Trams in Prague. Photo: archive
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The Supreme Court (NS) gave a chance for compensation to a woman who fell and injured herself during the start of a Prague tram. Her lawsuit was rejected by the District Court for Prague 9, according to which the transport company did not violate any regulations. She also failed at the Municipal Court in Prague. The dispute over sick pay and compensation of earnings in the total amount of 374,328 crowns is returned to the circuit court. The decision of the NS is temporarily made available on the official board.
The accident happened in 2018. A woman, who uses trekking poles for support, got into the front of the first car of the set. She headed for the disabled seat. She asked the man who was sitting there to make room. She was holding on to the handle on the seat with one hand, and she had a cane in the other. At that moment, the driver sped off, the woman fell and broke her sacrum.
The circuit court stated that no regulation establishes the obligation of the carrier to wait before departure for a passenger with limited mobility to be seated. Such an obligation cannot even be fairly demanded, as the driver may not have a sufficient view of what is happening in the entire car. In addition, waiting increases driving time, which could lead to collapse in modern urban traffic, the circuit court said.
According to the verdict of the circuit court, which was confirmed by the city court, the transport company made all efforts that can be fairly required to prevent possible damage. Thus, the liberating reason for exemption from liability according to the Civil Code was fulfilled.
According to the Supreme Court, however, the reasons for liberation only apply to situations where the damage was caused by external influences that do not originate in normal operation. These are, for example, natural events, extreme weather effects or phenomena unrelated to the operation inside the vehicle, such as an attack on the driver, a conflict between passengers, an explosion or fire of substances carried by a passenger.
“Only in the case of such and similar circumstances can the operator of transport or means of transport be released from liability if he proves at the same time that he could not have prevented the damage even with all the efforts that can be required of him, i.e. that he could not have prevented the damage due to the circumstances that caused the harmful effect prevent and eliminate their effect on vehicle operation,” NS decided.
However, before the woman fell in the tram, circumstances typical for normal traffic manifested themselves, i.e. accelerated movement or take-off acceleration. The application of the grounds for liberation according to the Civil Code is therefore excluded. The circuit court must now deal primarily with the amount of the claim, but it will also consider whether and to what extent the resulting damage can also be attributed to the passenger and her possible carelessness, consisting, for example, of violating the obligation to hold on to the handrails while driving.
“If the damage was caused exclusively or in part by the actions of the injured party, the liability of the operator is excluded to the corresponding extent. However, it is also possible to point to established decision-making practice, which links the full infliction of injury to a person inside the vehicle only with significant carelessness of the passenger or his ignoring the instructions of the carrier,” NS spokeswoman Gabriela Tomíčková said in a press release.