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Hayride Lawsuit will be a Bumpy Road

Police determined that the driver of a tractor-pulled hayride accident in Michigan had a blood-alcohol level of .06 at the time of the accident. The legal limit for a motor vehicle drive in the state is .08 percent. It was determined that the driver was going too fast as he took a sharp turn, tipping the wooden wagon. All passengers on board were thrown out. Several victims were taken to area hospitals while others were treated at the scene. Among the injuries were concussions, broken ribs, a broken jaw, scrapes, bruises and neck and arm injuries. The driver said passengers in the hayride ignored instructions to remain seated and were moving around, shifting weight in the wagon before it tipped over. It was later determined that the driver had drinks earlier in the day at a nearby restaurant when he was off duty because it was his birthday. The hayride occurred a few hours later.

In March, a woman and her daughter filed a lawsuit against the city seeking $25,000 in damages, but the city is fighting back saying the woman is actually responsible for any liability because she signed a hold harmless agreement on behalf of her group. The city is asking a judge to dismiss the lawsuit and is seeking attorney fees. According to her attorney, “The city shirked its responsibilities to the public and to its customers. They charge for the hayride and yet they don’t meet their responsibilities. The safety, health and welfare of its riders are completely in the control the [city] and its employed driver on the hayride. With the significant responsibility of the safety of its passengers, the employer should take whatever steps necessary to assure safety…” A counterclaim says the woman did not have the authority to sign for the association. Five other victims have also filed lawsuits; the lawsuits may be consolidated.

Although a lawsuit can help the victims received compensation for damages, it will not be an easy road as the defendant attempts to the raise the doctrine known as assumption of the risk. While her attorney works to prove negligence and accountability, the victims may struggle to pay the bills, especially if there has been an inability to return to work, resulting in lost income. When the legal process is a long and bumpy road, litigation funding can help.

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