Lawn mower racers leave track; force spectator to fall. Actionable?
Michele Compau sued the Whittemore Inn Race Club after she suffered a fractured wrist and endured five surgeries. She fell when lawn mower racers left the course, penetrated the spectator area through a flimsy plastic fence, and forced the spectators in front of Compau back. In stepping back, Compau tripped over a railroad tie and fell. She argued that the Inn was negligent in arranging the course and that the railroad tie was a dangerous hazard that was not open and obvious because of the distraction of the race.
The Inn argued for summary disposition, and the trial judge granted it. He ruled that Compau could only pursue a premises liability claim and that her fall did not involve any "special aspects" that removed the landowner's immunity from any duty to alleviate "open and obvious" hazards. The Court of Appeals reversed the summary disposition. It held that while the railroad tie was "open and obvious" and no premises liability claim could be pursued, the injured woman had raised a legitimate claim of negligence in arranging the race, itself.