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An ordinarily prudent person knows or reasonably should know that wearing a safety helmet while operating or riding an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) protects against serious head injury. Accordingly, the common law duty of ordinary care for one's own safety can encompass the use of a safety helmet while operating or riding an ATV.
One owner signed the ATV warranty registration with warnings, including for use of helmets and alcohol. Some warnings were posted on the ATV. The day after receiving it, the owners had a party and let guests use it after dark, on unlit trails, with passengers, without instructions, without using available helmets, and after having served them alcohol. One guest, very experienced with assorted motor vehicles, drank alcohol, rode helmetless with a child in front of him, and crashed and hurt himself. The parties stipulated that had he been wearing a helmet, his head injury would not have been serious.
Could the owners be liable for failing to require the adult guest user to wear an available safety helmet?
The supreme court found that the owners could not be liable for failing to require the adult guest user to wear an available safety helmet. Special verdict questions as to whether the owners were negligent with respect to the guest's failure to wear a helmet, or on separate apportionment of helmet negligence between the parties, were properly stricken. The jury in a helmet defense case needed to be asked to compare a plaintiff's helmet negligence as against the total combined negligence of defendants. Ordinary prudence leads one to know a helmet should be worn while riding an ATV.