Man hurt in skydiving crash with Manitowoc mayor loses appeal

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File photo. (WLUK)

A man injured when the Manitowoc mayor crashed into him at a celebrity skydiving event has lost an appeal in his effort to recover damages from the bar where the crash happened.

The Smiling Moose Saloon & Grill hosted Moosefest in 2009 to raise money for charity. At the event, there was a skydiving activity involving a raffle. Paper plates with numbers written on them were scattered throughout the zone in which the skydivers planned to land. Upon landing, each of the skydivers was to pick up a paper plate, thus determining the winners of the raffle.

Stephen Scheuren was a spectator of the skydiving event. He was injured when two skydivers – including Mayor Justin Nickel, skydiving in tandem – landed in the landing zone, slid into the spectator area, and collided with Scheuren.

According to the appeals court decision released Thursday, Scheuren obtained default judgment against one defendant and reached settlements with several others, leaving just the suit against bar’s owner, Cheryl Vogel.

A circuit court ruled against Scheuren, saying the state’s “recreational immunity statute” protected the bar from liability. He appealed, but the appeals court ruled against Scheuren.

“Scheuren argues that granting Vogel and her insurer immunity does not serve the recreational immunity statute’s purpose as intended by the legislature. We reject this argument because, as previously stated, the legislature intended the recreational immunity statute to be construed liberally. Our supreme court has stated, “Public policy is well-served by the current statute under which landowners are encouraged to allow public access to their property”  … We are satisfied that applying the recreational immunity statute in this case is not contrary to legislative intent,” the court wrote.

According to the Fox 11 story the day after the event, the skydiver, Andy Van Handel. said the lack of wind played a role in the crash. Nickels and Van Handel slid between two tents, almost hit a grill, and at one point hit an 8-year-old boy. The mayor grabbed onto the boy and they slid into Scheuren. Scheuren suffered leg injuries which required surgery.

At one point, Nickels was a defendant in the original suit, but was later dismissed as a party, according to online court records.

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