Not every serious injury accident involves a car. Bicycles, skateboards, and even jogging shoes come with the risk of a collision, falling down, and being seriously injury. But if you are hit on a multi-use trail, do you have the right to sue for your injuries?
The weather in Michigan has finally turned nice. People across the state are turning out to recreational spaces, trails, and parks to relax, have fun, and get some exercise. But what happens if they get injured along the way? A recent Michigan Court of Appeals case, Composto v Albrecht took a look at the legal options available to a pedestrian hit on a multi-use trail at Stony Creek Metropark. Here’s what you should know.
Pedestrian Hit on Multi-Use Trail Sues Child Bicyclist for Negligence
August 2, 2015, must have been a good day to be out on a trail. The Hike-Bike Trail at Stony Creek Metropark was busy, filled with pedestrians, cyclists, and skaters. Two of them were Thomas Composto, who was out for a walk, and 9-year-old Philip Albrecht. Philip was riding his bicycle along with his parents, Michalina and Piotr. As they came down a hill, Philip saw Thomas walking ahead of him on the trail. He never hit the brakes or swerved out of the way, and never called out or warned Thomas walking ahead of him on the trail. Philip hit Thomas from behind, rupturing his quadriceps tendon, which required surgery to repair.
The injuries were serious enough that Thomas decided to take legal action. He sued Philip and his parents for negligence in state court, saying that Philip had failed to take reasonable steps to prevent his injury. The question the judge, and the Court of Appeals, faced was how those reasonable steps were going to be measured.
Hitting the Trails Could Change the Standard for a Negligence Lawsuit
In a regular personal injury case, the injured person needs to prove that the person causing the injury failed to take ordinary care to avoid causing others an unreasonable risk of harm. This is called “ordinary negligence”. Examples of ordinary care while biking could include:
- Yielding the right of way to pedestrians,
- Making sure his bike was in good working order before riding,
- Using a bell or calling out when approaching a pedestrian from behind.
But when ordinary people engage in recreational activities, like trail walking, jogging, biking, or skating, the courts have said these people voluntarily take on the risks that naturally result from the activity. For example, an earlier case said that skating at an ice rink comes with the risk of falling, bumping into other skaters, or tripping over fallen skaters. In these cases, the question is whether the person causing the injury was reckless in a way the created an unreasonable danger to fellow participants. Examples of recklessness could include:
- Bicycling blindfolded
- Using a cell phone while riding
- Taking on a passenger without a tandem bike
Using Hike-Bike Trail Meant Assuming Certain Risks, Court Says
Thomas said that he and Philip were not co-participants in the same recreational activity: he was walking; Philip was riding his bike. That would mean the ordinary negligence standard applied. But the Michigan Court of Appeals looked at the issue differently.
According to the court, the Stony Creek Hike-Bike Trail was intended for multiple uses: hiking, biking, running, and inline skating. Since both Thomas and Philip were making intended uses of the trail, the court said they were “engaged in using a shared, multi-use trail, and thus were ‘coparticipants’ in the activity of using the trail.” Since it is up to a jury to decide what risks are reasonably foreseeable in a recreational activity, the Court of Appeals sent the case back to the trial court to determine if getting hit by a bicycle is a foreseeable risk of using a multi-use trail, and whether Philip had been reckless or negligent at all.
The Macomb Law Group, is a personal injury law firm in Clinton Township, MI. Our attorneys can help you and your family consider options when a child is hurt at a family business. If your loved one has been seriously injured, contact Macomb Law Group and get our team working for you.