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.
In support of their argument, the plaintiffs presented evidence that the park rangers performed mere “drive-by” inspections where they would only look at the equipment from a distance. Further, they contend that the inspections were inadequate because photos show that the playground had little to no padding under the equipment. Moreover, the plaintiffs pointed to depositions of a park ranger who agreed that the photos depict a “hazardous” condition.
However, the court reasoned that gross negligence refers to instances where one acts with “utter unconcern” or reckless disregard of the safety of others. Further, the gross negligence exception to the Recreational Use statute only applies in the most egregious cases. Here, they found that the park ranger’s admission that the playground looked dangerous is not enough to establish utter disregard. Additionally, there is no dispute that the State lacked knowledge of the dangerous condition of the playground. As such, the court affirmed the Commission’s findings.
Have You Suffered Injuries at a Park or Playground?
If you or someone you love has suffered injuries or died because of negligence, contact the Hartsoe Law Firm. The personal injury lawyers at our office provide clients with excellent representation. Attorney Hartsoe has decades of experience successfully resolving cases for those who have suffered injuries stemming from car accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, premises liability, defective products, medical malpractice, construction site accidents, and nursing home abuse and neglect. He has recovered significant amounts of compensation on behalf of clients and their loved ones. These cases require the experience and diligence of an attorney who has a solid and in-depth understanding of complex Tennessee injury laws. In addition to that knowledge, Attorney Hartsoe consistently provides clients with respect and compassion during all stages of their claim. Contact the Knoxville accident lawyer Mark Hartsoe at 865-524-5657 to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case.