By now you’ve probably heard about yesterday’s tragic Greyhound bus crash in San Jose, California.
Two passengers were killed when the bus slammed into the center median and flipped onto its side (pictured, courtesy of KTLA news). The bus was en route from Los Angeles to San Francisco.
Is Greyhound liable for the crash?
The question touches on an area of tort law known as “common carrier” law.
Under the Civil Code, a carrier of persons for reward (payment) must use the “utmost care and diligence for their safe carriage, must provide everything necessary for that purpose, and must exercise to that end a reasonable degree of skill.”
According to California’s jury instructions, common carriers must use the highest care and the vigilance of a very cautious person. They must do all that human care, vigilance, and foresight reasonably can do under the circumstances to avoid harm to passengers.
While a common carrier does not guarantee the safety of its passengers, it must use reasonable skill to provide everything necessary for safe transportation, in view of the transportation used and the practical operation of the business.
Early reports indicate that the bus driver admitted being fatigued when discussing the crash with CHP officers. The NHTSA is investigating.
Driver fatigue is a serious problem for interstate truck and bus drivers. Two years ago, actor Tracy Morgan was severely injured when a fatigued Walmart truck driver rear-ended his limousine.
One of Morgan’s passengers was killed in that collision, and the truck driver is facing manslaughter charges.
Things don’t look good for Greyhound in this case. As one California case noted, “the special relationship between a carrier and its passengers is even greater than that between other types of businesses and their customers. . . Bus passengers are sealed in a moving steel cocoon.” [Lopez v. Southern California Rapid Transit District, 40 Cal.3d 780 (1985)]
If it turns out the driver fell asleep, it could be a serious issue for the company.
For questions about your Los Angeles greyhound bus or car accident case, the Rabbi Lawyer is ready to assist, 24/6.