During the formative years of the United States, certain principles were included in the U.S. Constitution and early amendments that still exist today. However, over time, the country has moved away from some of these principles and limited their application through the passage of new laws. One of the principles that has been continually rolled back over the past two centuries is the idea of government immunity.
Under the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and subsequent case-law interpreting that Amendment, the federal and state governments enjoy immunity from lawsuits filed by citizens unless the government waives this immunity. Initially, this meant that very few lawsuits could be brought against government entities. However, the federal and state governments began passing various “tort claims acts,” which would statutorily waive immunity in some circumstances.
In Indiana, the Indiana Tort Claims Act (ITCA) waives the government’s immunity in certain circumstances and provides procedural rules that Indiana accident victims must follow when bringing a lawsuit against the state government. The ITCA is designed to clarify under which situations the government can be held liable, and when the government’s inherent immunity remains intact. A recent case illustrates the difficulties one victim in another state had when he attempted to establish that his injuries fell outside the scope of government immunity.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was riding his bike along a mixed-use trail outside the Chicago area when the bike’s tire got caught in a small crack in the trail. The plaintiff lost control of the bike and fell to the ground, ultimately sustaining serious injuries.
The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the government entity in charge of maintaining the trail, arguing that it was improperly maintained. The government defended against the case by asserting its immunity. Specifically, the government claimed that the injury occurred while the plaintiff was engaging in recreational activity, and thus the accident was covered under the state’s recreational use immunity statute.
Recreational use immunity statutes are present in most states, and they provide immunity to landowners – including government entities – when a person’s injuries are a result of their using the land for recreational purposes. However, recreational use statutes do not generally confer immunity when the defendant’s conduct was intentional, willful, or wanton.
Here, the plaintiff claimed that the government’s conduct in failing to fix the cracked sidewalk was willful or wanton because the government knew of the crack’s existence, but it had not fixed it yet. However, the court disagreed, noting that while the government knew about the crack and had not yet fixed it, the repair order had been placed. The court was unwilling to call such behavior willful or wanton, under the circumstances, and determined that the government was entitled to immunity.
Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of Indiana bicycle accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse have extensive experience handling a wide range of Indiana personal injury cases, including those naming government entities or employees as defendants. To learn more, call 888-532-7766 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with an attorney today.
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