Virginia Man Files Personal Injury Action for Injuries on a Segway

In the personal injury case of McConnel v. Omni Hotels, filed in Harrisonburg Federal Court, a Federal judge has ruled that Plaintiff has stated a valid claim for negligence against a hotel that must be resolved by the Jury.

The Plaintiff, James McConnel, was staying at the Omni hotel in 2015 when the hotel had offered guests the chance to play Segway Polo inside the hotel in December. Although McConnel had never used a Segway before and expressed concerns, he was allegedly told that it was safe and a well supervised event. Plaintiff alleged that the young people supervising the game failed to properly instruct the participants in Segway safety guidelines that were provided to summer tourists.

The defense attorneys for the Omni hotel argued that Plaintiff had assumed the risk of being injured, he could not make out a viable claim against the hotel. They also relied on a release the Plaintiff signed as evidence that he was warned before the event of the possible dangers. Plaintiff also alleged that the staff encouraged physical contact between the Segway operators and that the Plaintiff was involved in a collision with others that sent him flying through the air some 15 feet. Judge Michael F. Urbanski found that this case presented a jury issue and summary judgment was not proper on the issue of assumption of risk and causation. The Judge also limited the scope of testimony allowed by Plaintiff’s recreation expert. Trial is set for July 24 in Harrisonburg federal court.

Assumption of risk is a common defense in personal injury cases, explains Virginia personal injury attorney Jeffrey J. Downey. We often see this defense asserted in auto cases where a passenger knowingly gets into a vehicle driven by a drunk driver. However, where a hotel or other recreation company attempts to waive the rights of an injured party to sue the negligent party through a release, that release will likely be found to be against public policy in Virginia. Here, the defendant was simply arguing that the release was evidence that the Plaintiff had understood the risks of the event. However, this is typically a factual question that requires a jury to resolve what risks the Plaintiff actually appreciated at the time of the incident.

To be safe, I will usually modify the release when it contains language attempting to waive my legal rights, explains Downey. Most times an informed person will understand that these releases have no legal effect in Virginia where they involve a such a waiver. It is also important to make sure that an incident report is created by the hotel at the time of the injury, so they cannot later deny that the event actually occurred.

The Law Office of Jeffrey J. Downey represents people who have been injured through the negligence of others. It handles premises liability and other types of cases against property and store owners.

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