As a general rule, negligent landowners are liable to their guests for personal injuries caused by a dangerous condition on their property. Maryland law allows few exceptions to this general rule, one of which is under its Recreational Use Statute. In an April 29, 2020 Maryland personal injury case, the Court of Special Appeals considered whether the statute relieved a defendant of liability after the plaintiff suffered catastrophic injuries on his property.
The defendant in the case had constructed several all-terrain vehicle (ATV) courses on the property. The land was not open to the public, and was used primarily by the defendant to store excavating equipment from his construction company and deposit dirt from construction sites. However, the defendant hosted an event on the property for family and friends, including the plaintiff, and invited them to ride ATVs and dirt bikes. While traversing one of the courses on the ATV, the plaintiff was thrown over the handlebars. As a result of the accident, the plaintiff suffered a spinal injury that rendered him a quadriplegic.
The plaintiff sued the defendant for negligence, alleging that the accident occurred because of the defective design of the ATV course. The circuit court eventually granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, concluding that he was immune under Maryland’s Recreational Use Statute. The issue was then brought before the Court of Special Appeals.