Appellate Court Rejects City’s Assertion of Immunity in Recent Personal Injury Case

Last month, a California appellate court issued an interesting opinion in a premises liability case that was brought against a city after a baby was struck by a golf ball while riding in a stroller on a nearby walking path. The court was tasked with determining whether the city was entitled to trail immunity, based on the fact that the injury occurred while the plaintiff was on a public walkway. Ultimately, the court determined that the city was not entitled to immunity because the hazard that caused the accident was not physically a part of the government-owned trail, nor was it sufficiently related to the trail.

Government Immunity

As a general rule, government entities cannot be named as defendants in personal injury lawsuits without the government entity’s consent. However, statutes passed by state legislatures across the country carve out large exceptions to this general rule. One of the biggest exceptions is when a dangerous condition of government-owned land causes an injury. However, under a related statute, when the injury occurs on an unpaved road that is used for recreational purposes, the government is entitled to immunity. In Maryland and Washington, D.C., this principle is known as recreational use immunity, and it may confer immunity on any landowner who opens his or her land to the public at no cost.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a young child who was struck by a golf ball as his mother was walking him along a government-owned path that abutted a golf course. A few years before, after someone was struck by an errant golf ball, the golf course installed a concrete wall separating the golf course from the path. There was also a chain-link fence atop the concrete fence.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against both the city as well as the golf course. Before the case reached trial, the city was successful in getting the case dismissed based on trial immunity. The plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the case was reversed. The appellate court assumed that the path was a trail as defined under the statute, but it noted that the injury occurred due to a third party’s involvement, rather than because of a dangerous condition of the trail itself. The court conducted a thorough analysis of the statutory text, as well as previous decisions involving similar factual scenarios, before determining that there was an insufficient link between the trail and the hazard to confer immunity.

Have You Been Injured in a Washington, D.C. Slip and Fall Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured while on the property of another person or business, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident and the extent of your injuries, you may be able to receive compensation for your past and future medical expenses, lost wages, and any pain and suffering you endured as a result of the accident. Call the Maryland and Washington, D.C. law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers at 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case. You will not be obligated to continue forward with your case unless it is your desire to do so.

More Blog Posts:

Plaintiff’s Slip-and-Fall Case Against Fast Food Restaurant Allowed to Proceed, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, May 9, 2017

Legal Liability for Accidents Occurring on Guided Tours in Washington, D.C., Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, May 23, 2017

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