In this appeal from a Bucks County jury verdict in favor of Esther James and against the County of Bucks, the Commonwealth Court discusses the extent of a land owner’s liability under the Recreational Use of Land and Water Act (“RULWA”).
In 2006, James suffered serious injuries to her knee when she was riding her bike and struck a cable gate that she did not see on Peace Valley Park, which is owned by the County of Bucks. James brought a civil action against Bucks County, claiming the County negligently maintained the gate, and sought damages for her injuries. Prior to trial, the County filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming that it was entitled to immunity under RULWA. This motion was denied and the case proceeded to trial by jury. The jury returned a verdict in favor of James, and the County appealed, claiming that the court erred in finding that the County was not entitled to immunity under RULWA.
The Commonwealth Court affirmed the lower court’s decision in determining that the County was not entitled to immunity under RULWA. The Court reasoned that under the facts of this case, the area where the injury occurred was an improved area of the park, which required maintenance, and that the public had a reasonable expectation that the County would maintain the property. As a result, the Court affirmed the lower court’s determination that the injury did not occur on undeveloped land, as required for immunity under RULWA to apply.