Earlier this month, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit brought by an injured bicyclist against the federal government. The case required the court to determine if the plaintiff’s case was barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity, which generally grants immunity to government actors acting in a discretionary manner. Ultimately, the court determined that the government employees were acting in a discretionary manner and that the government was entitled to immunity.
The plaintiff was with a friend, mountain biking in the De Soto National Forest. The two began their ride on the Couch Loop Trail. However, the plaintiff did not stop at the trail-head’s bulletin board, which displayed a sign indicating that the loop was closed.
The plaintiff rode on the trail for a while, before taking an “alternate route.” This alternate route contained some obstacles that were illegally built by members of a local bike club. The plaintiff rode over one of the obstacles and fell, seriously injuring herself. She then filed a premises liability lawsuit against the federal government, claiming that it was negligent in maintaining the trail, as well as negligent for failing to warn her about the dangerous conditions present on the trail.