Courtney Olson of Ebeltoft . Sickler . Lawyers recently obtained the rarely-seen Order for Summary Judgment in a negligence action in North Dakota District Court. At the heart of the case was a personal injury allegedly sustained by the Plaintiff after falling from a Sea-Doo watercraft owned by the Defendant, Ms. Olson’s client. At the time of the incident, the Sea-Doo was being operated by another Defendant, who was the Plaintiff’s girlfriend at the time. The Plaintiff alleged that his injuries were proximately and directly caused by both of the Defendants’ negligent conduct. Specifically regarding Ms. Olson’s client, the Plaintiff alleged that she “negligently, unlawfully and wrongfully did allow the personal watercraft to be operated or failed to supervise the operation of the personal watercraft.”
Ms. Olson filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on behalf of her client. Arguments on the Motion were held orally and on brief. Although negligence actions are widely regarded as unfit for summary judgment, Ms. Olson was able to successfully argue that whether or not a duty exists is generally a preliminary question of law for the court to decide, and that, in this action, the only conclusion a reasonable person could reach is that her client did not owe the Plaintiff a duty. Ms. Olson’s conclusion, and the court’s decision, were based on the reasoning that no evidence existed to establish whether Ms. Olson’s client knew or had reason to know that the Sea-Doo operator would likely use the Sea-Doo in a manner involving unreasonable risk of physical harm to the Plaintiff. The Judge ruled from the bench that Ms. Olson’s client be granted summary judgment and that all claims against her be dismissed.