University Protected by Immunity After Student Is Killed on Bike Path

Sometimes government entities such as public universities are protected from lawsuits due to immunity. In Burgueno v. Regents of the Univ. of Cal., a court found that a university was protected by immunity when a student was killed on a bike path that ran through the school. According to the court’s written opinion, the University of California, Santa Cruz student was living in an off-campus apartment and commuted to school on his bike. He was killed in a bicycle accident on the Great Meadow Bikeway, a paved bike path that ran through part of the school’s campus. The student’s family sued the school after his death, alleging that the school was liable because the path was dangerous. There had been a number of bicycle accidents on the path prior to the student’s death, and the family sued based on a dangerous condition of public property and wrongful death.

However, the trial court found that the claim was barred because the school was protected by immunity. A state code precluded governmental liability for injuries caused by the condition of any trail that provided access to recreational or scenic areas. The purpose of the law was to allow public entities to open their property for public recreational use. The idea was that if the public entities could be sued for poor road conditions, most paths would probably close.

The court found that the law applied to the Great Meadow Bikeway path because it was a path that provided access to recreational or scenic areas. It stated that even though the trail may have been used for both recreational and non-recreational purposes, the school was still protected by immunity. In this case, since the school was a public university, it had absolute immunity from any claims arising from injuries due to poor conditions on the path.

Immunity Law in Indiana

Immunity generally means that an entity or individual is protected from certain types of lawsuits. Governmental immunity specifically indicates federal, state, or local governments’ immunity from certain claims. This generally includes any public entity, like a police department or a university. When governmental immunity exists, government entities are protected from liability in the course of their actions. Sometimes exceptions exist, such as when the action in dispute goes beyond the scope of the government’s duties.

In Indiana, the Tort Claims Act protects governmental entities and public employees. The Act protects entities and employees acting within the scope of employment from a number of types of claims. These acts may include the condition of a trail that provides access to a recreation or scenic area, the condition of unimproved property, the issuance of or refusal to issue a license, and the failure to inspect a property. However, many exceptions also apply, and each case has to be evaluated based on a number of factors.

Have You Been Involved in an Accident on Public Property?

If you have a case involving an slip-and-fall accident on public property, you need experienced attorneys handling your case. A case could be barred due to governmental immunity, and it takes skilled lawyers to make an argument on your behalf. Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse LLP is an Indiana law firm with a strong history of vigorously representing our clients’ interests. The firm is experienced in a broad range of fields, including personal injury law. If you have been involved in an accident in Indiana, call today for your free consultation at (888) 532-7766.

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Court Discusses What Constitutes a “Medical Malpractice” Claim, Versus a Claim of Ordinary Negligence, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, January 6, 2016

Indiana Legislature Proposes Increase in Medical Malpractice Cap, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, January 20, 2016

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