New Mexico’s Recreational-Use Statute and How It May Bar Some Slip-and-Fall Lawsuits

New Mexico is a beautiful state with huge amounts of open land that can be used for recreational purposes, whether it be hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, or hunting. To encourage landowners, including local governments, to open up their land to the public, New Mexico lawmakers have passed a recreational-use statute that provides immunity from liability for some accidents that occur on a party’s land.

FireworksNot all landowners are immune from liability, however. After an accident occurs, the burden is on the landowner to prove that they are entitled to recreational-use immunity. In order to qualify, the landowner must establish that they did not receive any compensation from the person who was injured on their land. Even then, there are several exceptions that apply. A recent case illustrates how another state court handled a slip-and-fall plaintiff’s claim against a city for an injury that occurred in a public park.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff planned on watching the 4th of July firework display at a park that was owned and operated by the defendant city. The plaintiff arrived at the park in the morning, and upon exiting her car, she made her way past a set of vertical poles used to establish the bounds of the parking area. The plaintiff later explained that she didn’t pay much attention to the poles as she walked by them, and even if she had looked at them, they would not have caught her attention.

The plaintiff remained at the park until about 9:30 that evening. After the firework show concluded, she made her way back to her car. However, on the way, she tripped and fell on a diagonal cross-bar that was used as a support for one of the vertical poles. The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the city, claiming that the pole was a dangerous hazard of which she was not warned. The plaintiff had an expert testify that the poor lighting, in conjunction with the diagonal cross-bar, created an unreasonably dangerous hazard.

The city asked the court to dismiss the case based on its asserted recreational-use immunity. The plaintiff did not argue that the city had opened up its land for free recreational use, but the plaintiff claimed that an exception to the recreational-use statute applied. Specifically, the plaintiff argued that the city knew of the dangerous condition and failed to fix it, and therefore it should not be granted immunity.

The court acknowledged that, if true, the city’s knowledge of the hazard would prevent immunity from attaching. However, the court explained that there was no evidence that the city had any idea that a dangerous hazard existed. The court noted that the city presented a maintenance supervisor who testified that the city had no indication that there was a dangerous condition, and there had never been any reports made about a dangerous hazard during his tenure of nearly 20 years. As a result, the court agreed with the city and dismissed the case.

Have You Been Injured on the Land of Another Party?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured while on the property of another party, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a New Mexico premises liability lawsuit. Even if your injury occurred while engaging in recreational activity, immunity may not apply. Call one of the dedicated New Mexico personal injury attorneys at The Fine Law Firm at 505-889-FINE to discuss your case and to see if you may be eligible for monetary compensation. Calling is free, and we will not bill you for our services unless we are able to help you obtain the compensation you deserve.

More Blog Posts:

Student’s Case Against School Dismissed After Falling from School Zip Line, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, June 28, 2017.

State Appellate Court Recognizes Wrongful Birth Lawsuit, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, July 5, 2017.