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Kottman v. Missouri State Fair

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Second Division

December 23, 2014

JANET KOTTMAN, ET AL., Appellants,
v.
MISSOURI STATE FAIR, ET AL., Respondents

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF PETTIS COUNTY, MISSOURI. THE HONORABLE ROBERT L. KOFFMAN, JUDGE.

Samuel M. Wendt, for Appellants.

Doug Leyshock, for Respondents.

Before: Victor C. Howard, Presiding Judge, James E. Welsh, Judge and Anthony Rex Gabbert, Judge. All concur.

OPINION

VICTOR C. HOWARD, JUDGE

Page 332

Janet and Gary Kottman appeal from the trial court's judgment against them on their claims against the Missouri State Fair and Terry Watson for negligence, negligence per se, respondeat superior, negligent entrustment, negligent hiring and retention, and loss of consortium arising from Ms. Kottman's fall from a tram at the Missouri State Fair in August 2008. At the close of the Kottmans' case-in-chief, Defendants filed a motion for directed verdict asserting that there was no substantial evidence supporting the causation element of the Kottmans' claims. Following arguments on the motion, the trial court granted a directed verdict in Defendants' favor. On appeal, the Kottmans contend that the trial court erred in granting the motion for directed verdict because they made a submissible case on their claims.[1] The judgment directing a verdict is reversed, and the case is remanded for a new trial.

Factual and Procedural Background

In August 2008, Ms. Kottman was working a booth at the Missouri State Fair as part of her employment with Upromise Investments to market and promote the 529 college savings plan through community outreach. When she arrived at the fairgrounds for her shift on August 8, 2008, she parked her car in a gravel/grass lot and boarded a tram to ride to the front ticket gate where she had planned to meet two co-workers, Temeka Easter and Merriam Broaddus. The tram was pulled by a tractor, and passengers sat facing out on one of two benches running the length of the tram. The tram had a hostess onboard

Page 333

who was provided a bicycle horn to signal the driver to stop in case of an emergency. Ms. Kottman had with her a 30-pound box similar in size to a banker's box, a plastic bag of Wal-Mart purchases, and a backpack style purse. About one hundred yards from the gate, the tram moved from gravel to pavement. Once the tram was on the pavement but before it reached the front gate, Ms. Kottman fell from the tram. As a result of the fall, her right hip was dislocated and " shattered." Her right knee was also injured and required surgery.

The Kottmans sued the Missouri State Fair and Terry Watson, the driver of the tram, under theories of negligence, negligence per se, respondeat superior, negligent entrustment, negligent hiring and retention, and loss of consortium. Their petition alleged that while Ms. Kottman was riding the tram, an employee of the Missouri State Fair serving as the tram hostess sounded a horn causing Mr. Watson to abruptly and suddenly stop the tram without warning. It further alleged that as a result of the sudden stop, Ms. Kottman was thrown from the tram to the ground causing her serious physical injuries.

On the fourth day of trial, after Plaintiffs rested, Defendants moved for directed verdict asserting that there was no substantial evidence supporting the causation element of the Kottmans' claims. Specifically, they argued that there was no evidence permitting any reasonable juror to conclude that a sudden and abrupt stop of the tram caused Ms. Kottman's injuries. The trial court granted Defendants' ...


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