SW Legal studies in Business

Taxi Driver Responsible for Leaving Passengers at a Safe Place
Description Maine high court held that a taxi driver had a duty to leave a drunk passenger at a safe location, but did not have an obligation to drive the passenger to his home since the passenger did not want to go there. The fact that the passenger later was killed when driving drunk did not impose liability on the taxi company.
Topic Torts
Key Words Breach of Duty; Liability; Common Carrier
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Dionne had been drinking at a bar. The bartender refused to serve him any more liquor. Another patron called Blyer Taxi to give Dionne a ride home. A friend walked Dionne to the cab and told the driver to take Dionne home. When they left, Dionne told the driver to take him to another bar, which he did. Dionne paid his fare and went into the bar. Later, the same driver got a call from the second bar to pick up Dionne. Dionne told him to take him back to the first bar, which he did after Dionne stopped along the way to buy cigarettes. Dionne paid his fare and went into the bar. Later, Dionne died in a one car accident when he drove himself home drunk. Dionne's estate sued Blyer for negligence for not taking Dionne home. The trial court dismissed the suit; the estate appealed.

Affirmed. A common carrier, such as a taxi, owes its passengers a duty that requires the exercise of the highest degree of care compatible with the practical operation of the service, which includes leaving passengers at a reasonably safe location. Blyer did not breach a duty when the driver dropped off Dionne. The danger was not reasonably foreseeable. "Absent a special responsibility, no actionable duty is created by a refusal to become an instrument for good." Common carriers have no duty to protect possibly drunk passengers from themselves after the carrier leaves them in a safe place.

Citation Mastriano v. Blyer, 779 A.2d 951 (Sup. Jud. Ct., Maine, 2001)

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