A common carrier is in the business of transporting passengers or property. Typical common carriers are buses, taxis, trains, cruise ships and planes. Commuter rails, such as Metrolink, are also common carriers. An elevator, escalator, ski lift and even some amusement rides are common carriers. A common carrier is held to a higher standard of care than an ordinary person. Therefore, it is easier to establish negligence if the defendant is a common carrier.
Higher Standard of Care
Under Negligence Law, the defendant must use reasonable care to prevent harm to others. If the defendant is a common carrier, the law requires it to use the highest care and the vigilance of a very cautious person.
In fact, the common carrier must do all that human care, vigilance, and foresight can do under the circumstances to avoid harm to passengers or property. CACI 902
(CACI are the approved jury instructions from the Judicial Council of California. Jury instructions are read to the jury by the judge and establish the law the jury must follow in deciding the case. A partner of Cheong, Denove, Rowell & Bennett has been formally recognized as one of the attorneys who assisted the task force in the preparation of these jury instructions.)
Not only must the common carrier use the highest care in transporting passengers and property, but it must use the highest care in constructing, servicing, inspecting and maintaining their vehicles and equipment for transporting passengers or property. CACI 903
In some cases the laws of both negligence and common carrier apply. For example, when there is an injury due to a defective elevator the law of negligence applies to the company responsible for maintaining the elevator. The building owner would not be judged under the negligence law but would be held to a higher standard of a common carrier because the building owner owns the elevator.
To Whom Is This Highest Care Owed?
The common carrier has the duty to exercise the highest care to its passengers and property. If the common carrier injures a non-passenger or property that it was not transporting, the duty owed is that of ordinary care.
The difference in the degree of care is often not of any significance. However, in a case of questionable liability, it is easier to prove fault if the defendant is bound to provide the highest care rather than ordinary care. Buses, trains and planes are responsible for a greater number of serious injuries compared to other forms of accidents. Due to the seriousness of the injuries, the clients must often go to trial to recover just compensation.
The attorneys at Cheong, Denove, Rowell & Bennett have written and lectured extensively on the subject of trial practice and damages.