Gauteng High Court has ruled that a dangerous situation a taxi driver was still liable for negligence if a passenger acted in a foolhardy manner. File photo: Henk Kruger / African News Agency
Pretoria - In a Road Accident Fund claim with a twist, the Gauteng High Court has found that the driver of a taxi that lost a wheel was negligent as the vehicle was unstable and posed a danger to commuters.

The taxi spun out of control after its wheel came off, and during that time, a female passenger jumped off the moving vehicle. The RAF said it was not liable to pay damages towards the injuries Thandeka Nkosi had suffered, as she was the author of her own woes by jumping out of the moving vehicle.

But Acting Judge Lawrence Nowosenetz said in a dangerous situation a driver was still liable for negligence if a passenger acted in a foolhardy manner. Irrespective of how she fell out or jumped out of the taxi, he said, whether she was foolhardy or not, the driver was negligent.

Nkosi told the court that on 1 December 2011, she was travelling near Vryheid in KwaZulu-Natal, sitting on the left hand side of the vehicle, next to the door. According to her, the driver was driving extremely fast and she felt the vehicle “zigzagging”. He ignored her appeals to slow down and simply turned the radio on louder.

The next moment there were screams inside the taxi and the door opened. Nkosi only remembered falling out, before she lost consciousness. She woke up in hospital.

Out of control

The wheel of the taxi had come off and the vehicle had got out of control, causing the 15 commuters in the taxi to panic. It appeared that Nkosi, during the chaos, opened the sliding door herself, while other passengers shouted at her not to jump out. The taxi did not overturn and none of the occupants, except Nkosi who jumped, were injured.

While Nkosi could not remember jumping, the judge said this was possibly true, as it is impossible for the sliding door to open wide enough by itself for her to fit through.

While the RAF said that was foolish behaviour on her part, the judge said she was not to blame, as it was a reasonable response to the danger she perceived.

He said drivers or owners of vehicles had a legal duty to maintain their vehicles and ensure they were roadworthy. The fact that the wheel came off proved that the vehicle was unroadworthy.

Judge Nowosenetz said the driver was entirely responsible for creating the risk, as he should have checked the vehicle. He concluded that the RAF was 100 percent liable for the damages Nkosi could prove she had suffered.

Pretoria News