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Mackenzie Guest v. Oak Leaf Outdoors

April 30, 2012

MACKENZIE GUEST,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
OAK LEAF OUTDOORS, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stengel, J.

MEMORANDUM

Joseph Guest fell from a tree while hunting. He was using a Lone Wolf Sit and Climb Treestand, manufactured by Oak Leaf Outdoors, Inc., and sold by Gander Mountain, Inc. After the accident, Mr. Guest died from injuries he sustained in a car accident completely unrelated to this action. Mackenzie Guest was substituted as the plaintiff because she is the Administratrix for the Estate of Joseph Guest. Plaintiff's complaint asserts causes of action for defective design and negligence.*fn1 The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on the threshold issue of whether the plaintiff is able to prove causation under the theories of negligence and strict liability. For the following reasons, I will deny the defendants' motion for summary judgment on Counts I, II and V.

I. BACKGROUND*fn2

A. The Incident at the Tree

On November 25, 2009, Mr. Guest was using a Lone Wolf Sit and Climb Treestand to climb a tree while hunting. (Compl. at ¶ 18.) Plaintiff's Complaint alleges that the tree stand's cam lever (that locks the seat platform belt) unintentionally came open and released the traction belt, causing the seat platform to collapse and Mr. Guest to fall onto the tree stand's foot platform. (Compl. at ¶¶ 16-18.) Plaintiff alleges that the force of this fall and Mr. Guest's weight on the foot platform caused the traction belt to break. (Complaint at ¶ 18.) When the traction belt broke, Mr. Guest fell from the tree. (Id.)

B. Joseph Guest's Statement to Officer Eno

The only testimony in the record comes from the deposition of Officer Thomas Eno. (Doc. No. 28*fn3 , ¶ 24, Doc. No. 30, ¶ 24*fn4 .) After Mr. Guest's fall, he retrieved his cell phone that was lying on the ground nearby. He dialed 9-1-1. The dispatcher received the phone call at 6:20 a.m. (Eno Dep.at 28:13-28:16.) Officer Eno responded to the emergency dispatcher's call to assist Guest and arrived on the scene at 6:26 a.m. (Eno Dep. 28:20-28:21.) Mr. Guest signaled the police officer with his cell phone and voice from his location on the wooded property. Officer Eno left his vehicle and ran through the woods to Mr. Guest's location. (Eno Dep. 14:2-14:12.)

At his deposition, Officer Eno described Mr. Guest's state of mind at the scene of the fall:

Q: What was his state of mind when you got there? Was he, you know, a wild man screaming at the top of his lungs or was he --?

A: No.

Q: -- a pretty calm -- A: No.

Q. -- cool --

A: No. He was calm, but in pain. (Eno Dep. 36:22-37:7.)

The deposition transcript of Officer Eno reveals that Mr. Guest did not make any statements to Officer Eno that specified why the tree stand fell from the tree:

Q: Did he tell you what happened?

A: He said he was hunting. And then all of a sudden, he said the tree stand gave out from underneath him. And he said he didn't remember -- I believe he said scratch that -- I believe he said he ...


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