Hayes v. City of Plummer – Premises Liability and Recreational Use Statutes

Our laws hold property owners who invite others on site to a high standard in terms of protection of those guests. That involves making sure there are no unreasonable hazards and remedying those issues or warning guests when remedy isn’t immediately possible. grassypark

However, there are many caveats to these statutes, and recreational use statutes are among those. Florida’s recreational use statute is codified in F.S. 375.251. It states that there is a limitation on liability when the person has made available property or certain public areas for recreational purposes without charge. The statute indicates there is no presumption that the area is safe and there is no duty of care incurred by the land owner to those who use the site.

This is similar to the recreational use statute followed in Idaho, where the case of Hayes v. City of Plummer was recently weighed by the Idaho Supreme Court. The case stems from the serious injury suffered by a grandfather who fell on uneven ground that was concealed by grass while attending his grandson’s youth football game at a school park owned by the city.

According to court records in this trip-and-fall lawsuit, the grandfather did not pay any admission fee to enter the park, and neither did the football teams pay a fee to use the property for the game.

After plaintiff filed his lawsuit against the city and the school district, defendants moved for summary judgment based on the recreational use statute.

That summary judgment request noted the history of the park’s usage. The park was conveyed to the city for $10 back in 1976, and the formal agreement indicated the park was to be used for outdoor recreational use by the general public. The city in turn applied for federal grants (which the school was not eligible to receive, hence the reason the agreement was initiated) that allowed the city to make general improvements to the park for public use.

Still, both the school and the city maintained the facilities.

The school paid for all water, electric and maintenance and made significant improvements to the property. It also retained insurance on the property and controlled the schedule for organized events. However, the city technically owned it, though it was generally open for public use at no charge.

District court agreed that based on the totality of evidence, defendants were protected by the immunity afforded under the recreational use statute because neither received monetary compensation for use of the land on which plaintiff suffered his injury.

Plaintiff appealed.

The issue he raised was whether the school district’s payments for utilities, insurance, maintenance and improvements constituted a “charge” to the school in exchange for the park’s use. If he could prove the city was in fact charging for use, he could circumvent the recreational use statute.

However, the state supreme court disagreed with his assertion. The court could find no statutory authority on which to suggest that third-party scheduling or organization of events on public property resulted in a forfeiture of landowner immunity under the law.

Further, there was no assertion that either the school district or the city obtained any benefit from plaintiff’s entry into the park. He paid no admission fee or parking costs or any expense at all.

Still, plaintiff argued defendants were receiving tangible economic benefits by permitting the public to access the land. However, state supreme court disagreed and affirmed.

Anytime there is a premises liability lawsuit that doesn’t involve a business that operates for profit, there may be complexities. It’s imperative to contact an experienced premises liability lawyer for careful consideration of legal options.

If you have been injured in Naples, contact the Hollander Law Firm at 888-751-7777 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.

Additional Resources:

Hayes v. City of Plummer , Sept. 30, 2015, Idaho Supreme Court

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Seaboard Marine v. Clark – Citing Work Privilege to Withhold Post-Accident Evidence, Sept. 28, 2015, Naples Injury Lawyer Blog