Insurance requirements, new safety procedures come after $1.7-million settlement
San Diego is cracking down on Segway companies in the wake of a $1.7 million payout last year to a rider injured in La Jolla and a separate wrongful death lawsuit from a crash in Old Town.
The city plans to begin requiring local Segway tour companies to follow new safety procedures, acquire comprehensive liability insurance and indemnify the city against any potential lawsuits.
Segways are two-wheeled motorized vehicles that carry one person standing upright. The devices were invented in 2002.
The City Council voted 8-1 last week to approve the new requirements, but a second vote is required this fall. Councilwoman Barbara Bry voted “no,” contending that the new law would be too punitive to Segway operators.
The owner of one local Segway tour company said the new requirements would put her out of business. But no other tour company owners spoke against the proposal during the Aug. 6 council meeting.
“I cannot just raise tour prices,” said Bridgette Bisogno, owner of Adventures in San Diego. “I am competing in a market, in the San Diego market, one of the most saturated markets in the world.”
Councilman Scott Sherman said he empathized with the Segway tour companies, characterizing them as small businesses. But he also said that limiting the city’s liability is more important.
“I know it’s a hardship,” Sherman said. “Our job is protecting the taxpayer here, and I think this is what we need to do.”
In the case that led to the $1.7-million settlement, the tour company that rented out the Segway didn’t contribute to the payout because it didn’t have liability insurance and the company’s owner had limited assets.
The goal of the new law is to shrink the number of injury crashes and limit the city’s vulnerability to large payouts when injuries occur, city officials said.
The new safety procedures would prohibit Segway use by intoxicated people, require users under 18 to be accompanied by an adult and mandate that tour guides have a driver’s license.
In addition, the rules would limit the number of riders per Segway to one and require that they move in single file.
On insurance, the companies would be required to obtain commercial liability insurance of at least $1 million per case and $2 million per year. An earlier version of the proposal would have required $2 million per case and $4 million per year.
The companies also would have to pay a $53 annual permit fee.
Segway is the name of the leading company in the industry. In order to make sure the city’s new law would also apply to competitors, it refers to the vehicles as “electronic assistive personal mobility devices.”
The $1.7-million payout went to Regina Capobianco, who suffered a shattered pelvis in a Segway crash on Camino de la Costa at Winamar Avenue in July 2015, and her husband, Christopher Capobianco, because her injuries were found to have damaged their marriage.
Capobianco’s 2016 lawsuit said she needs intense physical therapy and relies predominantly on a wheelchair to get around, preventing her from performing the full-time job she had before the Segway crash.
Also last year, the family of Jeff Hassett filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city claiming he struck a 3- to 4-inch concrete stub in the sidewalk while riding a Segway in March 2016.
The suit, filed by Hassett’s four siblings, says the stub was created by the removal of a light pole on Taylor Street near Congress Street in Old Town.
The suit says Hassett suffered broken ribs, a toe injury that required amputation and damage to an internal heart defibrillator that led to a fatal infection.
Garrick writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.