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Recreational Land Use Immunity

On behalf of two Alabama cities as “friends of the court,” Terry Sides is participating in a pivotal case about municipal and recreational land use immunities.

The case concerns an accident which occurred at a recreational park owned by a city in North Alabama. The accident occurred when the plaintiff was returning to her car after dark following a fireworks show and tripped and fell over a diagonal crossbar supporting a metal post which had previously held a metal cable separating the parking area from the rest of the park. The plaintiff contends the area where she fell constitutes an exception to Alabama’s recreational land use statutes because it was a “hidden danger.” Those statutes define and limit the duties of an owner of recreational land to a person using the land for recreational purposes, and they essentially provide that an owner of such land owes no duty to its users except for injury caused by a “willful or malicious” failure to guard or warn against a known dangerous condition on the premises.

A central legal issue in the case is the interplay between the recreational land use statutes and Alabama’s statutory and case law which fully immunize Alabama cities and towns from claims for willful and malicious conduct. The resolution of this issue is very important to most (if not all) Alabama cities and towns, which are prolific landowners of parks, hiking trails, walking tracks, sports fields, ponds, splash pads, and other non-commercial recreational lands and facilities.

The trial court rejected the North Alabama city’s claims of immunity, but the case is currently on appeal before the Supreme Court of Alabama.

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