Court Dismisses Accident Victim’s Lawsuit Against University Based on “Absolute Immunity”

Earlier this month, an appellate court affirmed the dismissal of a plaintiff’s case against the University of California Santa Cruz based on the university’s absolute immunity in building and maintaining a bike path. In the case, Burgueno v. The Regents of the University of California, the court determined that a bike path used by students to get to school was a “trail” designed for recreational use, and therefore the university was entitled to immunity from lawsuits arising on the trail under state law.

Burgueno v. The Regents of the University of California:  The Facts of the Case

The accident giving rise to the case occurred on the Great Meadow Bikeway, which is a bicycle-only path that runs through the university’s campus. On the day of the accident, the plaintiff, a full-time student at the university who lived in off-campus housing, was riding his bike on the Great Meadow Bikeway when he was fatally injured in a bicycle accident that occurred on a downhill portion of the trail. As a result, his family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the university, alleging that the dangerous condition of the Bikeway resulted in the student’s death.

In a pre-trial motion, the university sought to dismiss the lawsuit based on governmental immunity. Government entities cannot always be held liable for injuries occurring on government land, and recreational use statutes grant immunity to governments when the land at issue is open for general recreation purposes. However, this would not apply if the bikeway’s main purpose was for transportation and not recreation. Thus, the issue in this case was whether the Great Meadow Bikeway was a “trail” under the recreational use statute, or whether its primary function was to transport people to and from campus.

The court considered the evidence and ultimately determined that the bikeway was used for both recreation and transport to and from the school. Since the court found that the bikeway was “mixed-use,” governmental immunity was proper under state law. Thus, the plaintiff’s premises liability lawsuit was dismissed.

Maryland’s Recreational Use Statute

In Maryland, as in California, the legislature has implemented a recreational use statute to protect those who open their land to the public for its recreational use. Under Maryland law, anyone (including a government) who opens their land to the public for recreation purposes, and does not charge a fee for doing so, does not “assume responsibility for or incur liability as a result of any injury” occurring on the land. Thus, it is very important that anyone who was injured on the land of another party contact a dedicated personal injury attorney to discuss the merits of their case and whether the recreational use statute may be applicable.

Have You Been Injured on Another’s Property?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured while on the land of another, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for your injuries. It is very important, regardless of where your injury occurred, that you speak with a skilled advocate who can give you an honest assessment of your case prior to filing a lawsuit. The personal injury lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have decades of combined experience recovering compensation on behalf of their clients in all kinds of Maryland accidents. Call 410-654-3600 today to set up your free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Court Upholds “Release of Liability” Form in Whitewater Rafting Accident, Maryland Accident Law Blog, January 18, 2016.

Court Holds Hospital Slip-and-Fall Accident Does Not Trigger Medical Malpractice Requirements, Maryland Accident Law Blog, January 4, 2016.

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