Court of Appeal to rule on disabled bus passengers' rights after opposite rulings

Darlington and Stockton Times: Disabled bus passengers have sued separate bus companies over the same issue with different results Disabled bus passengers have sued separate bus companies over the same issue with different results

JUDGES will decide whether the rights of wheelchair users trump those of parents with pushchairs when it comes to battling for seats on the bus, following contradictory court rulings.

ME sufferer Jane Elliott, from Darlington, unsuccessfully sued Arriva, saying she was humiliated when she could not get on a bus because a pushchair user refused to give up the seat.

Arriva operated a ‘first come, first served’ policy meaning drivers can ask those with pushchairs to move from designated spaces if a wheelchair user wants to board – but cannot insist on it.

Judge Peter Bowers rejected Mrs Elliott’s claim for damages following the incident in August 2011, saying she had not suffered a substantial disadvantage because she was able to board the next bus.

He also found that Arriva's policy of asking mothers with pushchairs to move, but not insisting that they do so, was a "reasonable adjustment" to make for the benefit of disabled passengers.

Mrs Elliott’s barrister Simon Mallett argued that the judge was wrong, adding: “The mere fact that Mrs Elliott could not use the bus when other, non-disabled, passengers could, was by itself a substantial disadvantage.

“She did not have equality of access to transport. There was deprivation of a provision of a service due to her disability.”

Meanwhile, Doug Paulley, from Wetherby, West Yorkshire, won £5,500 damages from bus operator First Group in September.

Leeds County Court ruled that the company should have taken steps to avoid him being disadvantaged when a mother with a pushchair refused to move.

Now, Lord Justice Briggs has demanded intervention from the Court of Appeal, in an effort to resolve the issue once and for all.

He said both cases involved a pushchair user with a "very young, sleeping baby" and resulted in "diametrically opposed" decisions when the facts were very similar.

First Group is challenging the ruling in Mr Paulley’s case and Lord Justice Briggs called for both cases to be heard at the same time.

He said: “It seems to me that the fact that carefully reasoned county court decisions are coming to diametrically opposed views is a compelling reason for giving permission to appeal."

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