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$700,000.00 for client riding an ATV

By Michael Morse | April 28, 2009

Michael Morse, P.C. settled case for client for $700,000.00 recently in St. Clair County.

Our 30 year old Plaintiff was visiting his friends home to watch football games on a Sunday afternoon. The defendant brought out a Honda ATV and drove it around the driveway. The plaintiff asked if he could ride the ATV. Both Plaintiff and Defendant had 5-6 beers before this point. The defendant acquiesced and Plaintiff hopped on the ATV. This was Plaintiff’s first experience ever being on an All Terrain Vehicle. Plaintiff asked for a helmet and was told none was available. Very little instruction was given to Plaintiff on how to ride the ATV. No instruction was given as to where Plaintiff could and should ride. Defendant own a large piece of property which housed several horses with a large wire fence surrounding the back of the property. Plaintiff hopped on the ATV and took off. Within seconds he ran into a nearly invisible wire fence. He cut open his throat and suffered a complete transaction of the trachea. He was rushed to the hospital where he had a tracheostomy surgery. He has a permanent scar across his neck and still has a tracheostomy hole and breathing apparatus.

The main problem with the case was that Plaintiff was barred by the Recreational Use Act, MCL 324.73301 from bringing a claim as he was on private property. The only way around this act is to prove gross negligence or willful and wanton misconduct, or to prove that Plaintiff was an invitee on the premises. No valuable consideration was given to the land owner to use the ATV. Further, defendant argued that Plaintiff should have known that wires would be present as large posts were present in the area, and a large red gate to let the horses in and out. Defendant also argued that Plaintiff had a large share of the blame as he was drinking, drove the ATV without asking for much instruction, and was over 50% comparatively negligent.

Through multiple depositions, a site visit, help from an ATV expert, and other discovery, evidence was gathered to help prove gross negligence and willful and wanton misconduct. The defendants admitted for example that a reasonably careful person would have taken more time to explain to the plaintiff where he should and should not have ridden and that plaintiff would not have seen the wire fence until he was right on it. Other good testimony was procured that helped push the settlement.

Michael Morse, P.C. specializes in handling complex Michigan Truck, Motorcycle, Automobile, ATV, Bicycle and pedestrian accident cases. If we can be of service to you, please email Michael Morse personally at or call toll free for a free consultation at 800-281-0606.

Topics: michigan accident lawyer |

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