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Man awarded $3.28M after snowmobile trek from North Bay to Quebec ends in tragedy

A man who struck a snow-covered tree stump on a Quebec snowmobile trail has been awarded almost $3.3 million following a lengthy lawsuit.

The case dates to Jan. 27, 2017, when the plaintiff in the case left North Bay with a group of friends for a snowmobile trip all the way to Rouyn-Noranda, Que.

The morning of Jan. 28, the group of five headed out on the trail, planning to head to Duparquet, Que., loop around trails in the area and return to Rouyn-Noranda in the afternoon.

Three of the friends were faster riders, so they split into two groups, with the plaintiff travelling with the other slower rider. The pair were travelling 30-40 km/h when they went up and down a small hill that led into a right-hand turn at the bottom of the hill.

At that point, the plaintiff missed the turn and was thrown from the snow machine, crashing into the trees on the other side of the trail.

“All of a sudden, I noticed that (the plaintiff) jolted up from his seat like as if he was being bucked off,” the other snowmobile driver testified.

“It was obvious that (he) had suddenly hit something and he lost control of his snowmobile. His snowmobile appeared to launch directly through the turn into the trees.”

With no cell service in the area, the other driver walked around trying to get a signal.

“As he walked, he noticed fresh pieces of bark and wood chips on the trail, as well as a tree stump which was covered with snow, except for a portion of the side of the stump where the bark had been sliced off,” the court transcript said.

“The evidence shows that the stump in question was 37 cm high, and 11 cm wide. This is certainly both high and thick enough to have caused a violent striking if hit by a snowmobile travelling at approximately 30 to 40 km/h.”

An expert hired by the plaintiff testified that the right side of the snowmobile’s ski hit the stump – and that he would only have 1.7 seconds “to regain control in order to avoid the collision with the trees.”

At first, the snowmobile club denied the stump was on their trail, and also argued the plaintiff had accepted the risks inherent in a sport like snowmobiling.

But the judge in the case ruled the evidence clearly showed the stump was on the trail and that it presented a hazard the club could have easily dealt with.

In fact, the day after the accident, one of the police investigating the scene ordered the club to remove it – which it did immediately.

NOT INHERENTLY RISKY

“It was not an inherent risk of the sport of snowmobiling that caused (the) accident,” the judge wrote.

“Rather, it was a tree stump that should not have been where it was because of the negligence of the club. It is useful to recall that (the plaintiff) was travelling on a well-maintained, managed trail … not in the middle of the forest, nor on some makeshift or homemade trail.”

The plaintiff and six of his family members collectively sued for more than $8.4 million. Most of the claim is related to the fact he has substantial long-term physical damage and will require care for the rest of his life.

For example, he often chokes when he eats, has largely lost the use of his right arm and had to learn to write with his left. He gets tired quickly, must take frequent naps, often falls, has trouble speaking, has continuous pain in his shoulders and hips, has lost many long-term memories and has very poor short-term memory.

However, the judge in the case ruled the claim for 24-hour attendant care was not supported by the medical documentation, greatly reducing the value of the damage claim.

In the end, the victim received $3.288 million, while his wife and family received a total of $474,000. 

 

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I'm missing pieces of the story...  the group split into two groups, and this was important to the story, because....   why?????  Who did they sue and who was ordered to pay?  Wasn't this just an insurance claim?  If the stump was located on the trail, what liability does the club itself have?  Who conducted a risk assessment, to determine how "risky" snowmobiling is?  How much responsibility falls on the snowmobiler to see and avoid?

I feel bad for the guy, and none of us wants to either know someone in this situation or be that guy.  People die or suffer catastrophic injuries every year doing this and other things that carry some degree of risk, and we want to avoid that whenever possible.  All I'm saying is that this is tragic, not only for the individual, but for every snowmobiler, because someone will use this article as a source and there's nothing useful in it.

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There's definitely a lot of details left out.  The first thought that went through my mind was, if it's true there was a stump literally on the groomed trail that posed a hazard - were there any caution signs or other means like caution tape, etc?  It just seems really weird to me.  And yeah, good point on who did this guy sue .... the club, I assume, but it doesn't say.  Would be interesting if anyone is near the area, or at least familiar with it to get their input.

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that can't possibly be the only hazard on the trail. the sport relies on snow cover. i rode my mtn bike in the adirondacks on a sled trail and was fucking brutal. hard to believe we ride over all that. there are rocks way bigger than 37cm out there along with all the other hazards. it's a sled trail , not a highway. the rest of us may as well sue for new carbides from all the rocks we hit

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52 minutes ago, krom said:

Makes me wonder if lawyers, and lawsuits will kill the sport, before asshole snowmobilers do

They will slowly kill all motorsports in the name of a pay check if people let them. 

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We had an insurance claim this past year where some 22 year old got “hit” by the drag behind the groomer… how did this happen?  While he was trying to PASS the groomer crossing the road.  It made zero sense to any rational person that our drag hit him, but that’s what insurance is for.  

Edited by Mag6240
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On 5/26/2023 at 2:59 PM, p51mstg said:

I'm missing pieces of the story...  the group split into two groups, and this was important to the story, because....   why?????  Who did they sue and who was ordered to pay?  Wasn't this just an insurance claim?  If the stump was located on the trail, what liability does the club itself have?  Who conducted a risk assessment, to determine how "risky" snowmobiling is?  How much responsibility falls on the snowmobiler to see and avoid?

I feel bad for the guy, and none of us wants to either know someone in this situation or be that guy.  People die or suffer catastrophic injuries every year doing this and other things that carry some degree of risk, and we want to avoid that whenever possible.  All I'm saying is that this is tragic, not only for the individual, but for every snowmobiler, because someone will use this article as a source and there's nothing useful in it.

He was in the slow group.

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We’ve had couple accidents in our area where guys have hit fences and died.

not even on trails and families tried lawsuits against local clubs!!

road ditch accidents 

neither lawsuit won

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It is the riders responsibility to ride in their limits and avoid hazards or obstacles in the trail.  What if that was a person standing where the stump was or a disabled snowmobile?  How many other riders didn't crash because of this stump?  

It really sucks that the guy is messed up.  But you have to be aware.  It was a stationary object.   If you don't have the ability to dodge a small stationary item in the trail you should probably slow down until you can 

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