Court Discusses Common Carrier Liability in Massachusetts

Under Massachusetts law, entities that offer means of transportation to the public are known as common carriers. In addition to the general duty of reasonable care imposed on most companies and individuals, the law imposes a duty on common carriers to provide safe transportation for their passengers. As such, if a person is injured while traveling with a common carrier, it may be deemed liable for the person’s harm. Recently, a Massachusetts court addressed the question of whether a company that uses ridesharing applications to connect drivers and passengers is considered a common carrier and, if so, whether it can be held liable for harm caused by drivers using its application. If you were hurt while using a ridesharing service, you may be able to recover damages and should meet with a knowledgeable Massachusetts personal injury attorney to discuss what claims you may be able to pursue.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff used the defendant company’s ridesharing application to hire the defendant driver to transport her to her home in Massachusetts. Instead of taking her home, however, the defendant driver drove the plaintiff to a secluded parking lot where he raped her. The defendant driver was subsequently charged with rape but absconded to another country prior to his criminal trial. The plaintiff then filed a lawsuit, alleging negligence, negligent hiring and supervision, and vicarious liability claims against the defendant company, and assault and battery, and other claims against the defendant driver. The defendant company filed a motion to dismiss, arguing in part that it was not a common carrier and could not be deemed liable for the acts of the driver.

Common Carrier Liability in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, common carriers are companies that operate any motor vehicle on public roads for the transportation of passengers who choose to purchase the carrier’s services. The goal of common carriers is to provide an affordable means of transportation. Thus, common carriers are obligated by law to provide safe transport for their passengers. The Massachusetts courts have found that this duty includes protecting passengers from harm caused by the intentional torts that are committed by the carrier’s own agents.

Due to recent technological advances, Massachusetts enacted laws regarding Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), which are companies that employ ridesharing applications, that stated, in part, that TNCs are exempt from certain regulatory standards. The court declined to adopt the defendant company’s reasoning that the TNC laws prohibited the company from being defined as a common carrier, finding that the plaintiff’s complaint adequately set forth facts that would support the argument that the defendant company was a common carrier. Further, the court found that the plaintiff sufficiently averred that the defendant company exercised sufficient control over the driver to be deemed vicariously liable for his acts. As such, the defendant’s motion was denied.

Confer with a Skillful Massachusetts Attorney

If you were hurt while traveling with a driver you hired through a ridesharing application, you may be able to recover compensation and should confer with an attorney to evaluate your rights. The skillful Massachusetts personal injury attorneys of the Law Office of James K. Meehan, are proficient at helping injured parties pursue damages, and if you retain our services, we will fight tirelessly to help you seek a just result. You can contact us at 508-822-6600 or via our online form to schedule a meeting.