Court Permits Plaintiff’s Lawsuit Based on Injury Sustained Due to Falling Tree Branch on Public Property

Earlier this month, an appellate court in California issued a written opinion in a premises liability case in which the plaintiff was injured by a falling tree branch while visiting a public marine park. The court was tasked with determining whether the plaintiff’s claim was barred by the trail immunity, which confers immunity to state and local governments when someone is injured while using a public trail. Ultimately, the court concluded that since the plaintiff’s injury was caused by the falling tree branch, rather than the trail itself, immunity did not attach, and the plaintiff was permitted to continue forward with her lawsuit.

Live Oak TreeThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff and a friend were visiting Mission Bay Park, which is the largest marine park in the United States. The two were walking on or near a path when a branch from a eucalyptus tree fell, injuring the plaintiff. She filed a premises liability lawsuit against the government entity in charge of maintaining the park, claiming that the tree was negligently maintained.

The government claimed it was immune from liability under trail immunity. However, the court explained that the injury was not caused by a defect or dangerous condition of the trail itself, but instead by the negligently maintained tree. Thus, trail immunity did not apply.

The court then went on to explain that even if trail immunity did apply, there was a dispute as to where the plaintiff was standing when the injury occurred, making summary judgment in favor of the government improper.

Trail Immunity and Recreational Use Immunity

The court deciding the case discussed above applied the state’s trail immunity statute, which bars government liability when an injury occurs on a public trail, road, or path. In Maryland, the equivalent statute is called the recreational use statute, and it is somewhat broader than a trail immunity statute.

Recreational use immunity applies to any person or government entity that opens up their land for the public’s recreational use. In order for recreational use immunity to apply, the landowner cannot charge a fee for the entrance or use of the land. However, when recreational use immunity does apply, the landowner cannot be held liable unless they act willfully or intentionally to cause harm to another person.

Thus, this case may have turned out differently in Maryland, where there is a broader grant of immunity to landowners. However, anyone considering a Maryland, Virginia, or Washington, D.C. premises liability lawsuit should consult with an attorney as soon as possible for advice on whether they may have a case and how to most effectively proceed.

Have You Been a Victim of a Maryland Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured while on the land of another party, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Maryland premises liability lawsuit. The dedicated Maryland personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have decades of combined experience helping their clients seek the compensation they deserve through all types of personal injury actions. We provide all accident victims with a free consultation and case evaluation so that you can be better informed about your options. Call 410-654-3600 to schedule your consultation today. Calling is risk-free, since we will not bill you for our services unless and until we can help you obtain the compensation you rightfully deserve.

More Blog Posts:

Personal Injury Cases Based on Maryland Sports Injuries, Maryland Accident Law Blog, August 1, 2017.

Appellate Court Determines Slip-and-Fall Plaintiff’s Case Should Have Been Presented to the Jury, Maryland Accident Law Blog, July 10, 2017.

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