Pretoria - A train commuter who lost his legs after he fell out of a crowded train while trying to disembark at Johannesburg Station, claimed more than R8.6 million from the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).
Khathutshelo Mogano turned to the Gauteng High Court, Johannesburg, where he blamed Prasa for the fact that he now uses a wheelchair.
His legal action arose from an incident that took place 10 years ago. He told the court that on the day, he had boarded a train from Soweto, where he lived, heading to Johannesburg Station.
The train had arrived safely but had been crowded.
He told the court that because of the overcrowding, the passengers in the train had jostled to get off the train before it pulled off from the platform.
Mogano said he had prepared himself to get off the train. As he had been about to disembark, the train had moved, causing him to lose his balance. He had been dislodged from the train, and as a result, had fallen out of the train, underneath it and between the platform and the train.
He blamed Prasa for the incident and said the rail operator had failed to ensure the safety of the commuters by not deploying enough guards to oversee things.
Mogano said the train should never have moved on before all the doors were closed.
He had remained in hospital for a month and his legs had been amputated below the knees.
Mogano said he had been rendered a person with a disability and would never be able to work again.
Prasa, however, settled the issue of liability with him and it was agreed that both parties were equally negligent. Under the agreement, Mogano, who was 23 when the accident happened, would be entitled to 50% of the damages he could prove he had suffered.
Medical experts who testified on his behalf, told the court that he had told them that he had been injured when he was pushed out of the moving train.
Judge Peter Mabuse said that was in stark contrast to the evidence Mogano had presented to court. He had said he had lost his balance when the train moved from the platform while he had been disembarking.
But the judge said he would “let sleeping dogs lie” on that issue.
Mogano claimed R4.5m for past and future medical expenses.
“The evidence on record is that for all the procedures that the plaintiff underwent at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, he paid a mere R1 300,” the judge said.
He turned down the claim for past and future medical expenses, as the judge reasoned that Mogano could return to a state hospital in future when he needed to.
Mogano had said he had washed taxis and cars, but had produced no evidence of such a business.
“He could have called some of the taxi drivers or owners as witnesses to verify his evidence and give him support. He failed to inform the court of any attempts he made to find such drivers or owners of the taxis he used to wash or those who used to call him to come and wash their taxis … This court finds it difficult to accept that he was unable to strike any close relationship with some of the taxi drivers,” the judge said.
The judge ordered Prasa to pay Mogano R1.2m in general damages. He is due to receive half the amount because of the agreement on shared negligence.