Here is a case where the Court clearly did the right thing. In December of 1998, Mary Ingham, a brittle-boned cane-carrying diabetic, who is physically disabled, called the Luxor Cab Company for a ride. Traffic was heavy that morning, and the cab driver grew frustrated and eventually ordered Ms. Ingham to pay for that part of the ride that had been completed; however, he told her to exit his cab so he could get to his coffee shop and meet his friends. This was a full two blocks from the dentist’s office she was attempting to visit. Ms. Ingham claims in her lawsuit that she begged the driver to take her the remaining two blocks, as she could not climb this hilly street in San Francisco. According to the law suit, Ms. Ingham’s request was refused, she was ordered out of the cab, she attempted to walk up the hill to the dentist’s office, but lost her balance and fell, resulting in her fracturing her hip.
This case was initially thrown out by the San Francisco Superior Court judge, indicating that there was no contractual obligation for the taxi driver to take her to a designated place. As they say in the NFL, “upon further review” the appellate court overturned the trial court decision, indicating that a contractual relationship had been formed, and that Ms. Ingham could sue for breach of contract. The court also indicated that she could further sue for negligent infliction of emotional distress.
In its research, the Court of Appeal could find no similar case in California, so the justices turned to a 1991 case in Illinois, in which a cab driver got lost and then got frustrated and ordered the woman passenger out of the cab. She then proceeded to fall on an icy sidewalk and suffer injury. The California Appellate Court adopted the Illinois view, which held that “plaintiff was wrongfully ejected at a location of defendant’s choosing, subjecting her to the very perils she sought to avoid by engaging their services.”
Ms. Ingham’s case will now be able to go forward, and she can take her claim before a jury. This is clearly the right decision. Foreseeability is a major concept in tort law or personal injury law, and it clearly was foreseeable that Ms. Ingham would suffer this injury when the taxi driver decided that getting to his coffee shop on time was more important than getting Ms. Ingham to the dentist. They made an agreement; he picked her up at one destination and was to take her to a second destination. Hopefully, the Luxor Cab Company and their drivers will learn from this that a deal is a deal. For that matter, not only is a deal a deal, but it is extraordinarily irresponsible to eject a physically disabled woman from a taxi cab and tell her she’s got to walk two blocks including the climbing of a hill to get to her dentist. It should be pretty clear to the cab driver that the reason she called for the cab in the first place was that she could not make the walk. An agreement was made, the driver breached his contractual obligation and now the cab company will be on the hook for the damages.
It’s cases like this that really leave me wondering about people. What was the cab driver thinking? How could he be so cold-hearted? How could he possibly order this brittle-boned woman out of his cab? I hope the jury hits this cab company hard, and that a message is sent to all owners of busses, limousines, boats, taxis, and all other “common carriers” that it is important to honor your agreement. The cab driver must drop the individual off where it is convenient for the individual, not for the cabbie.