Social worker awarded £13,900 by TfL after grab pole falls on her
14th November 2020

Social worker, 35, is awarded £13,900 in compensation from TfL after steel grab pole on Circle Line Tube train came loose and fell on top of her injuring her head, neck and back

  • Emma Janny was hit by collapsing pole on the Circle Line in January 2018 
  • Went to A&E with head and neck injuries and had stiffness for months after 
  • Judge found that Transport for London’s inspections had been inadequate  

 Emma Janny, 35, was sitting listening to her earphones while returning home from work in January 2018 when the pole came loose

A social worker has won £13,900 in compensation after an 11lb steel grab pole fell off the ceiling of a Circle Line Tube train and smashed into her head. 

Emma Janny, 35, was sitting listening to her earphones while returning home from work in January 2018 when the pole – designed for standing passengers to hold – came loose and fell onto her. 

She went to A&E after suffering injuries to her head, neck and back, and months later was still suffering from pain and stiffness which was treated by a physio. 

Ms Janny went on to sue Transport for London and has now won damages after Judge Susan Jackson concluded the accident was the company’s fault.

The judge, sitting at Central London County Court, criticised TfL’s system of using visual inspections to test the integrity of the poles and grab rails on their trains.

The judge said the safety system was so poor that the faulty vertical grab rail would only have been spotted if it was lying on the floor.

‘They’re called grab rails for a reason,’ she said. ‘They should be grabbed [during inspections] to test their integrity.’ 

Ceiling grab poles  are used by standing passengers. This is a stock photo showing what they look like 

The court heard Ms Janny, of Walthamstow, north-east London, was heading home on the Circle Line when the grab pole fell on her. 

‘She was sitting on the second seat from the vertical grab rail near the door,’ her barrister Elizabeth Grace said.

‘As the train approached the station, she felt a blow to her head. Passengers came to her aid. She was in quite some shock because it was unexpected.’

Afterwards, Ms Janny got off at Kings Cross St Pancras and spoke to platform staff, who recorded the incident.

But TfL said that staff who inspected the train later did not find any grab rail loose.

And TfL lawyers insisted in court that it should not have to pay out, as it had done all it reasonably could to minimise the risk of accidents.

The train carriages and grab rails in particular were subject to regular visual inspections to search for any defects, the judge was told.

But Ms Grace, for Ms Janny, argued: ‘On the facts of this case, the claimant has plainly suffered an injury because a handrail came loose.

‘The handrail plainly was defective before it was dislodged and the defendant had no real system for detecting that.’

Ms Janny went on to sue Transport for London and has now won damages after Judge Susan Jackson concluded the accident was the company’s fault

Giving judgment, Judge Jackson said Ms Janny had been an ‘impressive witness.’

‘I find her truthful and moreover the actions she took were entirely consistent with the account that she has given,’ she said.

And she rejected TfL’s claims that its system of visual inspection of carriages and grab rails was reasonable.

‘When one considers the consequences of those rails hitting somebody, the visual inspection is entirely disproportionate,’ she said.

‘For those reasons, I don’t accept that TfL had in place a reasonable system of inspection and I find in favour of Ms Janny.’

Ms Janny will receive £13,900 damages, while TfL will also have to pay her lawyers’ bills of over £13,000.

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