Recreational Use Statute May Prevent Accident Victims from Holding Negligent Landowners Responsible

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit brought by a man who was permanently paralyzed after he dove into a state-owned pond, breaking his neck. In the case, Roy v. State, the court ultimately dismissed the plaintiff’s claim against the government, based on the state’s recreational use statute.

PondRecreational Use Statutes in General

A recreational use statute is a legislatively enacted law that acts to prevent injured accident victims from holding certain property owners financially responsible. Specifically, the recreational use statute grants immunity to those who open their land for the general enjoyment of the public. In order for the doctrine to apply, the landowner must not be receiving a fee from the people using the land.

In Virginia, the recreational use statute requires qualifying property owners to remain free of liability for any dangerous condition on their land unless the owner acts with “gross negligence” or a “willful or malicious failure to guard or warn against a dangerous condition.”

The Facts of Roy v. State

Roy and his friends arrived at a state-owned pond to enjoy the water. While there were signs posted around the pond that there was not to be any swimming in the pond, the locals understood that the rules were not enforced, and swimming in the pond was a regular occurrence. There were, however, signs explaining that diving specifically was prohibited.

On the day in question, Roy parked the car and ran toward the pond. He briefly looked in the pond before jumping in. The facts as outlined in the court’s opinion note that there was a dispute as to whether Roy dove in head-first or whether he employed a “shallow dive,” entering the water at more of an angle. Regardless, Roy struck the bottom of the pond and broke his neck. He was paralyzed as a result.

In Roy’s case against the government, the government asserted recreational immunity. The appellate court determined that such immunity was appropriate here because there was insufficient evidence to prove that the government acted with the necessary level of gross negligence in failing to guard against this type of injury. As a result, sadly, Roy and his family will not be permitted to recover compensation for the serious injuries he sustained.

Have You Been Injured on Another Party’s Property?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured on the land of another party, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Virginia premises liability lawsuit. These cases, depending on the specific facts presented, can be extremely complex and may involve issues of immunity that must be overcome. To learn more about premises liability cases in Virginia, call one of the experienced spinal cord injury attorneys at Charles B. Roberts & Associates. With their experience, you will feel comfortable knowing that your case is in good hands. Call 403-491-7070 to set up your free consultation today.

See More Blog Posts:

Court Declines to Extend Government Liability in Fatal Motorcycle Accident Case, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, Jul7 13, 2016.

State Supreme Court Orders New Trial in Slip and Fall Case, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, June 29, 2016.