A BUS driver in Co. Cork has been awarded €64,000 over an incident which saw him robbed and stabbed with a syringe while on duty in 2019.
Patrick O’Brien sued employer Bus Éireann to claim damages arising from the assault on him while driving a bus on the evening of April 6, 2018.
CCTV footage of the assault showed his attacker got onto the bus at a stop close to the terminus in Mayfield, Cork.
It further showed him stabbing Mr O’Brien with a syringe, before grabbing the bag of money from his driver’s cab.
The footage also showed that the attacker was able to get access to Mr O’Brien because the screen between the passenger and the driver’s cab was in the upright position.
Mr O'Brien told the court that while the screen is a safety screen, intended to protect the driver from assault, he did not have enough time to close the screen as the assault took place very quickly.
He also confirmed that he always drove the bus with the screen up as it was very difficult to hear passengers when the screen was down.
Passing judgement on the case this week, Ms Justice Bolger found in favour of Mr O’Brien.
She claimed, while the bus driver could have protected himself better from attack by using the screen correctly, his employers had failed in their duty to “provide the plaintiff with a safe place of work”.
Ms Bolger also added that Bus Éireann had failed to inform Mr O’Brien of the “need to keep the screen down”.
“I have had regard to…the plaintiff’s duty to take reasonable care to provide for his own health and safety,” she explained.
“Had the plaintiff kept the screen down and locked, this accident would not have occurred.”
She added: “That involves some level of contribution by him, which I consider to be modest in the light of the defendant’s failure to ensure that the plaintiff was informed of the need to keep the screen down and supervised in relation to doing so and the defendant’s apparent condoning of the plaintiff’s consistent practice of never putting the screen down.”
Following the incident Mr O’Brien attended an A&E department in Cork where he was treated with medication for hepatitis and HIV.
He was later seen by a consultant in infectious diseases, and advised to continue with hepatitis B vaccination, reassured and discharged.
Mr O’Brien continued to see his GP over the months that followed.
He was prescribed sleeping medication and later, in June 2019, having returned to work in March of that year, he was prescribed antidepressant medication, which he later came off in order to continue driving for a living.
The bus driver continued to experience anxiety and panic attacks, but claimed a course of CBT therapy in 2020 had proved helpful for his condition.
“The needlestick injuries caused the plaintiff worry and stress about the, albeit low, risk of developing HIV or hepatitis, a risk which continued for approximately three months in relation to HIV and six months in relation to hepatitis,” Ms Bolger confirmed.
“This caused significant issues in his physical and emotional relationship with his wife from which the relationship does not seem to have fully recovered.
“He has also experienced issues in his relationship with his children because of the greater vigilance he now exercises in his care of them,” she added.
“The plaintiff developed post-traumatic stress disorder which rendered him unfit for work for almost a year.
“He continued to experience difficulties at work for some time thereafter, some of which continue to date but at a lesser level than previously.
“I am awarding €70,000 general damages for the plaintiff’s post-traumatic stress disorder, the trauma of the incident and the distress and personal consequences of being at risk of HIV and hepatitis.
“I am also awarding €5,000 in respect of pain and suffering into the future."
The Judge discounted Mr O’Brien’s total award by 15 per cent, to account for his own “modest”contribution to liability, leaving him with damages of €63,750.