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Tokyo bus operator ordered to pay damages after disabled man injured

TOKYO -- A summary court ordered a Tokyo-based bus operator to pay 330,000 yen in compensation to a man with disabilities after a bus driver departed from a stop before he was seated, resulting in him falling over and getting injured.

According to the Tachikawa Summary Court ruling dated Feb. 6, the plaintiff, who is in his 50s and lives in the Tokyo suburban city of Nishitokyo, uses a cane regularly as he suffers dizziness due to cardiac function impairment. As he cannot commute on packed commuter trains, he would take a route bus operated by Keio Bus Higashi Co. between Shinjuku Station and Shibuya Ward Office stops.

At around 2:45 p.m. on April 11, 2018, after he boarded a Keio bus from the Shibuya Ward Office stop, the driver took off without confirming the man was seated, even though he had shown the driver his physical disability certificate. The man fell over and suffered a cervical sprain and other injuries.

During the trial, the plaintiff claimed that similar incidents also continued thereafter, on a total of eight occasions between December 2018 and December 2019. Although the man requested that the bus operator take preventive measures, the firm failed to act, the man argued. Specifically, the plaintiff had asked that bus drivers not depart until they confirm passengers are seated; ensure the seating of passengers by leaning out of the driver's seat; and that they make announcements urging passengers to cede priority seats to those in need. He demanded the firm pay 770,000 yen in compensation.

The summary court ruled in favor of the man, and pointed out that the bus operator did not consider any concrete steps nor take any countermeasures, allowing similar accidents to recur.

Keio Bus Higashi is poised to appeal the court decision. "We'll appeal the ruling as it cannot be said to be based on due process, considering that we've been deprived of sufficient opportunities to make arguments and establish our case," said a company representative.

(Japanese original by Kotaro Adachi, Tama General Bureau)

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