A recent Washington Post story discussed a D.C. area sightseeing tour that involves riding rented Segway vehicles provided by City Segway Tours. Megan Jennings, from New Zealand, rode her transporter over a bump causing her to hit a wall and topple on the pavement. She left by ambulance and her husband reported that she had a broken leg that forced the couple to end their trip early. Mike Cook, a manager with City Segway Tours, explained that very few accidents occur, and most result from operator inattention. Attorney Kenneth Trombly, who recently represented a personal injury victim in a Segway-related case, feels these devices are often difficult to operate for many people. He feels the 30 minute training offered is insufficient. In addition, tourists are required to sign liability waivers and wear safety helmets.
The Segway Personal Transporters are two-wheeled, battery-powered units, capable of reaching about 12 miles-per-hour. The D.C. law imposes a 10 mile-per-hour speed limitation. A report by Annals of Emergency Medicine found that over a three-year period there were 41 people who suffered Segway accident injuries locally, the majority of which were tourists. Many injuries were severe, as 25% were admitted to the hospital for care and a few incurred brain injuries. The stays in the hospital had a median cost of around $25,000 each.
Segway has a program which seeks to establish tour operators in localities that are tourist attractions. The company explains to prospective tour operators that consulting with a lawyer regarding liability and insurance is highly recommended. New operators may face potentially long approval processes and must draft indemnity contracts in accordance with their laws. Liability policies are required that provide $1,000,000 in coverage per incident and a total of $2,000,000, and have deductibles that do not exceed $10,000. These policies must also list Segway Inc. as an additionally insured party.
City Segway Tours in D.C. faced a personal injury suit from plaintiff Norman Mero who was injured during a Segway tour. Only one count remained after several motions, which asserted negligence under common law. The defense asked for a summary judgment based on four reasons:
- The liability waiver barred the claim
- No duty of care was breached
- The plaintiff added contributory negligence
- The plaintiff assumed the risk
The plaintiff stated that the defendant was negligent, causing him to collide with another operator and hit the ground. In addition, he alleged that the tour guides provided substandard operator safety training. The defense relied on witness testimony explaining that Mero was “horsing around” at the time. The plaintiff claimed that the waiver of liability was not enforceable due to a lack of consideration. The court determined that there was presence of a clear exchange agreement; specifically, that the plaintiffs made a promise to waive the company’s liability–a requirement to proceed with the tour.