Court Finds that Recreational Use Statute Protected City in Lawsuit Stemming from Baseball Game Injury

Earlier this month, an appellate court in Rhode Island issued a written opinion in which the court had to apply the recreational use statute to determine whether the defendant city could be held liable for injuries occurring at a recreational baseball game. Ultimately, the court held that the city was entitled to immunity and that the plaintiff’s argument that the city had prior notice of the field’s dangerous condition was not able to be considered on appeal because it was not argued below.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs in the case were the parents of a boy who was playing a recreational game of baseball in a park owned and operated by the defendant city. During the game, the plaintiffs’ son slid into home plate, and his ankle and lower leg got lodged under the plate. When their son tried to stand up after the slide, he broke his leg in two places.

The plaintiffs filed a premises liability lawsuit against the city, arguing that it was negligent in maintaining the baseball diamond. In a pre-trial motion for summary judgment, the city argued that it was entitled to immunity from the lawsuit under the recreational use statute.

A recreational use statute is a law that confers immunity to landowners when they open their land for the general enjoyment of the public. In order to qualify, the landowner cannot charge a fee for those who use their land. Importantly, even when the doctrine applies, it does not grant immunity against willful or intentional conduct on the part of the landowner.

The plaintiffs offered only a generic “objection” at trial without any elaboration or specification. The judge overruled the objection and dismissed the case, finding that the recreational use statute protected the city in this case. On appeal, the plaintiffs presented the appellate court with a signed letter from another citizen who claimed to have given the city written notice that the baseball diamond was in poor condition several weeks before the plaintiffs’ son’s accident. The plaintiffs argued that this showed a willful or intentional failure to warn and argued that immunity should not apply.

The court, however, refused to consider the evidence because the specific argument that the city knew about the dangerous condition of the baseball diamond was never made at trial. The court explained that it can only review decisions made by the lower court, and by not presenting the lower court with the argument, the plaintiffs waived their right to bring the argument on appeal.

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

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of Washington, D.C. slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. It is important for you to keep in mind, however, that depending on the party named as a defendant, certain defenses may come up at or before trial. It is best that you consult with a dedicated attorney to prepare for and anticipate these defenses. Call 410-654-3600 today to schedule a free consultation with a dedicated personal injury attorney to discuss your case.

More Blog Posts:

Court Applies “Natural Accumulation” Rule in Affirming Dismissal of Slip-and-Fall Plaintiff’s Case, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, February 23, 2017

Appellate Court Upholds $21 Million Verdict in Medical Malpractice Case, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, February 2, 2017

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