Rajkowski Hansmeier Obtains Favorable Appeal Decision on Car Versus Snowmobile Accident Case

Rajkowski Hansmeier attorneys Troy Poetz, Eric Oelrich obtained a favorable verdict from the Minnesota Court of Appeals in the recent case Widmer v. Albertson. The court of appeals affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiff's claims against the firm's client. Troy Poetz and Eric Oelrich tried the case in 2014 and obtained judgment as a matter of law on liability at the close of the plaintiff's case-in-chief.

This case arose from an accident in which a pickup driven by the defendant struck plaintiff while he was on his snowmobile on a county road. The plaintiff had no memory of the actual impact, but recalled driving on the shoulder of the road prior to impact, yet waking up while lying next to his snowmobile in the defendant's lane of travel. The court of appeals affirmed the judgment as a matter of law, finding that a jury would have to impermissibly speculate to be able to put liability on the defendant. This is because the facts equally supported two competing inferences, and there was no way to say one was more likely than the other. The two inferences were (1) the defendant was at fault because he rear-ended the snowmobile and (2) the plaintiff was at fault because he made a left turn onto the roadway in front of defendant.

In reaching its decision, the court of appeals said that because plaintiff could not testify about defendant's alleged fault, he would have needed to call the defendant himself in plaintiff's case-in-chief in order to meet his burden of proof. Thus, plaintiff's trial strategy of waiting to cross examine the defendant during defendant's case-in-chief was flawed.

There is no word yet on whether plaintiff will seek review to the Minnesota Supreme Court.