Woman sues for bus accident

11 June 2019 | Justice

A woman who broke her arm when she fell out of a municipal bus four years ago is fighting to keep her High Court case on the roll after she sued the Windhoek municipality for negligence.

Elizabeth Swartbooi (57), an unemployed domestic worker, is claiming damages of N$142 850 from the Windhoek municipality.

She claims the bus was illegally overloaded and the doors were not properly closed before the driver abruptly drove off, causing her to fall out and break her arm.

She further alleges that the driver did not stop to check on her despite being alerted to the accident by screaming passengers. She also claims he failed to report the incident to his managers.

The City of Windhoek, cited as the sole respondent in the case, has not filed a notice to defend.

The accident happened on 15 September 2015 but Swartbooi only filed the suit in September last year. In an affidavit filed this month, Swartbooi informed the court that the delay was the result of health problems caused by the accident.

She said she has been ill for more than two and half years, suffering from “a severe depression arising from the worry, frustration and angst that I developed after my accident in September 2015”.

She further informed the court that she has struggled financially and emotionally, and contemplated suicide which prompted her to temporarily move to her family outside of Windhoek.

She said the delay was not “due to a lack of interest in the matter but due to my illness which rendered me unable to do many things.”

Yesterday, the court scheduled a hearing in order to decide whether the matter should be struck from the roll due to the lengthy inactivity of the case or whether an extension will be granted for an application for a default judgment.

In her particulars of claim, filed in September 2018, Swartbooi stated that as a standing passenger, she got off “the very full bus” at a stop to make way for other disembarking passengers.

When she got back onto the bus “the driver suddenly drove off, with the doors still open, and took a sharp corner that led her to tumble backwards out of the bus and onto the tarmac.” She further claims that although the driver was immediately alerted to her falling off the bus, he did not stop until the next intersection, where one of the women who had been standing next to Swartbooi alighted and ran back to check on her. It is alleged the driver then drove off again.

Swartbooi said she was only able to establish the driver's identity after reporting the incident to the municipality's call centre.

Swartbooi broke her left arm and stayed in the Katutura State Hospital for a week.

She claims she underwent twice weekly occupational therapy sessions which were stopped due to lack of funds.

Further, she claims that she experiences persistent pain and weakness in her left arm which has made it difficult to continue her work as a domestic worker.

Her quality of life has also declined further as she no longer feels able to garden, a passion of hers, or play with her grandchildren.

Swartbooi is represented by lawyer Happie Ntelamo-Matswetu and Judge Herman Oosthuizen is presiding.

The outcome of the hearing, scheduled for yesterday afternoon, was not yet known by the time of going to print.

JANA-MARI SMITH

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