(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants in this wrongful death/personal injury case and its proceedings.)
DEFENDANTS OWED DECEDENT THE HIGHEST STANDARD OF CARE UNDER COMMON CARRIER LIABILITY BECAUSE DECEDENT LOST HER FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT AND ACTION ONCE SHE WAS PLACED IN DEFENDANTS’ CUSTODY
In the most recent decision involving an amusement ride, a Texas appellate court found an operator of a business providing speed boat rides for amusement to be held liable under a common carrier theory for personal injuries suffered by the appellant on the boat ride. Elmer v. Speed Boat Leasing, Inc., et al. (2002) Tex. App. LEXIS 4670. The boat ride was designed solely for the purpose of providing an exciting and fun-packed ride. Its destination commenced and ended in the same location. Irrespective of these facts, the court reversed the district court’s decision and remanded the cause for a new trial, finding that the defendant owed a high standard of care rather than merely a standard duty of care under a common carrier liability theory.
The Elmer case is the latest case to analyze the trend across the United States regarding the application of common carrier liability to amusement rides. The court recognized the split in authority whether amusement park rides should be properly labeled as common carriers. After extensive and widespread research of existing cases, the court determined the better reasoned cases upheld common carrier liability for amusement rides. The court was especially persuaded by the reasoning in Lewis v. Buckskin Joes’s, Inc. (Colo. 1964) 396 P.2d 933 (the Supreme Court held that the highest standard of care should be applied to amusement rides). As stated, the court in Elmer endorse[d] the rationale of those courts which have held amusement ride operators to a higher standard of care. Tex. App. LEXIS 4670 at 10. The court found:
While appellees have argued, and some courts have stated, that amusement ride operators are not common carriers because they do not offer transportation from one locale to another, we find that reasoning unpersuasive… Instead, we find persuasive the analysis of the Supreme Court of Colorado, which stated:
It is not important whether defendants were serving as a carrier or engaged in activities for amusement. The important factors are, the plaintiffs had surrendered themselves to the care and custody of the defendants; they had given up their freedom of movement and actions; there was nothing they could do to cause or prevent the accident. Under the circumstances of this case the defendants had exclusive possession and control of the facilities used in the conduct of their business and they should be held to the highest degree of care, and the court should have so instructed the jury ….[Lewis v. Buckskin Joes’s, Inc. (Colo. 1964) 396 P.2d 933, 939,]
The court in Elmer further found:
It is not important whether appellees were serving as a carrier or engaged in activities for amusement, rather the important factors are that appellant, who was injured when the boat hit rough seas, had surrendered herself to appellees’ care and custody, and that she had given up her freedom of movement and actions. Therefore, under circumstances of this case, appellees had exclusive possession and control of facilities used in conduct of their business and they should be held to a high degree of care. Elmer, Id., at 13-14. (See Part 4 of 10.)
For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.