Impact of Federal Court Opinion on Washington D.C. Premises Liability Cases

Washington D.C. encompasses many properties open to the public for recreational use and amusement. While government officials, business owners, and managers take steps to ensure the health and safety of visitors, accidents can happen. Those who suffer injuries at a Washington D.C. park, national monument, museum, arboretum, or similar location should contact an attorney to discuss their rights and remedies.

Do Governments Have a Legal Duty to Keep Their Property Safe?

Yes, generally, government agencies and private property owners maintain a legal duty to make their properties safe from unreasonable risk of harm to visitors and guests. When a property owner fails to ensure the safety of their premises, visitors may face serious injuries. These injuries may stem from icy pathways, uneven surfaces, inadequate or nonexistent security, toxin exposure, and broken steps or handrails. Despite the public policy reasons surrounding the duty to maintain a safe environment, cases involving public properties pose significant burdens on injury victims.

The law imposes different rules on injury victims who wish to pursue personal injury claims against a government agency. To further add to the challenges many injury victims face, the law provides recreational use property owners with certain protections. A recent federal court decision addressed an issue that many premises liability victims encounter when pursuing a claim against an outdoor recreation area owner. In that case, the government maintained a public shower at a beach. According to the record, the government allowed an algae film to develop on the shower floor and did not provide any warning of the film. A couple sued the government for injuries after the husband fell on the shower floor and suffered severe injuries.

The government moved to dismiss the case, arguing that they were immune from suit based on the state’s “recreational-use” statute. The law provides immunity from ordinary negligence to property owners who provide the public with space for outdoor recreational use. The plaintiffs responded that the statute does not protect landowners from liability for injuries to “business visitors.” The plaintiff argued that because he worked for an Air Force Base, he was a business visitor, and the statute did not affect the government’s duty of care or duty to warn them of the danger.

The federal district court reviewed the issue using the plain language of the state’s recreation-use statute. In doing so, they found that the statute protects qualifying landowners from liability regardless of the injury victim’s reason for entry. Therefore, they affirmed the lower court’s ruling in favor of the government.

Have You Suffered Injuries on Public Property in Washington D.C?

If you or someone you love has suffered serious injuries or died because of a property owner’s negligence, the attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen. The personal injury attorneys at our law firm understand the devastating toll that another’s negligence can have on a person and their loved ones. We work to ensure that our clients receive the representation and outcome they deserve. Our law firm handles claims resulting from Washington, D.C. motor vehicle accidents, premises liability, product liability, and medical malpractice. We have experience handling complex claims against negligent private parties, government entities, and insurance companies. Contact our office at 800-654-1949 to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney on our team.



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