Friday, November 16, 2001
Woman Hurt After Being Dropped at Wrong Place Can Sue Cab Firm—C.A.
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A San Francisco woman who claims she was injured in a fall while walking to a dental appointment, after a cab driver insisted on dropping her off two blocks from the clinic, has a claim against the cab company for negligence, the First District Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
Div. Two reinstated Mary Ingham’s suit against the Luxor Cab Company, overturning San Francisco Superior Court Judge David A. Garcia’s ruling that the company was entitled to summary judgment.
The company had a duty to take Ingham to the place she designated, the court ruled, contrary to Garcia’s conclusion that the duty was limited to dropping Ingham off in a safe place.
Ingham, a 57-year-old diabetic, explained that she normally travels to the dentist by bus, but took the taxi because a power failure had disrupted the Muni on that December afternoon in 1998. The driver started out to take her there, she alleged, but then forced her to get out downhill from the location.
She testified in her deposition that she told the driver she was ill and could not negotiate the hill on foot. His response, she related, was that “the power outage was bothersome and he was in a hurry to get to his coffee shop and wait out the power outage.”
There being no bus or taxi service between the place where she was dropped off and the dentist’s office, she testified, she had no choice but to attempt to walk uphill. After a block-and-a-half, she lost her balance and fell, fracturing her hip, she said.
Presiding Justice J. Anthony Kline, writing for the appellate panel, said the trial judge was “clearly erroneous” in limiting the cab company’s duty. As a common carrier, Kline said, a taxicab must take a passenger to the destination designated at the beginning of the trip.
The jurist cited Sloane v. Southern Cal. Ry. Co. (1896) 111 Cal. 668. The high court there upheld an award of damages for the inconvenience and emotional distress suffered by a railroad passenger.
The plaintiff was prevented from completing her journey from North Pomona to San Diego because the conductor took her ticket and failed to give her the receipt that would have allowed her to change trains in San Bernardino and complete the trip without paying an additional fare.
“Though more than a century old, Sloane is still good law and is still relied upon as a paradigmatic example of a contractual relationship creating a duty which, if breached and causes injury, gives rise to a tort action,” Kline wrote. This is true even though there was no allegation that the plaintiff, who was forced to leave the second train at East Riverside, was placed in a dangerous situation, the presiding justice added.
The duty that results from imposing a similar duty on a taxi may be higher than that imposed on a train or bus operator, Kline acknowledged, because the taxi has to take the passenger to the ultimate destination rather than merely to a pre-designated stop or station. But imposing the heightened duty is reasonable, the jurist suggested, since taxicabs charge higher fares.
Kline went on to reject the suggestion that the victim’s willingness to leave the taxi and subsequent conduct in attempting to walk uphill despite her health problems superseded any negligence of the cab company as a matter of law. Causation, Kline said, is a question of fact under the circumstances and must be resolved by a jury.
The jury, he explained, could find that Ingham was ordered out of the cab, even though she doesn’t allege that she was physically ejected, and that waiting for other transportation wasn’t a reasonable option since none was readily available and her appointment was imminent.
The case was Ingham v. Luxor Cab Company, A093683.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company