By Sue Fernandez
ANNAPOLIS – A Davidsonville woman whose scalp was torn off while racing a go-kart has the right to have a jury decide if the race organizer and the go-kart’s manufacturer and seller were to blame for her injuries, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals ruled Thursday.
The court’s three-judge panel said that an Anne Arundel Circuit judge was wrong to rule in a 1994 summary judgment that Shawna Barber Kane waived all responsibility for her injuries by signing an anticipatory release before the race.
The lower court, by issuing a summary judgment, effectively said that the case had no factual disputes that would warrant a jury trial.
But the appeals court said a jury is needed. Specifically, it must decide whether Kane understood the release before she signed it, and if her signature released go-kart manufacturer Margay Racing Products Inc. and dealer Eastern Karting Co. from liability.
In addition, Judge Arrie Davis wrote in the unanimous opinion, a jury should decide if the organizer of the charity event, Woodbridge Karters Inc., should have explained the release to Kane and warned her about any danger.
Finally, Davis wrote, a jury should decide whether Kane was partly responsible for the accident because her hair wasn’t properly fastened inside her helmet.
Kane was injured Sept. 18, 1993 at the Summit Point Raceway in West Virginia, during an event set up by Woodbridge, which operates a club that organizes and sanctions go-kart racing competitions.
She was driving an “Enduro” go-kart manufactured by Margay and sold by Eastern to Cort Kane, who is now her husband. Both Margay and Eastern were sponsors of the Woodbridge event.
About 20 minutes into the race, Kane’s hair got caught in the go-kart’s exposed rear axle, causing her scalp to be torn literally from her head.
Kane underwent eight operations, and her injuries range from permanent loss of scalp, hair and eyebrows to muscle and nerve damage that prevents her eyelids from properly closing. Kane also has said she has suffered severe emotional problems due to the accident and injuries. Kane’s lawyer, Michael Madden, said he was pleased with the appeals court ruling. Lawyers for the defendants could not be reached Thursday for comment. -30-