Court Applies Government Immunity in Bicycle Accident, Dismissing Plaintiff’s Claim

Earlier this month, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit released a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit against the federal government, alleging that the United States Forest Service, through its employees, was negligent in the maintenance of bike trails in a forest. The court ultimately determined that the alleged acts of negligence were covered under governmental immunity, and it rejected the plaintiff’s claims.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff and a friend were mountain biking in the De Soto National Forest. The bikers began their trip at the Couch Loop Trail. While the trail was closed, the plaintiff did not stop at the trail-head bulletin board, where the notice of closure was posted.

The plaintiff and her friend rode the Couch Loop Trail until they decided to take an “alternate route” to the left. This alternate route led the bikers to an area with several obstacles that had been built by a local bike association. As the plaintiff attempted to negotiate one of the obstacles, she fell off her bike and was seriously injured. She then filed a premises liability lawsuit against the U.S. government, claiming that the Forest Service was negligent in its maintenance of the bike trails. The plaintiff also alleged that the Forest Service was negligent in failing to warn her about the potential dangerous conditions present on the trails.

The Court’s Analysis

The court determined that the U.S. government was entitled to government immunity, and the plaintiff’s lawsuit must be dismissed. The court explained that government immunity can protect even negligent acts – or failures to act – in certain circumstances. Specifically, discretionary acts of government employees that are based on “considerations of social, economic, or political public policy” concerns may not be the basis of government liability.

Here, the court determined that the alleged acts of negligence were discretionary. The court explained that while the Forest Service was mandated to keep the trails safe, no specific method of maintenance was required. Additionally, the fact that there were over 382,000 acres and hundreds of miles of trails required that the forest rangers use their judgment when determining how to maintain the trails. The court also concluded that the Forest Service’s decisions were based on “considerations of social, economic, or political public policy,” and therefore, the government was entitled to immunity. As a result, the plaintiff’s case against the government will not proceed toward trial.

Have You Been Injured on Government Land?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured while on government property, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. While governments are entitled to immunity in some situations, there are many instances in which immunity is not present. To learn more about premises liability cases against state, local, or federal government entities, contact a dedicated personal injury attorney at the South Florida law firm of Friedman, Rodman & Frank at 877-449-8585 to schedule a free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Florida Appellate Court Invalidates Arbitration Agreement, Rejecting Nursing Home’s Argument, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published March 30, 2017.

State Court of Appeals Invalidates Nursing Home Arbitration Contract, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published April 13, 2017.

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