Segways, those two-wheeled people movers that roll around Clearwater and zip around downtown St. Petersburg, are popular on the local tourist circuit. Proponents say they're a fast and easy way to see the sights. But a Land O'Lakes woman begs to differ.
Deborah Kendrick, a 61-year-old real estate agent, is suing Segway, the tour company that offered her a ride, Shephard's Beach Resort and the coupon website Groupon for negligence. In a complaint filed this month in Pinellas Circuit Court, Kendrick claims their inattention to safety left her with head injuries.
In 2010, Kendrick bought a Groupon — an online discount coupon — for a two-hour pirate-themed Segway tour with Clearwater Gliders Segway Adventures, which operated out of Shephard's Beach Resort, according to court records. She and her husband redeemed the code in May of that year, when they took a tour of Clearwater that led up the Sand Key Bridge.
According to the complaint, Kendrick was on the bridge when the Segway she was riding "accelerated, rolled up the side of the bridge curb, flipped over and ejected (Kendrick), slamming her head into the pavement."
The complaint states that the tour company, Clearwater Gliders, failed to educate Kendrick about the dangers associated with Segways. More important, her lawyer said, they failed to protect her.
"They didn't provide her with a helmet," Kendrick's attorney, Jeffrey Willis, said.
It's not the first time the company has been accused of negligence. John Davis, a Clearwater man in his late 60s who purchased the same Groupon in 2011, is also suing the company after he suffered a cervical spine injury that left him partially paralyzed, his attorney Chris Jayson said.
And a suit filed in 2011 claimed negligence after a 12-year-old boy was injured during the same tour, according to court records. Jayson said the boy was awarded a judgment after Clearwater Gliders did not respond to the complaint.
Kendrick's complaint goes further, calling the Segway "defective" and "dangerous" and blaming the manufacturer, in part, for her injuries. It also names Groupon, which advertised that it would be "easy for newbies to gain their Seg-legs within minutes," according to the complaint.
A Groupon spokesman said the company does not comment on pending cases. Segway did not return calls for comment, nor did Shephard's.
Segways feature two wheels and work through the connection of a motor, microprocessors and sophisticated tilt sensors. The machine is meant to move intuitively, leaning forward and back as the rider leans.
But Segways have been banned from places such as Disneyland, where, a judge ruled last year, a woman could not use the machine despite her mobility issues.
Several national law firms now specialize in Segway injury lawsuits.
"A Segway is as dangerous as you allow it to be," said Boston by Segway spokesman Allan Danley, who is also named in the complaint as one of several successors-in-interest to Clearwater Gliders, since the company no longer exists.
"I've never seen anybody end up getting a hair misplaced if they complied with the rules and followed instructions."
Danley said he is not affiliated with Clearwater Gliders.
Contact Claire Wiseman at [email protected] or (727) 893-8804. Follow @clairelwiseman.