Amicus Committee Activity - Case Accepted: Stehlik v. Rhoads

WDC Journal Edition: December 2001
By: James Naugler

Stehlik v. Rhoads, Appeal No. 99-3326

Stehlik, a passenger on an ATV, sustained a serious head injury when he fell off the ATV and his head hit a concrete wall. The parties stipulated that had Stehlik worn a safety helmet, he would not have sustained a serious head injury.

The jury found that failing to wear a safety helmet caused 90% (plus additional reduction for contributory negligence) of Stehlik's injuries. The trial court sustained the verdict and reduced Stehlik's damages. Stehlik appealed. The court of appeals certified the following issue to the supreme court.

Is a plaintiff's failure to wear a safety helmet, which results in enhanced injuries, subject to the same rules as Wisconsin's "failure to wear a seat belt" defense?

CTCW member Werner Erich Scherr, of Peterson, Johnson & Murray, S.C., on behalf of CTCW seeks recognition of the "helmet defense" which allows for reduction in damages caused by the failure to wear a helmet in cases of enhanced injury.