An appeals court has upheld a decision by the Ottawa County Common Pleas Court which ruled the county’s agricultural society isn’t the employer of a county fair queen and isn’t liable for her actions in a 2008 auto accident she was involved in while driving to another fair.
The Sixth District Court of Appeals ruled the Ottawa County Agricultural Society didn’t control which activities Ariel Estes, who was crowned queen of the county fair in July, 2008, chose to attend as fair queen or how she was to transport herself to the events.
Estes, in her deposition, said she had picked up the runner-up and was on her way to pick the second runner-up when the accident occurred. The three were to represent Ottawa County at the Seneca County Fair.
According to court records, her vehicle crossed an intersection and collided with a vehicle driven by Dennis Hutton, who was injured as a result of the accident.
The common pleas court in September, 2009 dismissed Hutton’s claims against Estes’ parents for punitive damages and negligent entrustment.
In November, 2009 the court also ruled in favor of the agricultural society, concluding that no “principal/agent or master/servant relationship existed between Estes and OCAS.”
Hutton’s appeal, filed in December, 2009, countered that Estes, while acting as fair queen, was an employee/agent of the agricultural society but she wasn’t a “fixed-situs” employee because she didn’t report to one fixed place of employment. His appeal contended that because Estes wasn’t a fixed-situs employee, the agricultural society wasn’t exempt from liability for her actions while coming and going from work.
The appeals court ruled, however, there was no evidence the agricultural society had a right to control which activities Estes chose to attend as fair queen.
In depositions, the Ottawa County Junior Fair coordinator and Ottawa County Fair King and Queen superintendent said there is no requirement for the fair’s king and queen to attend events and the agricultural society doesn’t provide or coordinate their transportation. Nor are they paid to attend, although they may receive gift certificates at the time they’re elected.