Slip Sliding Away, Watching Out While Sledding

Another Snow Sledding Accident, Snow Sledding Safety Requires Supervision and Maintenance

Sledding is dangerous; there should be no question about it. It’s as dangerous as skiing, but perhaps more so, because people think it’s so easy to do for both adults and children. But it’s dangerous and year after year we see serious injuries and death from people sledding. This one occurred in a city park in Michigan.

I recall a lawsuit being filed up north in the Sioux City area with a very significant settlement. Sledding accidents involving running into manmade objects is common in ski resorts, but not necessarily in city parks. Whether at a resort or in a city park the legal theories are very similar and have to do with the man-made aspects of the area where people are invited or frequent with the owner’s consent and suffer serious injuries causing death. If the owner invites or allows people to use their property they have a duty to protect or warn from dangers. Another way to say it is, the owner had a duty to clean up the branch. Of course the owner's argument is the object was open and obvious to someone using due care for their own safety. Trespassers get no such protections and are not really owed any duty of warning.

I picked up on this case out of Michigan. In Grand Haven, Michigan an 11-year-old boy died after running into a fallen tree branch while sledding at Duncan Park. According to the news story, the impact caused abdominal bleeding eventually causing his death.

Here is the reporting on the Iowa Case, Sioux City Council OKs settlement in sledding accident by Lynn Zerschling. Lynn has a very concise and efficient style of writing that I like. Here is here article and as you can see the injuries and financial losses can be incredibly significant. This man is a paraplegic and I’m sure now he’s dependent on Social Security Disability for a subsistence living standard. One more thing to consider before reading this story is how the lawsuit affected City rules for using parks in Sioux City. The City passed strict rules for where sledding can take place in city parks and now is handing out citations for those who violate the use restrictions. Here is a quote from Ally Karsyn’s news article for the Sioux City Journal.

SIOUX CITY | Police say they will be enforcing snow sledding restrictions in Sioux City after the recent snowfall.

Anyone sledding in non-designated areas may be cited for a misdemeanor, Sioux City police said.

A city ordinance states, “No person shall ski, sled or toboggan in a park or on a trail area, except in designated areas.”

Okay, here is the story about Mr. Rosalez’ case. I apologize to the reporter for quoting her entire article, but there is no fluff to redact. It’s just written really well.

SIOUX CITY -- The City Council agreed Monday to settle a lawsuit by paying $487,632 to a man seriously injured in a sledding accident three years ago in Sertoma Park.

The city's insurance carrier will pay another $1.97 million, and a third party will pay $300,000, for a total settlement of $2.75 million. The money will be paid to David Rosalez, 38, who injured his spinal cord when he slid into a parking sign while sledding with his family at the park, off Singing Hills Boulevard, on Jan. 11, 2008.

His wife and children also were plaintiffs in the lawsuit, filed against the city in January 2010.

Rosalez's attorney, Bob Tiefenthaler, said his client attempted to stop the sled when he spotted the sign but could not.

Rosalez, who is paralyzed from the waist down, lost his job and the family lost their home as a result of the accident, Tiefenthaler said.

Steve Lombardi
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Iowa personal injury, workers' compensation, motorcycle, quadriplegic, paraplegic, brain injury, death
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