Would you help an injured mountain biker sue?

Forums Mountain Bike Forum Would you help an injured mountain biker sue?

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This topic contains 18 replies, has 12 voices, and was last updated by  GTXC4 5 years, 5 months ago.

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  • #125568

    Received an interesting request from a lawyer via email asking if I knew a professional trail builder who might be willing to testify as an expert in a lawsuit. Apparently the lawsuit involves a mountain biker was "injured on a defective mountain bike trail."

    I suspect few trail builders would be willing to give an opinion for fear that if a lawsuit like this is successful, it could mean fewer trail approvals which ultimately means fewer trail building contracts. Then again, I guess if the compensation for "expert testimony" is high enough, someone will bite.

    What do you guys think?

  • #125569

    Heh, what exactly is a "defective mountain bike trail"? How the heck does a trail become defective? A trail is just a trail, and stuff happens: rainstorms wash out portions of the trail, a rock slide could block it, a tree falls across the trail causing an accident… it seems to me that calling any trail "defective" is a very slippery slope.

  • #125570

    I’m with Greg, but would like to know more about the case.

  • #125571

    It does sound fishy, but it could be something legit. Maybe the builder used low quality wood in an area prone to rotting or another example of clear neglect. In addition, I doubt lawyers would release to much more information on the case tho, so its a tough decision.

  • #125572
    "Jarrett.morgan" wrote

    Maybe the builder used low quality wood in an area prone to rotting or another example of clear neglect.

    I hadn’t thought about man-made features.

  • #125573
    "maddslacker" wrote

    [quote="Jarrett.morgan":bx3o6i5u]Maybe the builder used low quality wood in an area prone to rotting or another example of clear neglect.

    I hadn’t thought about man-made features.[/quote:bx3o6i5u]

    I considered that, but then wouldn’t the features be defective, and not the "trail," as claimed?

  • #125574

    Unfortunately, these types of lawsuits (or the threat of a lawsuit) have the potential for increased dumbification of the trails (or Trail Homogenization [url:2e6m3ruw]http://www.singletracks.com/blog/mtb-trails/the-mcdonalds-of-trail-building-standardizing-mountain-bike-trails/[/url:2e6m3ruw]) for fear of being sued.

  • #125575

    This is a tough call without more information. If the builder did something extremely negligent, I could see helping. At the same time though, I agree with the dumbification (new word for the day!) of trails because no one is willing to push any boundaries. Consider that if, on the other hand, the builder made the trail to hard for a novice rider, should the builder be at fault? It is definitely an interesting question and debate, but I would like more info.

    To add to this, we have WAY too many frivolous lawsuits in this country. For that alone, I would tend to not want to help, because more than likely someone is just out for money.

  • #125576

    Good discussion!

    I guess I could also imagine if someone was biking at a resort and they bought a lift ticket, they should reasonably expect that the trails at the resort are properly constructed for biking.

    Then again, I guess I also sorta see it as my job as a rider to deal with whatever the trail has in store–whether it’s manmade or natural. Just about the only thing that might make we want to file a lawsuit would be if I was injured due to intentionally placed hazards like the neck-level tripwires those nutjobs put on trails. In that case, I’d press for both criminal and civil charges!

  • #125577

    Your point brought up a thought Jeff. What if you are a bike park and riding a stunt (knowing it’s there) and the stunt collapses through faulty craftsmanship. At that point, wouldn’t the park/builder be liable? I couldn’t imagine any kind of lawsuit unless something like that happened and left me seriously hurt and not able to work.

    On a similar note, you are on a public trail and ride a stunt, bridge, etc., that also collapses threw poor workmanship. What do you do? Is this the same situation as a park, since it wouldn’t have as much maintenance as something at a park would hopefully see?

    With all that said, just the thought of the slippery slope something like this could start makes me sick…

  • #125578
    "gar29" wrote

    On a similar note, you are on a public trail and ride a stunt, bridge, etc., that also collapses threw poor workmanship. What do you do? Is this the same situation as a park, since it wouldn’t have as much maintenance as something at a park would hopefully see?

