Copyright (c) 1998 Chapman Law Review
Chapman Law Review
CASENOTE: A Tale Involving the Magic Kingdom, Pirates, and a Court's Broad Interpretation of Common Carrier Liability
1 Chap. L. Rev. 171
Chad A. Gerardi
California Civil Code 2168 provides, "every one who offers to the public to carry persons, property, or messages, excepting only telegraphic messages, is a common carrier of whatever he [or she] thus offers to carry." 1 The common carrier designation carries significant importance because operators are held to a heightened duty of utmost care and diligence rather than the ordinary negligence duty of reasonable care under the circumstances. 2
This standard, while simple conceptually, has proven difficult in its application. When interpreting this statute, the California courts have struggled with defining a common carrier. 3 Guided by the plain words of the statute, California courts initially interpreted "common carrier" to include railways, 4 steamboats, 5 and stagecoaches. 6 Over time, the common carrier definition expanded to include airplanes, 7 buses, 8 taxicabs, 9 escalators, 10 elevators, 11 mule trains, 12 and ski-lifts. 13 In Neubauer v. Disneyland, Inc., 14 the United States District Court for the Central District of California held that Disneyland amusement park rides fall within Cali fornia's statutory definition of common carriers, thereby imposing a heightened duty of care in transporting the public.
This note explains why the federal court in Neubauer interprets California's common carrier statute too broadly. In doing so, the court fails to adequately address California's common law and the principles set forth in other jurisdictions relating to amusement park rides and common carrier liability. Section I discusses common carrier liability in other jurisdictions, ...
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