Court Grants Immunity to University for Bicycle Accident on Bikeway

Court Grants Immunity to University for Bicycle Accident on Bikeway

I’ve discussed Government immunity for injuries on public trails in the past.  The government is absolutely immune from liability in these cases.

But what happens if someone is injured on property belonging to the University of California, and that property happens to also serve recreational purposes?

The California Court of Appeal answered that question yesterday.

Adrian Burgueno was a student at U.C. Santa Cruz.  He was killed in a tragic bicycle accident on the Great Meadow Bikeway in 2011.

The bikeway was built by the university in 1973 to provide an automobile-free pathway for bicyclists to commute to and from the campus.  The bikeway also serves as a scenic route for recreational activity.

After Adrian’s death, his family sued the university for wrongful death, and for failing to warn about the bikeway’s dangerous condition.  Several accidents have occurred on the bikeway since it was built.

U.C. Santa Cruz defended on the grounds that it’s a government entity (state university), and therefore the bikeway is considered a “trail” under the “trail immunity doctrine.”

The Court sided with the university.  Even though the bikeway is a major transportation corridor designed and used for bicycle commuting to the campus, the fact that it also doubles as a recreational trail brings it within the immunity shield of California’s government immunity rules.

The Court noted that the plain reading of Government Code 831.4 dealing with trail immunity does not list an exception for trails that also serve as transportation routes.  Any change to the Government Code must come from the California Legislature; not the Court of Appeal.

Sad case, with sad facts.  Many more cases will be barred from the courts as a result of this ruling.

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