Earlier this month, an appellate court in Rhode Island issued an instructive opinion regarding that state’s recreational use statute and how the statute may be used by defendants to avoid liability in a premises liability case. The case is also instructive to potential premises liability plaintiffs, since it shows which facts must be pleaded and proven in order for the case to survive a summary judgment challenge by the defense.
Roy was with some friends at a state-run park. The park had a medium-sized pond in which people routinely swam, despite there being signs that swimming was prohibited. In fact, on some days, the government agency in charge of the park would staff the pond with lifeguards and allow swimming. There were, however, a number of “no diving” signs placed around the pond. Generally, the prohibition on diving was enforced, but there was an old diving platform that was still left from previous years when diving was permitted.
On the day in question, Roy got out of his parked car, ran up to the edge of the pond, and quickly inspected it before diving in. Roy later testified that the pond looked deep enough and that if it hadn’t looked safe to dive in, he would not have done it. When Roy did dive into the pond, his head struck the bottom, and he was paralyzed as a result. He later filed a lawsuit against the state agency in charge of the park’s maintenance.
At issue in the case was whether the state agency had sufficient knowledge of the dangers present and failed to take sufficient measures to correct them. Specifically, Roy argued that the state agency knew that people swam and dived in the pond, and that the failure to cure the dangerous conditions present in the pond was “willful and malicious.”
The court explained that it was sympathetic to Roy’s situation, but legally the defense was correct in that there was insufficient evidence to overcome the immunity granted by the recreational use statute. Recreational use statutes confer immunity on a property owner – a private party or a government agency – who opens up their land for the general recreational enjoyment of the public. Liability can only be present when there is a willful or malicious failure to cure a known defect. Since this was not the case, the recreational use statute protected the government agency in charge of the pond.
Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been involved in any kind of Indiana slip-and-fall or other premises liability accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. While recreational use statutes and government immunity may come into play, this does not necessarily mean your claim will be unsuccessful. A skilled attorney may be able to explain to the court why liability is still proper in your specific situation. To learn more about Indiana premises liability law, and to discuss your case with a dedicated personal injury attorney, call 888-532-7766 to set up a free consultation.
Man Injured by Faulty Handrail Denied Compensation Based on Incomplete Negligence Claim, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, June 27, 2016
Appellate Court Denies Insurance Company’s Jurisdictional Challenge to Accident Victim’s Lawsuit, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, July 13, 2016