Court Rejects Premises Liability Claim under Recreational-Use Statute

bicycleRecently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving the application of the state’s recreational-use statute (RUS). A RUS is a statute that grants qualifying landowners legal immunity from injuries that occur on their land if certain conditions are met. Importantly, the applicability of a RUS must be established by the landowner.

The case is important to Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. slip-and-fall injury victims because each of these jurisdictions has a version of a recreational-use statute that may apply in some situations.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was seriously injured when his bike struck a pothole while he was riding on a path in a park that was maintained by the defendant city. The plaintiff claimed that the city was negligent in allowing the pothole to exist and had acted willfully or maliciously in its failure to warn park visitors or fix the hazard.

The plaintiff presented evidence that the superintendent of the park drove over the path several times per week. However, when asked, the superintendent denied having seen the pothole. The plaintiff questioned the superintendent’s statement, arguing that it would not be possible to drive over the pothole and not notice it. However, the plaintiff did not present any evidence that the pothole was actually present when the superintendent drove on the path or that he had received any complaints about the pothole.

The court granted the city’s motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiff appealed.

The Case Goes up on Appeal

On appeal, the court affirmed the lower court’s decision to dismiss the plaintiff’s case. The court explained that, under the state’s recreational-use statute, a landowner who allows another to use their property, without cost, for recreational purposes cannot be held liable for injuries. The court explained that when the recreational use statute applies, the plaintiff is granted the same rights as a trespasser; meaning that the landowner only owes them a duty to “refrain from willful or wanton conduct.”

Here, the court held that the plaintiff could not establish that the city acted willfully or maliciously because there was insufficient evidence to show that the city knew of the hazard. The court noted that, the plaintiff presented no evidence in support of his argument that the superintendent would have likely seen the hazard had he passed by it several times per week. Thus, the court held that the plaintiff failed to show that there was a material issue of fact regarding the city’s knowledge of the hazard, and the plaintiff’s case was properly dismissed.

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

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Washington, D.C. slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated Washington, D.C. personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC are experienced in bringing all types of personal injury claims in and around the Washington, D.C. area, including in Maryland and Virginia. To learn more about how we can help you recover for the injuries you have sustained, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Court Discusses Duty Owed to Co-Participants in Sporting Events, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, August 28, 2018

Court Considers Peremptory Strike of African-American Juror, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, September 4, 2018

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