Earlier this month, an appellate court in Vermont decided a case implicating the state’s recreational use statute. In the case, Symonds v. City of Pawtucket, the plaintiff was the mother of a young girl who was injured while she was playing on a playground on city property. The mother filed a premises liability lawsuit against the City, claiming that the City’s negligent maintenance of the property caused her daughter’s injuries.
According to the court’s written opinion, the girl got a splinter while playing on a wooden jungle gym. The mother testified that the condition of the jungle gym was so poor that it “had deteriorated to the point where the wood was frayed, split, and slivered.” After her daughter’s injury, the plaintiff called the Parks and Recreation Department to file a complaint and let them know of her daughter’s injuries. A short time later, she filed a premises liability lawsuit.
At trial, the City asked that the court dismiss the case based on the state’s recreational use statute. A recreational use statute is a law that grants immunity to property owners who open their land up to the recreational uses of others, when others are injured on their land. There is an exception to the recreational use statute when there is willful or malicious conduct. In such cases, there may no longer be immunity, and liability may arise.