Court Applies Recreational-Use Immunity in Public Park Slip-and-Fall Case

Earlier this year, an appellate court in Alabama issued a written opinion in a premises liability case that required the court to discuss the state’s recreational-use statute and determine if the defendant, a government entity, was entitled to immunity. Ultimately, the court determined that the plaintiff failed to establish that an exception to the general grant of immunity applied, and therefore the government entity was determined to be immune from liability.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was attending a July 4th celebration at a park that was owned and operated by the defendant city. The plaintiff arrived at the park by car and parked in a designated parking space. At the border of the parking lot were large vertical poles used to designate the parking area. These poles had holes at the top so that cables could be run through, connecting the poles. While on the day of the plaintiff’s injury there were no cables running through the poles, there were diagonal crossbars present used as support beams.

As the plaintiff exited her vehicle, she negotiated her way around the poles without incident. The plaintiff attended the firework display. However, on the way back to her car, she tripped on one of the diagonal support bars connecting the poles. She filed a premises liability lawsuit against the city, arguing that the poles and the attached support beams constituted a dangerous hazard and that the city should have warned park-goers.

The plaintiff explained that she had been going to the park for many years to enjoy the fireworks, and she had never had a problem with the poles before. She admitted that the park did have overhead lighting, but it was “very poor.”

The city asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit based on the state’s recreational-use statute, which prevents a landowner from being held liable for injuries occurring on land that is available for free public use. The city explained that the park was free to the public and that immunity should apply.

The plaintiff argued that an exception to the general grant of immunity applied and that the court should not find that the city was entitled to immunity. In order for the exception to apply, the plaintiff had to establish that the city had knowledge of the hazard. The court determined that the plaintiff failed to prove this element. The court explained that, under the relevant statute, the plaintiff could not rely on constructive knowledge and must prove that the city had actual knowledge of the hazard. Here, the court concluded that the plaintiff failed to establish the city had actual knowledge, so the exception to the general grant of immunity did not apply.

As a result of the court’s decision, the plaintiff will not be entitled to recover compensation for the injuries she sustained in the slip-and-fall accident.

Have You Been Injured on Another Party’s Property?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland or Washington, D.C. slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The skilled attorneys at the Washington, D.C. personal injury law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have extensive experience helping accident victims seek the compensation they deserve through a variety of personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. Call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation with a dedicated personal injury attorney today.

More Blog Posts:

Appellate Court Rejects City’s Assertion of Immunity in Recent Personal Injury Case, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, June 9, 2017

Court Rejects Slip-and-Fall Plaintiff’s Case for Lack of Evidence, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, June 30, 2017

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