30 November 2017

South Africa: Court Finds Prasa Responsible for Commuter's Injuries

The Western Cape High Court has found that the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), was responsible for the serious injuries suffered by a commuter who was thrown out of a carriage in 2011.

Masibulele Rautini was travelling from Du Toit Station to Lynedoch Station on 19 November 2011. In his testimony to the court he explained that he had boarded the train at 6:45am, and entered a third class carriage. Three men had entered the carriage, one with a gun and one with a knife. The third man was unarmed. They had demanded wallets and cellphones from the passengers. There was a struggle, and Rautini was pushed out of the open door of the carriage.

He said the doors had been open throughout the journey and that he had not seen any security guard on the carriage.

He had lost consciousness and woken up in Paarl General Hospital.

Acting Judge Janet McCurdie ruled on 16 November 2017 that PRASA was liable for all damages suffered by Rautini as a result of the incident.

PRASA's lawyers had initially argued that Rautini had jumped from the train. But Judge McCurdie ruled that allowing the train to operate with open doors was unacceptable, stating: "Had the doors of the train been closed, Rautini would not have been able to be pushed out of the train." As a result, she said, PRASA's conduct was negligent and "the sole cause of harm suffered by the plaintiff".

"I am very happy that my client's version was accepted in the end," said Jan Potgieter of DSC Attorneys, Rautini's representative in the case.

Rautini said he was satisfied with the ruling and glad that there would be a payment of damages.

He said the incident had left him seriously injured. "I haven't been able to go to work. Losing my job has meant that I cannot afford certain things any more."

He still uses the trains.

"I actually took a train to get to the court ruling [on 16 November]," he said. "The conditions are still bad, it's not right. It is crowded and people are getting on the roof," he said.

PRASA spokesperson Nana Zenani preferred not to comment on the matter at this stage for legal reasons.

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