Public policy ends suit brought by man against skydive-sponsoring Smiling Moose owner

Charlotte Personal Injury Attorney Matthew R. Arnold of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question “What if the accident was my fault?”


Public policy has ended a man’s lawsuit against a bar owner for injuries the man sustained in a skydiving incident.

skydiving Charlotte Injury Lawyer North Carolina Wrongful Death AttorneyThe man, Stephen Scheuren, was a spectator at The Smiling Moose Saloon & Grill’s 2009 Moosefest, a charity event organized by Smiling Moose owner Cheryl Vogel. At the event, paper plates with numbers written on them were scattered throughout a skydiving landing zone. Skydivers were to pick up plates on landing. Those whose numbers were written on the selected plates won raffle prizes.

Two tandem skydivers, including Manitowoc Mayor Justin Nickel, landed in the landing zone but then slid between two tents into the group of spectators, striking Scheuren and an eight-year-old boy. Scheuren suffered unspecified leg injuries that required surgery.

Mayor Nickel was ultimately dismissed from Scheuren’s lawsuit, but Scheuren obtained a default judgment against one defendant and settled with several others. Only Scheuren’s claims against Vogel remained. She argued that Wisconsin’s so-called “recreational immunity statute” shielded her and The Smiling Moose from liability. A circuit court ruled against Scheuren, so Scheuren appealed.

On appeal, Scheuren argued to the Wisconsin Supreme Court that giving Vogel and The Smiling Moose immunity from his lawsuit did not serve the recreational immunity statute’s purpose. The state Supreme Court disagreed, however, writing that the legislature intended the statute to be construed liberally. The court pointed out that Wisconsin’s public policy “is well-served by the current statute under which landowners are encouraged to allow public access to their property.” The Supreme Court was satisfied that applying the recreational immunity statute in Scheuren’s case furthered the legislature’s intent. In practical terms, the decision meant Scheuren’s claims against Vogel and The Smiling Moose were dismissed.

Public policy informs much in the law, and knowing whether some doctrine or statute—undergirded by public policy—is at play in your case is crucial in determining, at a basic level, whether you have a good case.

North Carolina has its own share of laws and rules supported by public policy. The Tar Heel state famously applies the concept of strict contributory negligence in personal injury cases, furthering a policy of keeping at-fault plaintiffs out of court for personal injuries.

The legislature acted in 1995 to create a rule requiring medical malpractice claimants to assert that a medical professional had reviewed their medical care and was willing to testify that a doctor’s acts or omissions fell below the applicable standard of care. The legislature tightened the pleading standards in medical malpractice cases further in 2011 and capped the amount of damages claimants could win.

Personal injury suits are often called “torts,” and proponents of “tort reform” worried that frivolous tort lawsuits were driving up insurance premiums to the point that doctors and hospitals were being driven out of business. The 1995 and 2011 legislative actions furthered a policy of restricting the amount of medical malpractice suits in the state or, put differently, encouraged doctors to render medical care without the constant threat of suit.

Critics have objected that North Carolina’s adherence to strict contributory negligence, its special pleading rules in medical malpractice cases and its cap on noneconomic damages prevent plaintiffs with legitimate claims from having their day in court and winning the justice they deserve.

If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of someone’s negligent or intentional conduct, please do not hesitate to contact me to set up an appointment today. If you or someone you know has any questions regarding potential personal injury claims, feel free to contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC in Charlotte, North Carolina for a free consultation. Call toll free at (955) 370-2828 or click here for additional resources.



About the Author

ARNOLD & SMITH LAWMatthew Arnold is a Managing Member of Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses on the areas of family law, divorce, child custody, child support, alimony and equitable distribution.

Mr. Arnold was raised in Charlotte, where he graduated from Providence Senior High School. He attended Belmont Abbey College, where he graduated cum laude, before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full academic scholarship.

In his free time, Mr. Arnold enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three children.






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