22 FORUM October 2004
Consumer Attorneys Of California
Christopher B. Dolan is
with The Dolan Law
Firm in San Francisco.
This article will address the liability of a
common carrier to passengers for per-
sonal injury. Not included in the scope of
this article is the liability that a common
carrier has for luggage, goods and/or mes-
It is well established law in California
that a carrier of persons for reward must
use the utmost care and diligence for their
safe carriage, must provide everything
necessary for that purpose, and must ex-
ercise to that end a reasonable degree of
skill. (Civ. Code § 2100.) As part of that
duty, carriers are bound to provide ve-
hicles safe and fit for the purposes to
which they are put, and are not excused for
default in this respect by any degree of
care. (Civ. Code § 2101.) Likewise, in
providing services a common carrier must
give to passengers all such accommoda-
tions as are usual and reasonable, and
must treat them with civility, and give
them a reasonable degree of attention.
(Civ. Code § 2103.)
This elevated standard of care for com-
mon carriers has its origin in English
common law. It is based on a recogni-
tion that the privilege of serving the
public as a common carrier necessarily
entails great responsibility, requiring
common carriers to exercise a high
duty of care towards their customers.
(Squaw Valley Ski Corp. v. Superior
Court (1992) 2 Cal. App.4th 1499,
citing with approval, Convey-All Corp.
v. Pacific Intermountain Express Co.
(1981) 120 Cal.App.3d 116, 120-121.)
The California Legislature has declared
that everyone who offers to the public to
carry persons, property, or messages, ex-
cepting only telegraphic messages, is a
common carrier of whatever it offers to
carry. (Civ Code § 2168.) Case law has
interpreted what types of conveyances
and activities are covered by the height-
ened duty standard.
WHO IS A COMMON CARRIER?
The California Book of Standard Civil
Jury Instructions sets forth the test for
who is a common carrier:
To prove th