    The landowner/manager is still responsible. It’s their legal duty to make sure their facilities are safe, or at least not unreasonably hazardous.

    SORBA’s insurance doesn’t allow local chapters to build ‘moving features’ (teeter totters for example) becaues of this exact reason. Non-moving features (drops, skinnies, wall rides, etc) are okay, but moving features require more inspection/maintenance/etc and the insurance company doesn’t cover it. At least, that was the case a few years ago, not sure if that’s changed or not.

  • #125579
    The landowner/manager is still responsible. It’s their legal duty to make sure their facilities are safe, or at least not unreasonably hazardous.

    Which is precisely why we hear all these stories about land managers tearing down unauthorized wooden features, regardless of how well they’re constructed: they don’t want the responsibility.

  • #125580
    "mtbgreg1" wrote
    The landowner/manager is still responsible. It’s their legal duty to make sure their facilities are safe, or at least not unreasonably hazardous.

    Which is precisely why we hear all these stories about land managers tearing down unauthorized wooden features, regardless of how well they’re constructed: they don’t want the responsibility.

    Any why many won’t authorize building any ‘legal’ ones either. As much as I’d like to see more of that stuff out on the trails, I definitely see where they’re coming from.

  • #125581

    I would figure that if a man-made feature collapsed or was defective in a way to cause injury, you wouldn’t need a "trail builder" to explain it.

  • #125582

    Such a great question, Jeff. I’m of the mindset that the idiot who spilled coffee on his lap and sued McDonald’s basically opened the door to the downfall of our society.

    Supporting litigation against a mountain bike trail owner, operator, or organization just sounds so wildly dangerous to our sport and culture that I’d say to decline any assistance. There are great points made in the above posts, like if you went to Ray’s and paid for safe and fun features, and one fell apart as you rode it due to poor maintenance. Aside from that type of scenario, however…

    Let’s look at this from a different POV, though:

    [i:27l6d34r]If we say we look 2 months into the future[/i:27l6d34r]: Greg posts a link to a Montana land owner who was succesfully sued because the trail on his land had a berm that washed out and a guy tanked, breaking his arms in the fall. And that dude sued the land owner for $250,000 plus medical bills. We’d all be pretty fired up at that point, right?

  • #125583
    "Fitch" wrote

    Such a great question, Jeff. I’m of the mindset that the idiot who spilled coffee on his lap and sued McDonald’s basically opened the door to the downfall of our society.

    People bring that case up in every discussion like this, but there’s a lot more to it than just spilling coffee and going money grabbing. Read up on it. The coffee was hotter than it should have been (too hot for human consumption, and hot enough to cause immediate damage to tissue), there had been repeated instances of people getting severe burns (they knew it was too hot), and the woman in this case in particular spent over a week in the hospital getting skin grafts.

  • #125584

    My tire slid out on my neighbors property 30 weeks ago and my butt still hurts! Do I have a case?
    All I’d get in a lawsuit is a hateful neighbor.

  • #125585
    "mtbgreg1" wrote

    Heh, what exactly is a "defective mountain bike trail"? How the heck does a trail become defective? A trail is just a trail, and stuff happens: rainstorms wash out portions of the trail, a rock slide could block it, a tree falls across the trail causing an accident… it seems to me that calling any trail "defective" is a very slippery slope.

    Officially defective, if I don’t like it!

  • #125586

    This could be bad over something possibly very stupid. Of course, we don’t have the facts. But I have to admit, when I initially hear of things like this, my first thought is, "Someone screwed up and wants to blame someone else." Although, this may not be the case here. …and I’ve gotten more neutral with age.

    When I raced quads, a guy on our team one time went over a lip for the first time slow, when we were all going faster. Just after the lip was a dip down in the ground and he landed in that and flipped over. Of course, he immediately got up in frustration, took off and threw his helmet, yelling with his hand pointing, "There should be a sign there!" Comical, yet I can’t tell you how many times i’ve seen stuff like this.

    Just saying,
    -GT

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