Articles Posted in Sports Accident

There are some sports that are known to have a significant risk of injury, such as skiing or rock climbing. Under the tort law theory of inherent risk, people who voluntarily engage in these sports cannot hold anyone else accountable for injuries caused by the sport itself unless the negligence rises to a certain level. In other words, if you go skiing and break your leg, unless the owners of the ski resort were extremely negligent, you will probably not be able to sue them for damages. Without this heightened negligence standard for inherent risk, no ski resorts could operate because the costs would be prohibitive.Facts of This Case

The Michigan Supreme Court heard a Michigan personal injury case related to inherent risk. In this case, two men were golfing. One was driving the golf cart when it collided with the other man. Their stories differ about whether the cart suddenly struck the injured man or whether the injured man jumped in front of the cart. For the purposes of this appeal, it was irrelevant which scenario was correct. Here, the court looked at whether being hit by a golf cart is an inherent risk of golfing, as the driver of the cart argued. Conversely, they could have found that being hit by the cart is not an inherent risk of golfing. Whether the risk is inherent or not is relevant because it determines the standard of negligence that needs to be applied. These cases are always extremely fact-specific, which is why it is so important to contact a skilled personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an injury.

Negligence Standards and Inherent Risk

The Michigan Supreme Court has agreed to hear a Michigan sports accident case involving a golf cart injury from May 2013. The plaintiff and the defendant were playing the 17th hole at Farmington Hills Golf Club when the defendant struck the plaintiff with his cart. The plaintiff was hit in his rear end and knocked onto the ground. He was then struck a second time when the golf cart rolled over him. The plaintiff sued the defendant for negligence in 2014.Prior to trial, the plaintiff moved for the trial court to hold that the defendant was negligent as a matter of law and that the case should proceed to trial on the issue of damages. The defendant argued the motion was improper because it cited an incorrect standard of review. The defendant further argued that reckless misconduct was the applicable standard of care because the parties were participating in a recreational activity when the injury occurred.  The trial court denied the plaintiff’s motion, finding that the motion in limine contained factual issues the jury should decide.

At trial, both parties offered testimony regarding the defendant’s conduct on the golf course. The plaintiff agreed that the defendant was being careless–rather than reckless–when the collision occurred. Ultimately, the Oakland County jury concluded that the defendant was not reckless, and the court entered a judgment of no cause of action against the plaintiff.

The plaintiff appealed from the trial court’s judgment on the ground that the trial court applied an incorrect standard of care. In December 2016, the appeals court agreed and concluded that the trial court applied an incorrect standard of care. The court reasoned that it could not assume from the jury’s verdict finding that the defendant was not reckless (a higher standard than negligence) that the jury also would have concluded that the defendant was not negligent. The appeals court also found it clear from the parties’ testimony at trial that there remained a question of fact for the jury as to whether the defendant breached his duty of ordinary care. Therefore, the appeals court vacated the jury’s verdict, reversed the trial court’s order finding that reckless misconduct, as opposed to ordinary negligence, was the applicable standard under the circumstances of this case, and remanded for further proceedings.

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