(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.)
CALIFORNIA LEGISLATIVE INTENT DEMONSTRATES A BROAD DEFINITION UNDER THE COMMON CARRIER LIABILITY STATUTE TO ENCOMPASS AMUSEMENT PARK RIDES
California is unique in that it has a statute for common carrier liability and therefore does not need to rely solely on case law authority. California Civil Code §2100 states:
A carrier of persons for reward must use the utmost care and diligence for their safe carriage, must provide everything necessary for that purpose, and must exercise to that end a reasonable degree of skill.
Civil Code §2168 defines who and/or what constitutes a common carrier in a tort action. This section states that everyone who offers to the public to carry persons, property, or messages, excepting only telegraph messages, is a common carrier of whatever of what he thus offers to carry. California has gradually adopted a broader definition of common carrier to encompass airplanes, buses, taxicabs, escalators, elevators, mule trains and ski-lifts. (Lopez v. Southern Calif. Rapid Transit Dist. (1985) 40 Cal. 3rd 780; Larson v. Blue & White Cab Co. (1938) 24 Cal. App. 2nd 576; Hendershott v. Macys (1958) 158 Cal. App. 2nd 324; Parker v. Manchester Hotel Co. (1938) 29 Cal. App. 2nd 446; McIntyre v. Smoke Tree Ranch Stables (1962) 205 Cal. App. 2nd 489; Squaw Valley Ski Corp. v. Superior Court (1992) 2 Cal. App. 4th 1499).
Universal Theme Park amusement park rides have been held to be common carriers under California’s broad statutory definition of a common carrier. See Neubauer v. Disney (C.D. Cal. 1995) 875 Fed. Supp. 672 (Universal Theme Park’s “Pirate Ship” was held to be a common carrier falling within California’s statutory definition of a common carrier). The Neubauer court found that under California law a duty of utmost care and diligence upon a common carrier of paying passengers applied to Universal Theme Park. The court relied on the California legislature’s long history of broadly defining a common carrier.
Amusement rides are not specifically set forth under the definition of a common carrier. However, amusement rides are also not specifically prohibited under the statute. The California legislature carefully construed this broad encompassing statute. Had they intended to exclude amusement park rides from the statute they would have done so. As the court explained in Neubauer:
A reasonable argument can be made that common carrier status should not apply to an amusement park ride because it is not the traditional kind of transportation historically contemplated by the common carrier theory with the main purpose being entertainment rather than travel. However, the California statutory common carrier definition is very broad. Any narrowing of that definition must be for the legislature and not the court. (C.D. Cal. 1995) 875 Fed. Supp. 672. (See Part 7 of 10.)
For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.