Matthew Robinson v Abellio Greater Anglia Limited [2018] EWHC 272 (QB)

The facts

The claimant had travelled by rail from London Liverpool Street to Bishops Stortford station. After the train arrived at the station the claimant disembarked and walked towards the exit. As he approached the ticket barriers he could not find his wallet containing his season ticket and jogged back to the train to try and find it.

The claimant mistakenly entered the wrong carriage, realised that the doors were about to close, exited the carriage and jogged back to the ticket barriers. Before reaching the barriers he chose to go to back to the train and jogged alongside the carriages looking in each one to see if he could spot his wallet.

The train started to move off and as the claimant was running alongside the carriages his right foot slipped on the edge of the platform causing him to fall through the gap between the moving train and the platform edge.

The claimant alleged that their accident had been caused due to the defendant failing to devise suitable and sufficient control measures to reduce the risk of an accident or injury occurring. It was specifically alleged that the defendant’s method statement and risk assessments were inadequate and platform staff should not have been excluded from assisting the driver with the train dispatch process. Also, the claimant stated that the driver failed to identify the positioning of the claimant before setting off.

Held

The High Court referred to the recent Court of Appeal case of Whiting v First/Keolis Transpennine Ltd [2018] EWCA Civ 4, where it was held that a moving train is an “inevitable hazard” and the guard or any other person who is responsible for the train moving away safely “… is not required to guarantee the safety of those who are on the platform…”

The High Court carefully considered the CCTV evidence which showed that at the point when the passenger doors were closed and locked, the claimant had been positioned on the platform side of the yellow line. At the time when the train had started moving off the claimant was over the yellow line and was moving parallel alongside the train.

The High Court held that the driver had not been negligent. It was accepted that it was not unusual for someone to get off and then on a train and that passengers would often be present on the platform near a train. It was accepted that the driver had not seen anything which should have caused him any concern when he checked the monitors prior to moving off.

It was noted that a train could be dispatched in accordance with railway industry standards even if safety checks revealed a passenger within the dispatch corridor. Also, it was found that the defendant was not negligent for failing to make it mandatory for drivers to monitor CCTV footage after the train had moved off. It was specifically held that this would distract drivers and could lead to a far more significant risk to people’s health and safety.

The High Court noted that there was no history of insufficient platform safety at the station and there was no evidence of particularly high passenger numbers or any other incidents. Also, it was concluded that the vast majority of stations have a gap between the train and the platform that does not comply with relevant standards so the platform in question was nothing out of the ordinary.

The claimant’s argument that there should have been staff on the platform to carry out extra checks prior to the train setting off was rejected. The High Court took into account the resources available and the need for railway operators to allow resources on a “rational and reasonable basis”. It was noted that this meant exercising a costs benefit analysis and in the circumstances it was more suitable to allocate resources to deal with other issues such as level crossing accidents, as these are far more prevalent.

The High Court accepted that the rail industry has clear and detailed standards and is sufficiently regulated. In all the circumstances, it was held that the defendant had complied with industry standards and it was too onerous for a continual safety check to be carried out after the train had powered up and was leaving the station.

It was noted that there is currently no means for platform staff to communicate with the driver of a train or to send an emergency stop command to the train controller or the signaller. As a result, if there had been a member of staff on the platform who had detected the claimant, they would unlikely have been able to communicate to the driver. In any event, there was nothing out of the ordinary on the platform at the time when the train moved off for any concerns to be raised even if staff had been monitoring the platform.

The High Court stated that the claimant was an adult who had used the station on a daily basis, would have heard the “mind the gap” announcements and would have been aware that there was a significant gap between the train and the platform edge. It could be seen that he failed to have sufficient regard for his own health and safety.

The claim was dismissed.

What this means for you

This is a positive result for occupiers and follows the judgment in Whiting v First/Keolis Transpennine Ltd [2018] EWCA Civ 4 where it was held that there is no duty on occupiers to guarantee the absolute safety of members of the public. Also, the courts do not want to impose onerous duties on businesses that provide services.

The High Court balanced public and private interests taking into account the limited resources available to the defendant and the need for services to be economically viable. Also, the High Court noted that it was very rare for accidents of this nature to occur and even if there had been staff on the platform, this may not have prevented the accident from happening.

The High Court reiterated the accepted rule that the courts are not bound by expert opinion or normal practice in a particular industry when considering the standard of care owed by a defendant. However, the courts can take into account stated practice within a particular industry and relevant industry standards.

It should be noted that each case is fact specific and the courts will take into account relevant industry standards, the risk of injury occurring, the costs and additional resources required to implement further measures and the need for services to be efficient and economically viable. As a result, what is reasonable in the circumstances will depend on the specific facts of each case.