And the Runner is Out – Claim By Spectator at a Little League Game Barred by Recreational Use Statute (RI)


Carlson v. Town of South Kingston (Rhode Island)

The plaintiff was attending her son’s little league game being played at a park and field owned and maintained by the defendant town.  As she was walking from a batting cage area over to a concession stand to meet her son, she stepped in a “divot” and broke her leg.  Testimony established that the “divot” was created by kids waiting to get into the batting cages when they would dig their cleats into the ground.  Plaintiff filed an action against the town, alleging the town negligently maintained the premises.  The town moved for summary judgment based on Rhode Island’s Recreational Use Statute (“RUS”).  Plaintiff objected to the motion citing two exceptions to the RUS and alleging: (1) the town had “willfully or maliciously failed to guard or warn against a dangerous condition on the land,” and (2) the town had charged plaintiff for her access to the park.  The trial court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the Supreme Court of Rhode Island affirmed the decision, holding that the RUS barred plaintiff’s claim.  The Court concluded that the “evidence [fell] woefully short of establishing the existence of sufficient facts to show that the town knew of the particular hole that injured plaintiff or os similar persons injured by similar defects in the park.”  With regard to her access to the park, plaintiff contended that the RUS should not apply because either: “(1) she paid a fee to the league on her son’s behalf so that he could participate, or (2) she paid taxes to the town which uses a part of its budget to maintain [the park].”  Although it is true that the RUS does not apply where the owner of land charges a person who enter the land for recreational use, the Court explained that “the game she went to see was open to the public and that it was not necessary to buy a ticket to get into the park to watch the game.”  As such, “[t]he fee plaintiff paid to the league had no effect on her right to use the park or view the game.”  Additionally, the Court stated that “the payment or nonpayment of [her] taxes did not affect whether she could use the park for recreation.”

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: