A Superior Court judge has ruled against a plaintiff seeking to claim accident benefits from tripping/falling on her way to get into a parked taxi.
In Barros v. Shah, the plaintiff was planning to go with her daughter (Maria Oliveira) to the YMCA. They ordered a specially equipped taxi to transport Oliveira. The taxi driver parked his taxi on the road at the foot of the driveway to Oliveira’s house, turned off the motor and lowered the ramp to enable Oliveira’s motorized scooter to drive into the taxi. He then went up the drive to notify Ms. Oliveira of his arrival.
Oliveira asked the driver to fetch her motorized scooter from the garage where it was stored. In the course of his attempts to position the scooter at the bottom of the steps leading to the front door of Oliveira’s house, the plaintiff either tripped over, or was knocked over by, the scooter. She fell to the driveway and was injured at some distance from where the taxi was parked.
As a result of the incident, she claimed accident benefits. The insurer refused her claim on the basis that her injuries were not directly caused by the use or the operation of a motor vehicle.
The judge agreed with the insurer. He found that the taxi driver was obliged by his employer’s contract to move prospective passengers to the vehicle. That, however, was a separate and distinct function from his duties regarding the proper operation of the taxi. If the injuries were caused by any negligence of the driver, it was his negligence in attempting to manipulate the scooter into position in order to allow Oliveira to mount.