Natural Condition Immunity for Campsite Tree Injury

By Kozlowski, James C. | Parks & Recreation, August 2015 | Go to article overview

Natural Condition Immunity for Campsite Tree Injury


Kozlowski, James C., Parks & Recreation


While absolute sovereign immunity under traditional common law has been abolished, significant, albeit limited, governmental immunity has been preserved in various types of state statutes. Most notably, many immunity exceptions exist within various provisions of an applicable state tort claims act, i.e., a statute defining under what circumstances governmental entities may be held liable for negligence in a particular jurisdiction.

As illustrated by the Burnett decision described herein, one such immunity exception precludes any governmental liability for injuries attributable to a natural condition and/or unimproved property under the control of a governmental entity, including public parks. With some minor jurisdictional variations, some form of significant statutory governmental immunity for natural conditions and/or unimproved property can be found in a significant number of State Codes, including the following:

* California: Cal Gov Code § 831.2 (2015)

* Colorado: C.R.S. 24-10-106(E) (2014)

* Indiana: Burns Ind. Code Ann. § 34-13-3-3(1) (2014)

* Kansas: K.S.A. § 75-6104(P) (2015)

* Maine: 14 M.R.S. § 8104-A (2015)

* Minnesota: Minn. Stat. § 466.03 Subd.6b (2015)

* New Jersey: N.J. Stat. § 59:4-8 (2015)

* Oklahoma: 51 Okl. St. § 155(10) (2014)

* South Carolina: S.C. Code Ann. § 15-78-60(10) (2014)

* Utah: Utah Code Ann. § 63g-7-301 (2014)

Dangerous Tree Limb

In the case of Burnett v. Colorado Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation, 2015 CO 19; 346 P.3d 1005; 2015 Colo. LEXIS 216 (Colo. 3/23/2015), the Supreme Court of Colorado had to determine the scope and applicability of natural condition immunity under one such state statute: C.R.S. 24-10-106(E) (2014). In this particular instance, the issue before the Colorado Supreme Court was whether the government was immune from liability for injuries sustained by plaintiffBurnett when a tree limb fell on her as she camped at a designated campsite in Cherry Creek State Park. In addressing this issue, the state supreme court had to determine whether the tree that caused plaintiff's injuries was a "natural condition of unimproved property" under the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act (CGIA).

Facts of the Case

Located just southeast of Denver, Cherry Creek State Park ("the park") encompasses 4,200 acres and includes more than 30 miles of multiuse trails for biking, hiking and horseback riding. It also features 135 designated camping sites. The state of Colorado leases the land on which the park is located from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Despite various manmade attractions and amenities, many of the park's naturally occurring features remain undisturbed. Among these features are several thousand trees that were on the property when the state established the park in 1959. Some of these trees border the campsite at issue in this case. The park's mature trees provide a habitat for great horned owls and bald eagles. Whitetail and mule deer use the thick cover for bedding. Woodpeckers and northern flickers eat the insects that are inside the trees, and pheasants use the vegetation for cover and roosting.

On July 18, 2010, Burnett and her friend, Mackenzie Brady, went camping at the park after they paid a fee to enter. The pair chose campsite No. 14, which included a utility hookup, parking area, picnic table, and a level dirt pad. Burnett and Brady chose to pitch their tent on the dirt pad under the canopy of four mature cottonwood trees, reaching some 75 feet in height and flanking campsite No. 14. The weather that night was uneventful.

Early the next morning, while Burnett and Brady remained asleep inside their tent, a tree limb dropped from one of the cottonwoods and struck both of them. The blow fractured Burnett's skull and a vertebra and caused other acute injuries, including a concussion and multiple lacerations to her scalp and face. Brady suffered only minor injuries and was able to drive Burnett to the hospital, where Burnett spent three days. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Natural Condition Immunity for Campsite Tree Injury
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.