23 August 2006
Metrorail and Train driver negligent in security guard accident case
A Cape High Court judge has found Metrorail and train driver Johannes Human liable for damages suffered by two security guards who were seriously injured when struck by a train while patrolling the railway lines between Cape Town and Woodstock in February 2002. But the court also found the guards were partly to blame for their injuries because they did not look out for approaching trains. As a result, the amount of damages they recover would be by a third.
The guards, Siyavuma Ngaleka and Sibonjile Ncaza sued Metrorail, the South Africa Rail Commuter Corporation and the driver for R2.9 million. While Metrorail has been held liable for damages the guards suffered, the court has ordered that the security company which supplied the guards to Metrorail, Kuffs Security Services, indemnify the rail parastatal. This means Kuffs would have to reimburse Metrorail for any of the damages. Justice Andre Blignault ruled that Metrorail was negligent for failing to issue specifics warning of approaching trains to Kuffs on the night of the accident.
“The damages created by these trains were significant and they were clearly foreseeable. The warnings could have been issued with little difficulty and at hardly any cost. It is fair inference, furthermore, that had such a warning been issued in the present case, the accident would probably have been avoided, “Judge Blignault said, he added that the train driver found himself in a position in which an immediate response was called for.
The judge also said the driver had vast experiences, but had no reason to be less attentive because he was driving an unscheduled train. The situation called for immediate braking and the driver had wasted time by sounding the siren first. The judge found that the driver was negligent. Judge Blignault also found that the security guards were casually negligent by walking on the railway line without watching out for trains. he ordered that the amount of damages be reduced by one third in terms of the Appointment of Damages Act.
Since Kuffs did not raise any defense to Metrorail’s claim of indemnity, the judge ordered that Kuffs was obliged to indemnity Metrorail against any of the guards claims. Metrorail and the driver have been ordered to pay costs. Judge Blignault said that the question of costs between Metrorail and Kuffs could be determined at a later stage.