Court Narrowly Interprets Immunity Statute in Recent Bicycle Injury Case

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury lawsuit that presented an interesting issue that many Maryland bicycle accident plaintiffs encounter when seeking compensation for their injuries. The case involved the interpretation of a recreational use statute and required the court to determine whether the trail where the plaintiff was injured was covered under the statute’s grant of immunity. Ultimately, the court concluded that the trail where the plaintiff’s injury occurred was not the type the legislature intended to include within the statute’s text. As a result, the plaintiff’s case was permitted to proceed toward trial or settlement negotiations.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured while riding with a group of friends on a paved biking trail. Evidently, there was an area of the trail where the pavement had started to break away, due to vegetation that grew up through the pavement. The trail was paved and was painted with a yellow line to designate directional travel. The path was also used by an electric company to access power lines that ran to nearby neighborhoods. The path intersected not just with other mixed-use paths but also with several roads.

As the plaintiff was riding behind a friend, her friend fell off her bike, causing the plaintiff to fall as well. The plaintiff was seriously injured as a result of the fall and filed a premises liability lawsuit against the city that was in charge of maintaining the path.

The city claimed that it was entitled to immunity, based on the state’s recreational use statute that prevented an accident victim from holding a government party liable for injuries occurring on “any hiking, riding, fishing or hunting trail.” The trial court agreed with the city that the plaintiff’s injury occurred on a trail, and it granted the city’s motion for summary judgment.

On initial appeal, the intermediate appellate court reversed the lower court’s ruling, finding that the path where the plaintiff fell was not considered a “trail” under the statute. The city appealed to the state’s high court.

On appeal to the state’s high court, the intermediate appellate court’s decision was affirmed, albeit for different reasons. The court reasoned that the path was a “trail” as defined by the statute, but it was not the type of trail that the legislature intended to cover with the statute’s language. The court explained that the statute specifically mentioned “hiking, riding, fishing, or hunting” trails, which the court noted to all be “rustic, primitive, or unimproved.” Here, the path at issue was not rustic or unimproved but was paved and painted. Thus, the court concluded that the city was not entitled to immunity, and the plaintiff’s case should proceed.

Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland bicycle accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. While Maryland does have a recreational use statute that will apply in some limited circumstances, many claims will not trigger a defendant’s immunity. To learn more about Maryland premises liability law, and to speak with a dedicated Maryland personal injury attorney about your case, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Motorcycle Accidents Involving Semi-Trucks, Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog, published November 27, 2017.

Maryland Motorcycle Accidents Caused by Inattentive Drivers, Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog, published December 6, 2017.

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