California Court of Appeals, First District, Fifth Division
ALICE B. CHURCHMAN, Plaintiff and Appellant,
BAY AREA RAPID TRANSIT DISTRICT, Defendant and Respondent.
Superior Court of Alameda County, No. RG16829239, Robert D.
& Walker, Gerald Sterns, and Law Offices of Steven R.
Jacobsen, Steven R. Jacobsen, for Plaintiff and Appellant.
Glaessner, Hazelwood & Werth, Kimberly Y. Chin and Lori
A. Sebransky, for Defendant and Respondent.
crowded, noisy train station, a passenger loses her balance,
falls, and injures herself. The main issue we are asked to
decide is whether the train operator owed the passenger a
heighted duty of care under Civil Code section 2100, which
imposes on common carriers a duty to “use the utmost
care and diligence for [passengers'] safe
carriage.” We hold that 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.) We conclude
there is no statutory basis for liability and affirm the
trial court's dismissal of the action.
third amended complaint, Alice Churchman alleged she bought a
train ticket at a station operated by the Bay Area Rapid
Transit District (District). She passed through turnstiles
and went to the boarding platform. Several factors combined
to create a confusing situation on the platform: the
“opening and closing of doors on opposite side
[sic] of the cars”; partially inaudible and
confusing instructions broadcast over the public address
system; and “abrupt turns and moves” by other
passengers trying to board a train. These factors caused
Churchman to lose her balance and fall.
sued the District for violating its duty of care as a common
carrier. (Civ. Code, § 2100 et seq.) Relying on
McGettigan v. Bay Area Rapid Transit Dist. (1997) 57
Cal.App.4th 1011, the District demurred on the ground it has
no common law negligence liability and its liability as a
common carrier applies only to passengers in transit, i.e.,
aboard the BART train. The trial court agreed with the
District, sustained the demurrer without leave to amend, and
dismissed the action.
review an order sustaining a demurrer de novo, exercising our
independent judgment as to whether, as a matter of law, the
complaint states a cause of action on any available legal
theory. (See Lazar v. Hertz Corp. (1999) 69
Cal.App.4th 1494, 1501.) We assume the truth of all material
factual allegations together with those matters subject to
judicial notice. (Blank v. Kirwan (1985) 39 Cal.3d
311, 318.) Additionally, we review de novo the trial
court's determination on undisputed facts of whether the
District owed Churchman a heightened duty of care due to its
status as a common carrier. (Orr v. Pacific Southwest
Airlines (1989) 208 Cal.App.3d 1467, 1473.)
the District is a public agency, we briefly pause to explain
the framework for government tort liability.
to 1961, under the common law, the government was generally
immune to tort liability. (Nestle v. City of Santa
Monica (1972) 6 Cal.3d 920, 931.) In Muskopf v.
Corning Hospital Dist. (1961) 55 Cal.2d 211, 216, our
Supreme Court abrogated the rule as unjust. Following
Muskopf, the Legislature enacted Civil Code former
section 22.3, which temporarily reinstated the law that
existed prior to Muskopf. (Nestle, at pp.
931-932.) The Legislature asked the California Law Revision
Commission to study governmental tort liability during the
moratorium period. After ...