Court Considers Whether Maryland County May Be Held Liable for Bike Trail Injury

Maryland personal injury accidents that occur on public or government property may require additional considerations.  Often, legal actions brought against a local municipality arise issues relating to governmental immunity, as in a May 25, 2021 case.  The question before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland was whether or not the trial court properly granted summary judgment for a local county on grounds of governmental immunity.

The plaintiff in the case bicycled regularly on roads and trails in Maryland.  One sunny day, he took a break from work to ride his bicycle on a 13-mile trail along a river.  The trail is open to the public and free to use for educational and recreational purposes, but was not intended to be a transportation corridor.  While riding on the trail, the plaintiff crashed his bicycle and was thrown to the ground.

The plaintiff sued the County for his injuries, alleging that it failed to maintain one of the bridges on the trail.  Specifically, the plaintiff claimed that he lost control of his bicycle after hitting a short steel sleeve that was too high above the ground.  The steel sleeve previously held a bollard that blocked entry to the bridge, and although the bollard had since been removed, the sleeve remained in the ground.  The County filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that it was shielded from liability by statutory and common law immunity.  When the lower court granted the motion, the plaintiff appealed the issue.

In Maryland, if an accident occurs in a park, the government is performing a governmental function and is, therefore, immune from liability for any injuries.  However, if the accident occurs on a road or sidewalk, the government is performing a proprietary function and is not immune.  And, when an accident occurs on a road within a park, the court must determine whether the location of the accident is more road-like or more park-like.  In making that decision, the court will consider whether the park road is connected to other roads and used for transportation, or whether it ends without any connection and is used for recreation.

On appeal, the court determined that the trail at issue was used for recreational purposes.  The appeals court also found that the trail was not connected to any road system, nor was it used for transportation purposes.  Concluding that the trail was more like a park than a road, the court held that the County was performing a governmental function in maintaining the trail and therefore, was entitled to government immunity.  Accordingly, the court upheld the judgment entered in favor of the County.

If you are seeking legal advice after an accident, a Maryland injury attorney can help you explore your options.  At Foran & Foran, P.A., we can assist people in recovering compensation for medical expenses, loss of income, and other damages caused by negligence.  We handle a range of personal injury cases, including auto crashes, bicycle accidents, premises liability claims, and more.  Request a legal consultation by calling our office at (301) 441-2022 or contacting us online.

Contact Information