California Dirt Bike Accidents: Do Riders ‘Assume the Risk’ of Injury?

California Dirt Bike Accidents: Do Riders ‘Assume the Risk’ of Injury?

I’ve discussed dirt bike accidents on these pages before.

Last week, the California Court of Appeal ruled on an important issue involving dirt bike accidents: whether riders assume the risk of injuries associated with this dangerous recreational activity.

Kimberly Foltz went dirt-bike riding with her fiancee Darryl Wayne Johnson in 2011 in the Mojave Desert.  Ms. Foltz was inexperienced, while Mr. Johnson had significant experience.

While riding, Ms. Foltz became concerned that a hill they were approaching would be too difficult for her to traverse with her limited dirt bike riding skills.  Her fiancee encouraged her to continue.  She did for a little bit, then she turned around to go back the way she had come.  That’s when her dirt bike lost its traction, hit a rock, and propelled her over the handlebars.  The bike ran over her back, causing serious spinal injuries.

Ms. Foltz sued her fiancee, arguing that he was negligent in leading her on a dirt bike excursion knowing that she was inexperienced and could not properly handle the terrain.  The trial court dismissed the case on summary judgment.

Last week, the Court of Appeal affirmed the dismissal.  Quoting the case Knight v. Jewett (1992) 3 Cal.4th 296, the Court ruled that the assumption of the risk doctrine applies to recreational activities like dirt bike riding.  “By choosing to participate, one assumes the particular risks inherent in the sport, and a defendant generally owes no duty to protect the plaintiff from those risks.”

Applies to this case, the Court noted that when Ms. Foltz voluntarily went up the hill on her dirt bike, she knew that she would need to go down the other side of the hill.  Her fiancee did not force her to go up the hill; instead, she followed him on her dirt bike of her own volition.  Even if she expressed concern about going on the trail, the fact that she proceeded on her own caused the Court to rule that she assumed the risk of injuries associated with dirt bike riding.

It’s a sad case.  Assumption of the risk is a tough bar to get around in cases like these.

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