Earlier this year, a state supreme court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case raising an important issue for Maryland bicycle accident victims who were injured while riding on public property. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss whether a government landowner was entitled to immunity under the state’s recreational use statute when the path where the injury occurred was used for both recreational and non-recreational purposes.
Finding that there was no language in the state’s recreational use statute requiring that land be used exclusively for recreational purposes in order for immunity to attach, the court determined that the government landowner was entitled to immunity. Thus, the accident victim’s case was dismissed.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was riding a bicycle with her niece along an asphalt path that was owned and maintained by the defendant municipality. The path was designated as a non-motorized path, and it was commonly used for recreational purposes. However, the path was labeled as “mixed use” and was also used by some commuters as a way to get to work.
As the plaintiff passed a lawnmower that was kicking up a cloud of dust and debris, she covered her face. However, in so doing, the plaintiff swerved, clipping the side of her niece’s bike. This caused the plaintiff to lose control of her bike and fall to the ground. As a result of the fall, the plaintiff suffered injuries to her leg and knee.
The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the local government. In response, the government claimed that it was entitled to immunity under the state’s recreational use statute, which provides immunity to landowners who “allow members of the public to use [their land] for the purposes of outdoor recreation . . . without charging a fee.”
The trial court agreed with the government and dismissed the plaintiff’s case, finding that the government had allowed the plaintiff to use the land, without charge, for recreational purposes. However, on appeal to the state’s intermediate appellate court, the case was reversed in favor of the plaintiff. The court determined that, since the land was not solely used for recreational purposes, the recreational use statute did not apply.
The government appealed the case to the state’s high court, and the case was reversed again, this time in favor of the government. That court held that there was no language in the recreational use statute limiting immunity to situations in which the land in question was solely used for recreational purposes. Thus, the court was unwilling to read such language into the statute on its own.
The court explained that the purpose of a recreational use statute is to encourage landowners to open up their land for free public use without fear of incurring financial liability. The court then went on to note that requiring a finding that the land in question was exclusively used for recreational purposes limited the statute’s intended purpose.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Bicycle Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a bicycle accident that occurred on the land of another party, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. While issues of immunity may arise in some cases, it is best to consult with a dedicated Maryland personal injury attorney to discuss your case before making any decisions. The skilled personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have extensive experience assisting Maryland bicycle accident victims with pursuing compensation for the injuries they have sustained, and we provide free consultations to accident victims to discuss their cases. Call 410-654-3600 to schedule your free consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
Court Rejects Plaintiff’s Product Liability Case Following Serious Personal Watercraft Injury, Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog, published April 19, 2018.
Evidence of a Motorcyclist’s Failure to Wear a Helmet is Not Admissible in a Maryland Personal Injury Lawsuit, Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog, published May 4, 2018.