Passenger Carrier’s Liability Extended Beyond Its Own Line by Ticket Sale Transaction–Ephraim v. Safeway Trails, Inc.

Plaintiff, a Negro woman, purchased a roundtrip bus ticket in New York City for travel between there and Montgomery, Alabama. The ticket was sold by defendant, an interstate common carrier licensed to do business in New York, and consisted of a strip of coupon tickets, each good for a separate portion of the journey over the lines of defendant and other independent carriers. Printed on the back of each coupon was a clause limiting defendant’s liability to its own line.1 Defendant received a ten per cent commission on those connecting tickets it sold for the other lines, and on the face of those tickets there was the statement that they had been issued “for the account of” defendant. Plaintiff was assured by defendant’s ticket agent that she would have a seat throughout the trip. In the course of the trip, after plaintiff had changed buses to that of an independent line, she was asked by the driver to move from her seat to one in the rear of the bus in order to accommodate a white passenger. When plaintiff refused, the bus continued to a town in Georgia where the driver left the bus and returned with a policeman, who told her to move to the back. Plaintiff again refused and the officer ordered her to leave the bus. While she was doing so, he shoved her and hit her on the head, causing serious injury. After receiving hospital treatment, plaintiff returned to New York where she instituted a personal injury action against defendant. At trial without jury, held, judgment for plaintiff for five thousand dollars. Although the issuing carrier would not ordinarily be liable for the torts of a connecting carrier, factors indicating that the transaction involved more than a mere sale of a ticket served to vitiate the effect of the exculpatory clause limiting the common carrier’s liability to its own line.