating ache down her left leg.
The court was satisfied Ms McQuaid did not attempt to exaggerate her level of disability.
The judge would not criticise the bus driver for failing to halt at the stop line where, it was accepted, visibility was obstructed.
It may well be acceptable, she said, for a driver to stop instead at the mouth of the junction for better visibility or, in a cumbersome bus, to stop at the road’s centre line to let traffic approaching from the left pass.
However, it “cannot be acceptable” for the bus to cross the white line into the path of an oncoming vehicle which ought to have been clearly visible to the driver, she said.
Ms Justice Egan awarded Ms Quaid general damages of €125,000 together with agreed special damages of €1,550.