Train Sliding Bathroom Door Case Adds to the Complexities of a Public Liability Claim

Published 29 Jun 2018

Ms MP was an elderly lady on a train between Gosford and Sydney.  Upon these country link trains there are bathroom facilities provided.  On the newer trains these facilities have an automatic sliding door.

On the relevant date of the accident, Ms MP states emphatically that as she proceeded to enter into the bathroom, the toilet door, without warning, closed rapidly upon her, striking her on the right arm and causing her to fall down onto the ground.  Not only did the door strike her, it failed to retract and caused her to be stuck in between the doors.  She needed a fellow passenger to assist her to become free from the door and come to her feet.  This caused MP excruciating pain as she was already in the process of recovering from a right shoulder operation.

She immediately used the intercom provided to alert the train guard of the circumstances.  She was informed that she needed to attend upon the driver and inform him of what had happened.

When the train reached the final Station, MP did as she was directed and spoke with the driver of the train.  She was then directed to speak to the platform manager.  The platform manager then directed her to another platform manager to report the incident.  The incident was reported and she was provided with a number to which she was told was the claim number.

After receiving these details and trying to communicate with the service provider, she was informed that the number that she was provided was not a claim number and does not come to reference anything in their system.

The reason why Ms MP was having such difficulties is because the service provider has a number of different companies that deal with intricate parts of its operations.  The difficulty is exacerbated when their own employees do not understand their own corporate structures.

Through frustration, Ms MP approached Gerard Malouf & Partners.  Even with the assistance of GMP, it was difficult to identify the proper entity.  The amount of running around between the corporate structures caused GMP to write directly to the Minister of Transport.  It was only through such measures the GMP finally received confirmation as to the proper defendant.

In the intrim, Ms MP was informed by her orthopaedic surgeon that the accident had caused further exacerbation of her recovering shoulder and that she now required a shoulder reconstruction.  Ms MP had the shoulder reconstruction.  Whilst we were awaiting for her to recover, we had sought better particulars of the door in question.

The information was not forthcoming and Subpoenas needed to be issued upon Sydney trains.  The initial lot of documents produced indicated that inspection of the door in question, only occurred once every 6 months.  This caused us to form an opinion that the system of inspection was inadequate for trains which are used on a daily basis.  This permitted a window of opportunity to assert that Sydney Trains had failed in their duty of care to users of their trains.  On this basis, an Informal Settlement Conference was scheduled.

It was only 1 day before the scheduled Informal Settlement Conference that documents were produced that showed that formal inspections actually occur once every 4 weeks and informally on a daily basis.  On the day of the incident, an inspection of the door also led to identifying no faults in relation to the door.

Based on this new information, it would have been difficult for MP to succeed in a public liability claim.

Despite this new evidence, Gerard Malouf & Partners did not falter which led to the matter still resolving for $55,000.00.

When one considers that MP had had difficulty in proving that the defendant was at fault, the result was a very satisfactory resolution.