The Goa state consumer disputes redressal commission has directed the State Bank of India, Margao branch, to pay Rs 50,500 as compensation to an elderly woman who fell down and fractured her hand while sitting on a swiveling chair at the bank.
A recent order by commission president Justice N A Britto and commission member Vidya Gurav set aside the order of the South Goa consumer disputes redressal forum, which had rejected the woman's appeal for compensation of Rs 2 lakh. The order pertains to an appeal filed by Maria Terezinha Carvalho Barreto from Margao before the commission. On May 28, 2007, she had gone to the SBI Margao for banking work. As she was trying to sit on a swiveling chair opposite a bank clerk, she fell down and fractured her left wrist. She was admitted to Hospicio hospital at Margao on May 29, was operated and was discharged on May 30.
Barreto complained that the bank had kept a broken chair for customers to sit and she suffered the fracture on account of carelessness, negligence and deficient services by the bank. She issued a legal notice demanding compensation of 2 lakh and then filed the complaint on October 30, 2007.
In defence, the bank stated that Barreto tried to sit on the front edge of the swiveling chair and due to her "hefty" body she could not sit properly and fell. The bank denied that the chair was broken, asserted that the allegations were false and stated that Barreto was not entitled to compensation. The South Goa consumer forum dismissed Barreto's complaint and she then approached the state consumer commission.
Taking note of the bank's description of Barreto as "hefty," the commission said that the bank should have known that a swiveling chair would have been used by their customers who could be senior citizens or differently-abled. Wondering if the swiveling chair was meant only for slim people, the commission stated that in that case the bank's officers should have told Barreto not to sit on the swiveling chair and offered her another one. The commission also noted that Barreto was "not so hefty."
The commission quoted president J F Kennedy in a party comment; "consumers by definition include us all… whether short and stout or thin or tall. Does not State Bank of India have in mind the so called hefty Indians when it advertises that it is a banker to every Indian."
The commission noted that the bank should not keep swiveling chairs for customers and that by providing a swiveling chair, the bank disregarded the safety of its customers particularly those who were unfamiliar to sit on a swiveling chair. The commission stated that the bank was therefore liable for the injuries suffered by Barreto.
The commission awarded Barreto, compensation of Rs 50,500 plus Rs 5,000 as cost of appeal to be paid by the bank within 30 days and in case of default, interest at the rate of 9% until payment. [TOI]