Of Counsel Lori Sebransky and Partner Kimberly Chin Prevail in Common Carrier Case with Appellate Court Finding No Common Carrier Relationship When Passenger is Robbed while Waiting on BART Platform

In Cissney v. Bay Area Rapid Transit District, Alameda County Superior Court Case No. RG18907346, Plaintiff Kathryn Cissney (“Plaintiff”) was waiting on the platform of Coliseum Station when she was attacked and robbed of her cell phone. In her complaint against San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (“BART”), Plaintiff pleaded only one cause of action, alleging that BART owed her a heightened duty of care as a common carrier pursuant to Civil Code section 2100 and that BART had breached that duty, causing her injuries.

BART demurred to Plaintiff’s complaint twice, arguing both times that common carrier liability did not apply because Plaintiff was not in a common carrier relationship with BART at the time of the incident. The trial court held that while Plaintiff’s presence on the platform implicated a duty of ordinary care under common law, the allegations that Plaintiff chose to plead in her complaint were insufficient to implicate the heightened duty under Civil Code section 2100. On the second demurrer, the trial court sustained without leave to amend and dismissed Plaintiff’s lawsuit. Plaintiff appealed.

On January 15, 2020, in an unpublished decision, the First District Court of Appeal unanimously determined that “merely standing on a BART platform waiting for a train to arrive does not establish that the carrier, before it has taken affirmative steps to accept a passenger onto a train, has a heightened duty to protect that prospective passenger from risks that are not incident to the journey itself.” In arriving at this determination, the Court relied upon, among other cases, Churchman v. Bay Area Rapid Transit District (2019) 39 Cal.App.5th 246, which was decided in August of 2019 and also briefed and argued by Kimberly Chin and Lori Sebransky. As such, the trial court’s judgment was affirmed.

Ms. Chin and Ms. Sebransky briefed and argued the demurrers in the trial court and handled the appellate briefing. The parties declined oral argument after the appellate court issued a tentative opinion in BART’s favor.

For further information about this case, please contact Kimberly Chin.