Recently, a state supreme court issued an opinion in a personal injury case presenting an important issue for Indiana premises liability plaintiffs. The case raised the question of whether a landowner – in this case, a local government – is entitled to immunity under a recreational-use statute when the land in question is used for both recreational and non-recreational purposes. Ultimately, the court held that land need not be solely used for recreational purposes in order for immunity to attach.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff and her niece were riding their bicycles along a non-motorized asphalt trail. As the two were riding, they passed a ride-on lawnmower cutting grass along the trail’s edge. The mower was kicking up dust and debris, obscuring the riders’ vision.
As the plaintiff passed the mower, she covered her face and swerved, clipping the side of her niece’s bike. The plaintiff then lost control, fell, and injured her leg and knee. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the local government that owned and operated the trail.
The trail was mixed-use and was designed with both recreational and non-recreational purposes in mind. Evidence showed that some people used the trail to commute to work, while others used it as a bicycle and jogging trail. After hearing the evidence, the trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s case, finding that the government was entitled to immunity under the state’s recreational-use statute, which confers immunity to landowners who open up their land for the recreational use of the public and do not charge a fee.
The plaintiff appealed to the state’s intermediate appellate court and was successful in overturning the verdict. That court determined that, since the trail was not exclusively used for recreational purposes, the recreational-use statute did not apply. The government appealed to the state’s high court.
On appeal to the state supreme court, the case was again reversed, this time in favor of the government. The court explained that there was no indication in the statutory language that the legislature intended to only confer immunity in situations in which the land in question was used solely for recreational purposes. The court explained that the purpose of the recreational-use statute was to encourage landowners to open up their land for the public’s free use, and requiring the land to be used solely for recreational purposes in order for immunity to attach interfered with that goal.
Have You Been Injured on Another Party’s Property?
If you have recently been injured while on the property of another person or business, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through an Indiana premises liability lawsuit. The dedicated Indiana personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse have extensive experience representing victims and their families in a wide range of Indiana personal injury matters, including Indiana bicycle accident cases. To learn more, call 888-532-7766 to schedule your free consultation.
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