Archive for the ‘Michigan’ Category

Jump? What Jump?

November 15, 2012

Anderson v. Boyne (Michigan)(Not Published)
(A snowboarder was paralyzed in an accident involving a jump in the defendant’s terrain park.  He sued, alleging negligence on the part of the defendant, including with regard to the design of the subject jump.  However, the court held that the jump was open and obvious, and that the Michigan statute addressing ski operator liability protected the defendant under the circumstances.)

At the trial court level, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, which was granted on the grounds that the plaintiff’s claim was barred “because the jump was an inherent, obvious, and necessary danger of snowboarding.”  The plaintiff appealed.

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Unfortunate Landing

September 6, 2012

Duchesneau v. Cornell University (Pennsylvania Court – New York Law Applied)
(An amateur gymnast suffered a significant injury while attempting a backflip on a rebounding Tumbl Trak apparatus; he sued the manufacturer of the apparatus for a failure to warn of the dangers associated with its use, and he sought punitive damages; the court denied the manufacturer’s motion, allowing the case to proceed to the jury.)

In its motion, the defendant manufacturer alleged (1) plaintiff could not establish a prima facie case of failure to warn; (2) plaintiff was not entitled to punitive damages; and (3) plaintiff assumed the risk of injury when using the apparatus.  In support of its arguments, the manufacturer referred to “general knowledge” that “an individual might land on his head if he attempt[ed] a black flip on a rebounding [apparatus].”  Defendant also referred to plaintiff’s education in basic physics, the fact that he signed a waiver that stated that he understood the risks and dangers associated with gymnastics, the existence of a small warning label on the apparatus that warned of the potential for catastrophic injury (including paralysis or even death from falling on the head or neck), and plaintiff’s knowledge of the concept of spotting from his prior participation in cheerleading.  Viewing all of that evidence, defendant asserted that “‘common sense’ would have informed an individual that he or she was risking landing on their head by using the [apparatus], and, as such, [defendant] had no legal duty to warn Plaintiff.”

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Michigan Has a Major Minor’s Problem

July 16, 2010

The Supreme Court of Michigan recently confirmed that waiver and release documents signed by parents on behalf of their children are unenforceable in that state.  In Woodman v. Kera (2010) 2010 WL 2471902, a five year old boy was injured during his birthday party, which was being held at an indoor facility containing inflatable play equipment.  Prior to his injury, the boy’s father signed a liability waiver on his son’s behalf.  After the trial court level enforced the waiver as to some of the plaintiffs’ claims, the Court of Appeal reversed, holding that the waiver and release document could not be enforced pursuant to longstanding Michigan common law, which does not allow parents to waive or release prospective claims on behalf of their children.  The Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court’s ruling on similar grounds.

Of note is the lengthy “dissenting” opinion submitted by Justice Stephen Markman.  Justice Markman concurred with the majority opinion and took the position that the waiver should not be enforced under the circumstances, but only because he believed that the language of the waiver was deficient.  Justice Markman opined that Michigan’s common law did not preclude the Supreme Court from enforcing the waiver.  In fact, it appears that if Justice Markman had authored the majority opinion, the waiver would have been enforced.

Note:   This decision is significant in that it confirms that minor’s waiver documents cannot be enforced in Michigan.

ATV Co-Participant Collision Case Stays On Course

July 6, 2008

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.

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Mountainside Mystery

June 28, 2007

Heins v. Dust (Michigan)
(Two Individuals Involved in an Incident on the Slopes; Contradictory Versions of Events; Seemingly Exculpatory Evidence for Defendant Not Enough to Decide Case as a Matter of Law)

The sixty-seven year old plaintiff was snow skiing on a mountain run when was involved in a collision. He contended that a snowboarder traveling at a high rate of speed ran into him at the convergence of several skiing runs, causing plaintiff numerous serious injuries. Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant claiming that he was the speeding snowboader and alleging that the defendant had been coming down a particular ski run. However, the defendant claimed that he was using snow skis and that the plaintiff actually ran into him while defendant was skiing. The defendant presented evidence to show that he had rented skis (and not a snowboard) on the day of the incident, and he offered testimony from a witness that indicated that defendant was coming from a different direction and using a different ski run than described by the plaintiff. Therefore, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that plaintiff was suing the wrong person.  There were no other witnesses to the incident itself.

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