A woman has been awarded a massive payout by the Supreme Court after she fell between a moving train and platform in Sydney’s west and suffered “catastrophic injuries”.
The moment Aluk Majok Chol attempted to board a train at 2.18pm on August 4, 2016, at Auburn Railway Station was caught on CCTV, with Justice Richard Cavanagh saying there was “no dispute” as to the circumstances of the horrific incident.
Seconds after the train pulled into the station, the now-52-year-old collected her shopping bags and moved towards the doors of the train, but they began to close.
In an attempt to stop the doors from closing, Ms Chol threw out her right arm which had been holding her handbag.
The doors closed on the strap of Ms Chol’s handbag and the train began to pull away, causing her to fall between the edge of the platform and the moving train.
“As a result of the accident, she sustained severe injuries,” Justice Cavanagh said.
“Whilst there is a dispute as to the extent of her incapacity and disabilities, there is little dispute as to the nature of the frank injuries sustained.”
Ms Chol claimed Sydney Trains was negligent in a number of aspects, including “inadequacies in the system in place at the station” and “failures on the part of” station staff, in particular the guard on the train “to take the necessary steps to ensure that the train did not move whilst” she was in danger.
John Catsanos SC, on behalf of Ms Chol, argued Sydney Train staff saw her walk towards the door and stand directly adjacent to the edge of the platform.
Despite this, Mr Catsanos claimed staff “allowed the train to commence to move” rather than take steps to make sure Ms Chol was safe and away from the train as it left the station.
“The plaintiff submits there was ample time for employees to observe her in her precarious position and they failed to take reasonable steps to ensure she was not inured,” Justice Cavanagh said in his judgment.
“They allowed the train to commence to move despite her position.”
Ms Chol described her injuries as “catastrophic” and said she had been so disabled she needs extensive treatment and care for the rest of her life.
The major components of her claim were non-economic loss and care.
Sydney Trains argued Ms Chol was “the author of her own misfortune”, claiming she was intoxicated at the time of the incident and fell because she was “unable to properly balance”.
Defence lawyer David O’Dowd claimed the 52-year-old put herself in a “position of danger” by trying to stop the doors from closing.
“Whilst Sydney Trains does not dispute what is shown on the CCTV footage, it submits that the plaintiff would not have fallen if she had not been intoxicated,” Justice Cavanagh said.
The rail network submitted Ms Chol’s incident was not negligent and its employees acted in “accordance with the accepted system”.
Justice Cavanagh sided with Ms Chol and found the accident was caused by a casual act of negligence by a guard who did not ensure she was safe before allowing the train to take off.
He did not accept the 52-year-old was intoxicated and had fallen between the platform and the train.
“The train started to move immediately after the doors closed whilst she was hanging onto the strap of her handbag,” the Supreme Court Justice said.
“This resulted in her being pulled or jolted and losing her balance. Of course, the fact that she had a hold of her handbag itself demonstrates how close she was to the edge of the train.”
However, he accepted it was common for train passengers to attempt to jump onto the carriage at the last minute and employees could not delay the schedule every time it happened.
Justice Cavanagh also accepted it would be impossible to ensure all passengers were a safe distance from moving trains.
Sydney Trains must pay Ms Chol $1,179,368.53, including payment for general damages, past care, future care, additional accommodation costs, out-of-pocket expenses, future medical treatment and continuing treatment needs.