Sacramento-Area Thrill Ride Leads To Wrongful Death, Part 8 of 10

(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 argue that because the Dinosaur Attraction picks up and returns passengers to the same location it does not qualify as carriage in accordance with California’s common carrier statute as the ride does not transport passengers from one place to another. The fact that the attraction may start and finish at the same location does not exempt it from common carrier liability.

As demonstrated above, the court in Elmer v. Speed Boat Leasing, Inc., et al., supra, held that despite the fact that the boat ride commenced and ended in the same location, common carrier liability still applied. Likewise, in the Buckskin Joe’s case, the court did not find the absence of transporting the stagecoach from “point A to point B” to be a determining factor in its decision to uphold common carrier liability.

In its demurrer, defendants try to differentiate the Squaw Valley case to the present case by stating that under Civil Code §2168, an entity must transport goods or persons from place to place for profit. Defendants erroneously suggest that because the Dinosaur ride starts and finishes in the exact location, a common carrier liability theory is inapplicable.

In addition, elevators and escalators have been consistently held to be common carriers and it is arguable that a person who uses one of these mechanisms generally begins at either the top or the bottom and ends up back where they started. Similarly, trains and airplanes have been found to be common carriers and, more often than not, people who avail themselves of these services start and end their journey in the same place.

In reaching its ultimate conclusion, the Squaw Valley court relied on Samuelson v. Public Utilities Com. (1951) 36 Cal. 2nd 722, 730, stating that A common carrier engaged in the business of transporting people undertakes generally and for all purposes indifferently to transport those it is accustomed to carry for reasonable compensation. Squaw Valley, supra, at 1509. This rationale undoubtedly applies to the defendants in this case as they are engaged in the business of transporting their guests in cars, vehicles, boats or otherwise for all persons indifferently for compensation. As far as plaintiff is aware, Universal Theme Park will allow anyone to board an attraction at the park as long as they have paid the admission price.

A Colorado Supreme Court case involving an injury to a patron on a ski lift found that the operators of the ski lift were liable as a common carrier. Bayer v. Crested Butte Mt. Resort, (Colo. 1998) 960 P. 2d 70. The court found that the operators of the ski lift owed the highest degree of care and concluded this by analogizing ski lifts to amusement rides based on the decision in Lewis v. Buckskin Joe’s, Inc. Id. at 72-73. The court in Squaw Valley already concluded that ski lift operators owe a higher standard of care. Yet, the court in Bayer was persuaded by the Buckskin Joe’s test even though that dealt with amusement rides. That court was not deterred by the fact that in Buckskin Joe’s the stagecoach ride started and ended in the same location. There were other cases that the court in Bayer based its decision on, yet the court was persuaded most by the Buckskin Joe’s test. Thus, destination should not be a controlling factor in determining common carrier liability. (See Part 9 of 10.)

For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.

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