Articles Posted in Sports Accident

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Last year, the state supreme court issued an opinion in a Michigan personal injury case requiring the court to determine the appropriate analysis to use in cases involving injuries that were obtained while engaging in a recreational activity.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff was playing a game of golf with the defendant. During the game, the defendant allegedly ran over the plaintiff’s foot with the golf cart the two were using to navigate the course. Both the plaintiff and the defendant offered very different versions of the facts.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, claiming that the defendant’s negligence caused his injuries. The plaintiff asked the trial court to hold that the defendant was liable as a matter of law. The defendant argued that, because the two were engaged in a recreational activity, he could only be held responsible if he was found to have engaged in “reckless misconduct.” Because the plaintiff did not claim that the defendant was reckless, the defendant argued that the case should be dismissed.

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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 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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