Recently, an appeals court issued an opinion stemming from injuries a minor suffered on playground equipment. The minor child’s parents filed an action in front of the Tennessee Claims Commission, arguing that the State was liable for negligence, gross negligence, and gross negligence per se. While climbing on the equipment, the girl fell and fractured her arm. The family argued that her injuries occurred because of inadequate mulch and padding on the playground. Among several claims, they argued that the girl’s injuries arose because the State was negligent in maintaining its property and warning of dangerous conditions. The government denied liability citing Tenn. Code 9-8-307(a)(1)(C) and the Recreational Use Statute. The commissioner found that the Recreational Use Statute provided the State with immunity as a landowner and that the gross negligence exception was not applicable.
Tennessee’s Recreational Use statute provides the State with immunity for injuries occurring on state property during recreational use. The statute provides an exception in cases where the State acted with willful or wanton conduct or gross negligence. However, the statute is a high burden to meet, and the court has previously concluded that after-the-fact concerns about dangerous conditions are insufficient to establish a conscious indifference.
In this case, the plaintiffs concede that the Recreational Use statute provides immunity but argued that the gross negligence exception should apply.