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Casteel v. Smith

OPINION FILED OCTOBER 20, 1982.

BERLE F. CASTEEL, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

DOUGLAS SMITH AND DON SMITH, DEFENDANTS AND THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES. — (CHARLES BINDER, THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT.)



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Moultrie County, the Hon. Worthy B. Kranz, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE MILLS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Snowmobiles.

What standard applies?

Ordinary negligence, or something higher?

Ordinary negligence.

We reverse and remand.

Casteel brought suit against Douglas and Don Smith for injuries he received in a snowmobile accident. The Smiths in turn brought a third-party suit against Binder, alleging that Casteel's injuries were the result of Binder's negligent behavior. The circuit court granted a motion by the Smiths for summary judgment against Casteel and also granted a motion by Binder for summary judgment against the Smiths. Casteel and the Smiths appeal.

On a Sunday afternoon in March 1978, Casteel joined a group of high-school-age youths who were riding their snowmobiles on a nearby frozen pond. Already at the pond, Binder and Douglas Smith, along with other snowmobilers, were using the steep bank of the pond's dam as a ramp from which they were launching their snowmobiles up into the air and out onto the pond's frozen surface. The snowmobilers would begin their ride at the bottom of the dam's bank, ride up the side of the bank at speeds in excess of 30 miles per hour, and upon reaching the crest of the bank, fly about three to four feet into the air for approximately 10 to 15 feet, and land on the ice-covered pond. Before each rider began his jump, another rider stationed at the crest of the dam's bank would motion to the rider at the bottom when the pond's surface was clear of other snowmobilers.

In the sequence of events that led to the present suit, Binder was stationed at the crest of the dam. He motioned to the next rider — Douglas Smith — that the pond's surface was clear. Smith began his ascent. He was over halfway up the side of the dam when Binder noticed that Casteel was sitting on the pond's surface directly on the spot where Smith would be landing his snowmobile. Casteel, sitting on his snowmobile, was apparently stuck on the slick ice. The deafening roar of the snowmobile engine drowned out Binder's attempt to warn either Casteel or Smith. Smith, unaware of Casteel stuck on the ice ahead, reached the top of the dam at a speed over 40 miles per hour. He flew out across the pond's surface and landed directly on Casteel, causing him severe injuries.

Casteel filed suit against Douglas Smith and against Smith's father, Don, the owner of the snowmobile Douglas was riding. The Smiths filed a third-party complaint against Binder, alleging that Binder negligently signaled Douglas to make the jump. The circuit court granted a motion by the Smiths for judgment on the pleadings. Binder appealed. This court reversed. (Casteel v. Smith (1981), 98 Ill. App.3d 1206 (Rule 23 order).) The circuit court then granted a motion by the Smiths for summary judgment and also granted a motion by Binder for summary judgment. The trial judge stated that the allegations of ordinary negligence in Casteel's complaint and the Smiths' third-party complaint failed to state a cause of action.

I

• 1 The first issue before this court is whether an allegation of ordinary negligence states a cause of action where the injury occurred while the parties were engaged in recreational snowmobiling.

It does.

All of the parties to this appeal have made involved arguments urging this court to make a broad pronouncement of the state of the law in negligence actions involving sporting activities. That pronouncement is unnecessary. The legislature has already spoken with respect to the negligence standards for snowmobile activities in enacting the Snowmobile Registration and Safety ...


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