City and County Liability Related to Accidents Occurring in Maryland Public Parks

If an individual is injured at a public park in Maryland, the individual’s negligence claim may be barred under governmental immunity. In state parks (owned and operated by the State of Maryland), the state is often protected under sovereign immunity. In county and city parks (owned and operated by a country or a municipality), local governments may similarly be protected under governmental immunity. Yet, the governmental immunity that protects cities and counties is more limited than the state’s sovereign immunity. In cases involving local governments, they are only immune from a civil suit if the conduct at issue is categorized as “governmental.” If the case is based on activity by a local government, it is only immune if the conduct at issue is “private,” “corporate,” or “proprietary.”

In general, Maryland courts have found that governmental activities are solely for the public’s benefit, sanctioned by the legislature, and do not involve private interest. Courts have also found that the difference between governmental activities and proprietary activities are activities that are performed for the common good as opposed to activities that are carried out for the benefit or profit of a corporation. In practice, the line between governmental and proprietary activities is not always clear cut, and often depends on the factual circumstances of the individual case.

In a recent state appellate case, the court considered whether the county was immune from suit for an allegedly dangerous condition on a park trail. In that case, there was a trail located within a park that was owned and operated by the county. There had previously been a wooden lodge pole fence in the park that ran across one-half of the trail loops, which cyclists had to maneuver around. The plaintiff had ridden his bike on the trail several times before his accident and knew that the fence was there.

However, at some point, the fence was replaced with wooden fence posts with wire cables connecting them. The plaintiff did not know about the new fence until he saw it while riding his bicycle on the trail one day. He saw the fence posts but did not notice the cables strung between the fence posts. He tried to ride between the fence posts, but ran into the wire cables, causing him to be thrown off his bike, resulting in serious injuries. The bicyclist alleged that the county was liable based on a dangerous condition of public property. However, the state had a statute that provided that the government was immune from suit for injuries caused by the condition of a trail used for recreational activities. Thus, because the allegedly dangerous condition was the new fencing, which was part of the park trail, the court found the county was immune from suit.

Contact a Maryland Personal Injury Lawyer for Assistance with Your Claim

If you have been injured at a city, county, or state park, you likely will have to deal with the issue of immunity. However, there are exceptions in many cases, so it is important to have a knowledgeable injury attorney to evaluate your case. The dedicated Maryland premises liability attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen have handled all types of injury claims for residents in Baltimore and throughout Maryland. Our legal team provides each client with personal attention, from the initial consultation until the conclusion of the case. Contact us at (800) 654-1949 or through our online form.

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