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Court of Appeals rules “Common Carrier” Civil Code Section 2100 does not apply to commonplace hazards in a train Station

Alice Churchman sustained injuries when she fell when she lost balance while attempting to board a railway car run by the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART).  She alleged several factors combined to create a confusing situation on the rail platform:

  • The opening and closing of doors of opposite sides of the cars
  • Partially inaudible and confusing instructions broadcast over the public address system
  • Abrupt turns and moves by other passengers trying to board a train.

She sued the Transit District for violating its duty of care as a common carrier pursuant to Civil Code Section 2100.  The District demurred on the ground it had no common law negligence liability and that its liability as a common carrier only applies to passengers in transit – not those who have yet to bard the BART train.  The trial court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend and the matter was appealed to the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal ultimately upheld the trial Court decision, holding:

  1. The trial court correctly ruled that Civ. Code, § 2100, did not extend to impose liability on a rapid transit district for plaintiff’s injuries, which were caused by ordinary risks of a busy train platform: crowds of people moving in multiple directions, noise, partially inaudible announcements on the public address system, and train doors abruptly opening and closing as passengers board and disembark;
  2. The appellate court rejected plaintiff’s arguments that the district could be liable for failure to provide safe vehicles; overcrowded or overloaded vehicles; or failure to give passengers reasonable accommodation, treat them civilly, or give them a reasonable amount of attention, as none of these things caused plaintiff’s injuries;
  3. The district could not be liable for a dangerous condition of public property, as there was no physical defect in the boarding platform.

The Court of Appeal further held “section 2100 does not apply to minor, commonplace hazards in a train station. Moreover, because the train operator here is a public agency, it is not liable for personal injuries in the absence of a statute providing for liability. (Gov. Code, § 815.)”

If you have been injured on a bus, train, or other common carrier, give us a call to consult with the attorneys at Heiting & Irwin who have lots of experience handling common carrier injury cases.

**Case referenced is Churchman v. Bay Area Rapid Transit Dist. (Aug. 28, 2019, No. A151698) ___Cal.App.5th___

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