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Habeck v. Ouverson

October 14, 2003

ROY W. HABECK, TRUSTEE FOR THE HEIRS AND NEXT-OF-KIN OF ADAM R. HABECK, DECEDENT, RESPONDENT,
v.
STEPHEN OUVERSON, DEFENDANT, MILLE LACS COUNTY AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY, ET AL., APPELLANTS.



Mille Lacs County District Court File No. C8010486

Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge; Toussaint, Chief Judge; and Shumaker, Judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

For the purposes of the recreational-use immunity statute, fair-board-sponsored transportation of county fair visitors within county fairgrounds is a recreational service.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Toussaint, Chief Judge

Reversed and remanded

OPINION

This wrongful-death action stems from a child's death by a tractor-trailer used to transport county fair visitors within the county fairgrounds. Appellants, the county fair board and the tractor-trailer driver, challenge the district court's denial of their immunity defense under the recreational-use immunity statute, Minn. Stat. §á466.03, subd. 6e (2002).

Because we conclude the fair-board-sponsored transportation of fair visitors within the fairgrounds is a recreational service, we reverse and remand.

FACTS

The Mille Lacs County Fair, which takes place on the Mille Lacs County Fairgrounds, is organized by appellant Mille Lacs County Agricultural Society (the Fair Board). In 1997, to transport fair visitors within the fair grounds, Stephen Ouverson, a Fair Board member, added benches to his trailer and pulled it behind his tractor. The front section of the trailer contained wooden benches and was intended for adult riders, while the rear section contained hay bales and was intended for children. Between the two sections were a rear axle and wheels, which were beneath wheel covers. The Fair Board used the tractor-trailer again at the 1998 fair.

On August 8, 1998, appellant Roland Keena, the fair's groundskeeper, agreed to drive the tractor-trailer. Although no one witnessed the incident itself, at some point late that afternoon, the tractor-trailer's rear wheels ran over six-year-old Adam Habeck. He died from massive head injuries. An investigation concluded that Adam had apparently fallen from the wagon. The medical examiner and the county attorney determined that the death was accidental, and the county attorney found no indication that the child was pushed from the wagon or that the driver was driving negligently or carelessly.

Respondent Roy W. Habeck, acting as trustee for Adam's heirs and next-of-kin, sued the Fair Board, Ouverson and Keena. Habeck alleged that the Fair Board had negligently supervised visitors who rode on the tractor-trailer, that Ouverson had negligently designed the tractor-trailer, and that Keena had negligently operated the tractor-trailer.

All parties moved for summary judgment. The Fair Board, Ouverson, and Keena argued that they were protected from liability under the recreational-use immunity statute, Minn. Stat. §á466.03, subd. 6e (2002), and as an uncompensated board member, Ouverson also argued that he was entitled to immunity under Minn. Stat. §á38.013 (2002).

On September 27, 2002, the district court granted summary judgment to Ouverson but denied summary judgment to the Fair Board and Keena. The Fair Board and Keena requested reconsideration by the district court and filed a notice of appeal to this court. The district court granted the request for reconsideration, and this court consequently dismissed the pending appeal, returning jurisdiction to the district court. After the district court affirmed its prior decision in all respects, this court reinstated the Fair Board and Keena's appeal on the issue of the district court's denial of the ...


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