Most motorcycle accident lawsuits hinge on the basic duty of care owed by one motorist to another (or the driver to the passenger) to operate the vehicle in a reasonably safe manner.
The recent case of Towe v. Sacagawea, Inc. is different in that it involves premises liability. The reason the standard is different is because of where it occurred – on a private access road, rather than a public thoroughfare.
The lawsuit, recently considered by the Oregon Supreme Court, was the result of a motorcycle accident in which the rider, on site to examine a for-sale property as advertised from the public road, crashed after being tripped by a cable that had been laid about a foot off the ground by one of the property owners.
According to court records, the cable was intended to keep vehicles from traveling too far down the road because there was a quarry at the end of it. Plaintiff actually knew about the quarry – and at one point the cable itself – because he had worked at the quarry several months earlier. However, he noted the cable was not always up, it had been some time since he’d been there, so he’d forgotten, and there was nothing that made the cable especially visible.
As the court would later point out, the cable itself and the posts that held it up on either side, were rusted. There was an orange cone that was supposed to alert to it, but the cone was covered in black dirt. There was also a sign nearby warning against entry onto the access road (which split off from another), which was owned by a separate entity. However, the sign had fallen face down and was rusted.
When the motorcyclist approached, he said he did not see the cable. He conceded he did look back briefly at his passenger, but just for a fraction of a second before turning back to face forward. He wasn’t traveling fast, but contact with the cable on his motorcycle caused both him and his passenger to be ejected and suffer serious injuries.
Plaintiff filed lawsuit against the real estate company that advertised the property and the property owners that had erected the cable. He alleged property owners failed to keep the property in a a reasonably safe condition, and the real estate company for advertising and welcoming visitors onto a property that was not safe.
Trial court ruled that because plaintiff looked away, he was 100 percent responsible for his own injuries, and no reasonable juror could reach any other conclusion. Essentially, the court ruled it didn’t matter the property was unsafe or that there was no warning regarding safety because no warning signs would assist a motorist who isn’t looking at the road.
State supreme court partially reversed on appeal. While upholding dismissal of the claim against the real estate company, the state supreme court indicated trial court gave too much weight to that backward glance, which was reportedly brief. It may have been a factor in the accident, but it would not necessarily absolve the property owner of the duty to keep the property in a reasonably safe condition for legal invitees.
Therefore, plaintiff is allowed to continue with his claim against the property owners.
Anytime Fort Lauderdale motorcycle accidents occur in a place other than a public road – such as a store parking lot or private access road – there may be additional legal hurdles that will be important for plaintiffs to overcome. Our experienced lawyers can help overcome those obstacles.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.
Towe v. Sacagawea, Inc. , March 26, 2015, Oregon Supreme Court
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Recent Florida Motorcycle Bicycle Deaths Underscore Bigger Problem, March 20, 2015, Fort Lauderdale Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog