What is Washington’s Recreational Use Immunity Statute?
Intended to encourage Washington landowners to open up parts of their property for public recreational use, the recreational immunity statute provides immunity from liability for any injuries sustained while in use.
The recreational immunity statute protects the county and private landowners from suit if they can show that the land is open to members of the public, for recreational purposes and that there is no cost or charge associated with the use of the land.
In order to claim the recreational immunity statute as a defense, the county must prove that the land and use cases in question qualify. As mentioned earlier, there are also exceptions to this statute that prevent a landowner from asserting an immunity defense. The relevant exception in this case involves determining whether an obstacle is a latent condition; meaning a physical condition on or near the site that could not reasonably have been anticipated.
The judges tasked with reviewing this appeal concluded 2-1 in our favor, concluding that the expert witnesses we hired for this case had established that the bollard post in question was practically invisible to people using the trail in certain conditions.
Why Would the Recreational Immunity Statute Not Apply?
In a similar case involving a bollard on the I-90 bicycle trail near Seattle, King County again had a claim successfully dismissed via summary judgment only to be reversed in an appeal due to the fact that the land was open to uses beyond recreation, namely transportation.
In their ruling, the court found that simply because a piece of land is open for recreation, does not free landowners from all liability for any additional uses of the land, finding that if that were the case it could be argued that roadways could apply, relieving the government of any duty to maintain reasonably safe conditions.
Under the provisions of the recreational immunity statute, a person who suffered injuries due to a known dangerous condition would be barred from suing the landowner, even if the conditions were not properly marked.
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