How Courts Apply the Indiana Recreational-Use Statute

Some of the most difficult jobs of a lawmaker is to weigh legitimate but competing interests and develop a reasonable compromise that everyone can live with. The Indiana recreational-use statute is a good example of Indiana lawmakers attempting to secure ample outdoor space for recreational activity while at the same time ensuring that Indianans remain safe while at play.

A recreational-use statute is a law under which qualifying landowners cannot be held liable for injuries that occur as the result of another party’s recreational use of the property. Indiana’s recreational-use statute is contained in Indiana Code section 14-22-10-2, and provides that landowners who do not charge a fee for others to use their property for “swimming, camping, hiking, sightseeing, or any other purpose,” do not assume responsibility for injuries occurring on their property.

Of course, the recreational-use statute does not apply to willful or intentional conduct on the part of the landowner. Thus, landowners who open up their land for public use but refuse to fix known hazards may still be liable for a visitor’s injuries. In order to get around the application of the recreational-use statute, an injury victim must be able to first prove that the landowner knew of the hazard’s existence. A recent slip-and-fall case discusses this requirement.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured in a bicycle accident after he struck a pothole while riding along a path in a public park. The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the city that maintained the park, arguing that the city was liable for his injuries. The plaintiff initially claimed that the city was negligent, but later amended his complaint, claiming that the city “willfully or maliciously” failed to warn him of the existence of the pothole.

The court held that plaintiff failed to show that the city acted willfully or maliciously because the plaintiff could not prove that the city knew about the pothole’s existence. The court noted that there was no evidence of prior complaints, and although a city employee testified that he traveled the path regularly, he denied having seen the pothole in the past.

The case is important in that it illustrates the type of information that an Indiana slip-and-fall plaintiff should present to the court when attempting to get around the application of the state’s recreational-use statute. For example, any fact showing prior knowledge of the hazard will be helpful. This can be a government employee’s first-hand knowledge based on personal observation or constructive knowledge based on a third-party’s report to a government official.

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

If you have been injured on another’s property while engaging in a recreational activity, do not assume that your case is barred by the recreational-use statute. The dedicated Indiana personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse have extensive experience bringing Indiana premises liability claims against all types of landowners, including those who allow for the recreational use of their property. To learn more, call 888-532-7766 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with one of the dedicated Indiana personal injury lawyers at Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse.

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