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Ottawa County ag society not liable for fair queen's crash

Sarah Weber • Jun 26, 2010 at 4:07 PM


The Sixth District Court of Appeals has ruled the Ottawa County Agricultural Society is not responsible for damages from a 2008 car crash involving a junior fair queen.

According to the court record, Ottawa County Junior Fair Queen Ariel Estes crashed into a car driven by Dennis Hutton while she was on her way to the Seneca County Fair to represent Ottawa County on July 21, 2008. Hutton suffered serious injuries in the crash.

He filed a suit against Estes and her parents, and later amended the complaint to include the Ottawa County Agricultural Society, alleging that the society was liable for her negligence as her employer.

The society argued that Estes was not an employee.

Estes testified that she received gift cards as the result of becoming junior fair queen, but did not get any pay for her services. Attending other fairs and events to promote the Ottawa County Fair was listed in the Ottawa County Fair Handbook as part of her duties, but such appearances were not mandatory.

The Ottawa County Common Pleas Court agreed that Estes was not an employee of the agricultural society and issued a summary judgment dismissing Hutton's complaint on Nov. 24.

Hutton appealed to the Sixth District Court of Appeals in Toledo, maintaining that Estes was an employee of the agricultural society and the society should be liable for damages from the crash.

In its decision, the appeals court wrote that the relationship between an employer and employee exists only when the employer exercises control over the actions of the employee.

It found that the agricultural society did not have a right to control the activities Estes chose as fair queen nor how she transported herself to such events.

It ruled in favor of the agricultural society, and upheld the common pleas court's dismissal of the case.

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