Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
A special relationship exists between a common carrier and its passengers. A common carrier has a duty to exercise the highest degree of care to safely transport its passengers and protect them while in transit. But this duty exists only so long as the special relationship of passenger and carrier exists. The carrier discharges its duty once the passenger reaches a reasonably safe place.
Joseph Rutherford Jr., deceased and son of the plaintiff, and his three co-workers took TWE flight 7145 from Memphis, Tennessee to Sioux City, Iowa with a change of planes at Lambert International Airport. Prior to departure, Rutherford consumed alcoholic drinks. When getting off the plane, Rutherford went into a restricted area and climbed onto a luggage tug that was idling on the tarmac. Britney Callier, a TWE gate agent, radioed his supervisor and requested airport security. Upon learning of the dispatch to airport security, Rutherford slid off the tug and entered the terminal without further incident. Once inside the terminal Rutherford made his way toward the gate from which his connecting flight was departing. On the way to the gate, Rutherford stole an electric golf cart and began driving around the gate area. Callier chased Rutherford on foot in an effort to stop him or to maintain sight of him until security could be summoned. Rutherford entered into a cleaning room where he slipped into a trash chute and was subsequently crushed and caused his death. Appellant, Patricia Boyette, Rutherford’s mother, filed a wrongful death action against respondents TWE, the City of St. Louis, and others. She claimed that respondent airline acted negligently by chasing his son through the concourse after he commandeered the golf cart and, once he was discovered in the trash compactor, failed to take necessary steps to ensure his son’s safety. She also claimed that respondent City was negligent by failing to render aid to his son once the City discovered him in the trash compactor. The trial court granted summary judgment to the respondent, Trans World Express. Appellant then appealed the trial court’s judgment granting respondent’s summary judgment.
Was the respondent airline as a common carrier liable for the death of appellant’s son?
The court affirmed the order of the lower court granting respondent's motion for summary judgment in appellant's wrongful death action was affirmed. The court found that it was without dispute that appellant’s son safely reached the airport. Thus, the carrier fulfilled the duty it owed decedent as a common carrier once he reached the airport terminal. At that point the carrier's duty as a common carrier was discharged. The court found no causal connection between an individual's pursuit and decedent's death.