Law School Case Brief
Gomez v. Superior Court - 35 Cal. 4th 1125, 29 Cal. Rptr. 3d 352, 113 P.3d 41 (2005)
Carriers of persons are treated differently under the statutory scheme depending upon whether they act gratuitously or are paid. A carrier of persons without reward is subject only to a duty to use ordinary care and diligence for their safe carriage. Cal. Civ. Code § 2096. But a carrier of persons for reward, as was true at common law, is subject to a heightened duty. Common carriers are not, however, insurers of their passengers' safety. Rather, the degree of care and diligence which they must exercise is only such as can reasonably be exercised consistent with the character and mode of conveyance adopted and the practical operation of the business of the carrier.
Plaintiffs, an estate and the deceased passenger's heirs, alleged that the passenger, who was 23 years old, suffered a fatal brain injury after riding on a roller coaster at the park. The passenger was allegedly injured due to the violent shaking and sudden changes in direction imposed by the ride. Defendants, the amusement park operator and others, sought review of a judgment of the Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division Eight (California), which reversed a judgment of the superior court sustaining defendants' demurrer to a complaint filed by plaintiffs for wrongful death and damages.
Did the court of appeal err in concluding the operator of a roller coaster or similar amusement park ride could be a carrier of persons for reward under Cal. Civ. Code §§ 2100 and 2101?
The court agreed with the court of appeal that the operator of a roller coaster or similar amusement park ride could be a carrier of persons for reward under Cal. Civ. Code §§ 2100 and 2101. A passenger's purpose in purchasing transportation, whether to get from one place to another or to travel simply for pleasure or sightseeing, did not determine whether the provider of the transportation was a carrier for reward. The passenger's purpose did not affect the duty of the carrier to exercise the highest degree of care for the safety of the passenger. The circumstance that a passenger began and ended a journey in the same place did not mean he or she had not been transported. Although not all the statutes pertaining to carriers of persons for reward applied to every form of transportation, it did not follow that any form of transportation to which these statutes did not apply could not be a common carrier and carrier of persons.
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