Court Upholds City’s Government Immunity in Recent Slip-and-Fall Case

Earlier this month, an appellate court in Alabama issued a written opinion in a premises liability case that was brought by an accident victim against a local city that owned and operated the park where the plaintiff’s injury occurred. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss recreational-use immunity and what a plaintiff must show to overcome this immunity. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff failed to establish a crucial element of her claim in that she did not show that the city had actual knowledge of the hazard that caused her fall.

FireworksThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was visiting a park owned and operated by the defendant city. The plaintiff arrived at the park on July 4, in the morning hours. After parking her vehicle, the plaintiff made her way around a set of vertical poles that established the parking area without any problem. However, hours later, when the plaintiff made her way back to her vehicle, she tripped and fell on a diagonal cross-bar that connected two of the vertical poles. Evidence presented to the court suggested that while the area was lit by overhead street lights, the general condition of the lighting was “poor.”

The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the city, claiming that the lack of lighting combined with the condition of the vertical poles created a dangerous hazard. In response to the lawsuit, the city had a maintenance supervisor testify that the city had no actual knowledge of the dangerous condition and that there had never been a similar accident reported nor any report of a dangerous condition.

The city asked the court to dismiss the case based on the recreational-use statute. Generally speaking, a recreational-use statute provides immunity to landowners who open their land to the public at no cost for recreational purposes. Under the state’s statute, once it is determined that recreational use immunity applies, it can be overcome if the plaintiff shows that the landowner knew of the hazard but failed to warn the public.

The plaintiff did not argue that the recreational-use statute did not apply based on the general facts. Instead, the plaintiff argued that immunity should not apply because, although the land was open for free use by the public, the city had knowledge of the hazard and failed to warn the public.

The court disagreed, holding that the statute requires the plaintiff to establish that a landowner have actual – rather than constructive – knowledge of the hazard. Here, the court explained, there was no evidence that the city had any indication that there was a dangerous hazard present in the park. Thus, the city was entitled to recreational-use immunity.

Indiana’s Recreational-Use Statute

Under Section 14-22-10-2 of the Indiana Code, recreational-use immunity is granted to landowners who open their land to the public at no cost for the purpose of “swimming, camping, hiking, sightseeing,” or any other recreational purpose. However, important exceptions apply, and anyone who has been injured while engaging in recreational activity on another party’s property should consult with an Indiana personal injury attorney.

Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Slip-and-Fall Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in an Indiana slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The skilled attorneys at the Indiana personal injury law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse have extensive experience assisting victims in seeking the compensation they deserve from negligent landowners, including government entities. Call 888-765-7411 to schedule a free consultation with an Indiana personal injury attorney today.

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Court Prohibits Playground Injury Lawsuit Against School, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, June 26, 2017