ATV Co-Participant Collision Case Stays On Course

by

Allred v. Broekhuis (Michigan-UNPUBLISHED)
(Court Denies Co-Participant’s Demurrer to Claim by Injure Co-Participant Based on the “Recreational Activities Doctrine.”)

In 2005, the plaintiff was riding an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) eastward on a path designated for use by off-road vehicles. Simultaneously, the defendant was riding an ATV westward on the same course. When passing each other, defendant’s ATV crossed onto the eastbound side of the course and struck the plaintiff. Defendant moved for a judgment on the pleadings based on Michigan’s “recreational activities doctrine” (RAD). Under the RAD, co-participants in recreational activities owe a minimum standard of care not to act recklessly towards other participants. However, plaintiff argued that the RAD did not apply under the circumstances, and that Michigan’s Motor Vehicle Code should control.

The Federal Court referred to a previous case which held that ordinary negligence applied to off road vehicles under the Motor Vehicle Code. After going through a detailed statutory analysis of conflicting Michigan law, the Court ultimately disagreed with the defendant’s contention that the RAD (and a reduced duty of care) should apply. The Court explained that no language in the RAD suggested that it should apply to activities involving motorized vehicles. Previous RAD cases dealt with distinguished circumstances including duck hunting, amateur hockey, baseball, golf, etc. According to the Court, the RAD’s scope was to be decided on a case by case basis. The Court denied the defendant’s motion and allowed the case to proceed.

NOTE: We should note that the Court did not rule that that RAD may NEVER apply to cases involving off road vehicles. Perhaps, where it is shown that the vehicles were purely used for recreational activities, instead of mixed use recreational and non-recreational activities, the RAD may apply reducing a party’s duty of care. It is unclear whether this same type of argument would apply in the context of auto racing. In addition to waiver and release agreements, defendant auto racing facilities often assert assumption of the risk as a defense to liability. In auto racing situations, it will presumably be much more difficult to argue that the activity is not purely recreational, such that the protections of the RAD would not be available.

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