Bethel v. N.Y.C. Transit Auth.

92 N.Y.2d 348, 681 N.Y.S.2d 201, 703 N.E.2d 1214 (1998)

 

RULE:

 

A common carrier is subject to the same duty of care as any other potential tortfeasor - reasonable care under all of the circumstances of the particular case.

 

 

 

FACTS:

Plaintiff was injured while riding a bus when an adjustable seat intended for handicapped passengers collapsed as he sat down. Both the lower court and the lower appellate court found respondent city transit authority liable on the basis that it had constructive notice of the seat's condition. On appeal, the court reversed the decision of the lower appellate court and ordered a remand of the case for new trial.

ISSUE:

Are common carriers subject to the same standard of care as any ordinary tortfeasors? 

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

The court ruled that the standard of extraordinary care no longer applies to common carriers. The standard of care required of common carriers is the same as that required of any other potential tortfeasor - reasonable care under all of the circumstances of the particular case. The duty of extraordinary care formerly applicable to common carriers with respect to possible defects in the road-bed, or machinery or in the construction of the cars, or appliances such as would be likely to occasion great danger and loss of life is no longer viable. A new trial was ordered because the jury was specifically instructed that defendant carrier was required to have exercised the highest degree of care that human prudence and foresight that could have been suggested in connection with the issue of its constructive notice of the defective seat, the error could not have been deemed merely harmless.

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