Tuesday, September 15, 2009, 8:58 AM

No Liability For Failing To Require / Install Seat Belts

In Biggers v Bald Head Island, the NC COA held today that the Village of Bald Head Island could not be held liable for failing to pass a law requiring that golf carts used in the village include seat belts. Likewise, the cart owner and rental agency could not be held liable for renting the cart without belts.

The (sad) facts of the case: While vacationing on Bald Head Island, where golf carts are commonly used to get around, a 6-year-old boy stood up in a moving cart and fell out. As a result of the fall, the boy suffered traumatic brain injuries that ultimately led to his death. The boy's parents and estate sued, their claims sounding in negligence (as opposed to products liability). The trial court granted summary judgment, and the plaintiffs appealed.

On appeal, the COA unanimously affirmed. The Court held that the Village couldn't be held negligent for failing to pass seat belt laws, that deciding what laws to pass/not pass is a legislative decision and not for the courts. The cart's owner and the business that rented it also could not be held liable, since there was, apparently, no duty to install seat belts in a product, a golf cart, that isn't made with them and does not typically have them, and the duty that did exist was met insofar as the golf cart was well-maintained and insured.


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