Maryland law imposes a duty on landowners to keep their property safe for those whom they invite onto their land. This includes both a duty to remedy any known dangers, as well as a duty to warn visitors about any hazards that may not be readily apparent. However, under Maryland’s recreational use statute, landowners who allow the public to use their land for recreational purposes cannot be held liable by those who are injured on their property as long as the landowner does not charge a fee for the use of their land.
The Maryland recreational use statute is not absolute, and there is an exception for a landowner’s “willful or malicious failure to guard or warn against a dangerous condition.” A recent decision issued by a federal appellate court discusses this exception and when it may apply.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff was seriously injured in a bicycle accident that occurred on land that was owned and maintained by the Air Force Academy. Evidently, the plaintiff was riding his bike along a bicycle path when he encountered a large sinkhole. The sinkhole spanned the width of the path and, despite its large size, was difficult for riders to see as they approached it.
The plaintiff filed a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act against the government. The government argued that the recreational use statute prevented the plaintiff from pursuing his claim against the government.
In response to the government’s argument, the plaintiff presented evidence showing that a government scientist with the Fish and Wildlife Service had discovered the sinkhole prior to the accident. Apparently, the scientist was charged with the “responsibility for managing the natural resources on the Academy’s land, particularly monitoring serious erosion … reporting to the appropriate party if issues were identified.” However, while the scientist took photographs of the sinkhole, he did nothing to fix it and did not report it.
The court concluded that the scientist was aware of the sinkhole as well as the hazard it posed to those who used the bike path. The court reasoned that by failing to take any remedial action, the scientist consciously disregarded the risk the sinkhole presented, thus held that his acts were willful. As a result, the court determined that the government was not entitled to immunity under the recreational use statute.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Bicycle Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland bicycle accident that occurred on another’s property, you may be entitled to financial compensation for the injuries you have sustained. At the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC we represent injury victims and their families and help them pursue claims for compensation in all types of personal injury accidents, including Maryland slip-and-fall claims and bicycle accident cases. To learn more about how we can help you recover for your injuries, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
The Recent Increase in Baltimore Scooter Accidents, Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog, published February 7, 2019.
Recovering for the Wrongful Death of a Loved One Killed in a Maryland Motorcycle Accident, Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog, published February 21, 2019.