Injured in Public Park in Georgia? Watch out for Immunity

A little girl falls 30 feet through the stands at a baseball park and gets injured badly. The parents sue the City and the City moves to have the case thrown out arguing  that under the state’s Recreational Property Act (RPA), contained in Georgia Code section 51-3-20, et seq.,  because the little girl herself did not have an admission charge because of her age, her parents cannot bring the case against the City.  It’s a pretty awful result and a narrow ruling. Think about it; the parent pays two bucks for the game and has the right to recover for an injury if they are hurt through the City’s negligence, but because kids enter free, they are off the hook. The state appellate court issued an opinion in a Georgia premises liability lawsuit requiring the court to discuss and the court’s literal interpretation of the statutory language led it to find that the plaintiff was precluded from recovering compensation for her injuries because she was not charged a fee to enter the defendant’s property.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a young girl who was attending a youth football game with her parents. The plaintiff’s parents were charged a $2 admission fee for entry into the game, but the plaintiff was allowed free entrance because she was under six years old at the time. While the plaintiff was at the game, she slipped and fell through a gap in the bench seating. The plaintiff fell approximately 30 feet to the ground below, resulting in serious injuries. The plaintiff, through her parents, filed a premises liability lawsuit against the city that owned and operated the stadium.

The city moved for summary judgment, arguing that it was entitled to immunity from the plaintiff’s lawsuit under the RPA. Specifically, the statute provides that a landowner who “invites or permits without charge any person to use the property for recreational purposes does not . . . [a]ssume responsibility for or incur liability for any injury to person or property caused by an act of omission of such persons.” Quite simply, the city claimed that since the plaintiff was not charged a fee and was attending the game for recreational purposes, the city should be entitled to immunity. The plaintiff’s position was that the RPA did not apply because the city did charge some attendees admission.

The court began its analysis by noting that courts generally “must afford the statutory text its plain and ordinary meaning.” That being the case, the court took the language in the RPA to mean that a landowner is only liable to those who are charged a fee to enter their land, and they cannot be liable to those who were granted free access. The court explained that “nothing in the RPA requires that all participants in recreational activities on a landowner’s property must enter free of charge for the landowner to enjoy immunity,” and the court was not willing to read in a requirement that was not included in the statutory text.

Have You Been Injured in a Georgia Slip-and-Fall Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in an Atlanta slip and fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. However, it is important that you consult with a dedicated Atlanta personal injury attorney to discuss your case and prepare for any defenses that may arise. Attorney Christopher Simon and his carefully selected team of fellow personal injury attorneys have decades of collective experience handling personal injury cases, including significant experience working for insurance companies. Given this valuable experience working for the other side, Attorney Christopher Simon can effectively represent clients in a wide range of Georgia personal injury claims. To learn more, call (404) 259-7635 to schedule a free consultation today.