Tennessee Court of Appeals Decision Further Defines Landowner Liability When Land Is Being Used for Recreational Activity

Landowners, whether public or private, owe some duty to those who are invited to enter their land. In some cases, there are even duties imposed on landowners to warn those who are not invited onto their land (i.e., trespassers) of especially dangerous conditions. A recent Tennessee court of appeals opinion addresses landowner’s liability in Nashville and beyond when the injured party was engaging in recreational activity on the land in question.

dirt-bike-jump-758073-mThe Case of Wilson v. Dossett

In the recent case of Wilson v. Dossett, Wilson was injured while riding a motorcycle on Dossett’s land. Dossett had a tract of land that was commonly used by many as a track to ride all-terrain vehicles on. Wilson, who had used Dossett’s land numerous times before, injured himself when he was riding on the track on a motorcycle that was more powerful than any motorcycle he had previously ridden. Wilson then sued Dossett for negligently failing to maintain his property in an acceptable position.

The Decision Below

At trial, the court dismissed the case against Dossett. Although as a general rule a landowner has a duty to keep his property safe, this is not the case when the person injured on the land is engaging in recreational activity. The court below found that Wilson was engaging in recreational activity when he was riding his mpotorcycle on Dossett’s land, and therefore Dossett owed Wilson no duty.

Wilson, unsatisfied with the dismissal of his case, appealed.

The Appellate Decision

On appeal, the Court of Appeals at Knoxville affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of Wilson’s case. Specifically, the issue was whether Dossett was grossly negligent in maintaining a ATV course on his property and failing to prevent others from using it.

The issue of gross negligence is important because, if Wilson was able to show that Dossett was grossly negligent, then it would not matter if Wilson was engaging in a recreational activity, because the gross negligence of the property owner would trump the kind of activity the property was being used for.

However, the court determined that Dossett was not being grossly negligent by maintaining the course on his property. The court noted that the course was “unremarkable” in every way, and did not seem especially dangerous. The court also noted that Wilson had used the course numerous times in the past without incident, that Wilson was riding the more powerful motorcycle for the first time ever, and that Wilson could not articulate any wrongdoing on Dossett’s behalf (when asked why he sued Dossett, Wilson explained that his medical bills were extremely high).

The Affect this Case Has On Tennessee Personal Injury Plaintiffs

This case is likely going to be confined to its specific facts because of the extra factors the court considered. While it is important that the court found that maintaining a dirt course for ATV riders is not grossly negligent, again, this will likely be limited to these types of cases.

Have You Been Injured in a Nashville Personal Injury Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been involved in a Nashville personal injury accident, you should speak with a Nashville personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Depending on the facts of your case, you may be entitled to monetary damages. To find out more about Tennessee’s laws on premises liability, click here, or call 615-200-1111 to schedule a free initial consultation today.

See Related Blog Posts:

Serving the Defendant with the Lawsuit within One Year of the Wreck, Nashville Injury Lawyer’s Blog, published January 31, 2014.

Tennessee Court of Appeals Determines that Plaintiffs Must Add Additional Defendants Within Statutory Time Frame, Nashville Injury Lawyer’s Blog, published March 2, 2014.

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