Fall Into Hole Denied by Recreational Use Statute

CC MeetAuthor: Patrick J. Babin


Plaintiff was injured while attending a cross country meet on defendant’s (a paper mill) land when she fell into a hole concealed by grass. She sued the paper mill, which then attempted to dismiss plaintiff’s claim arguing that it was immune from liability under Louisiana Recreational Use Immunity Statute. Plaintiff argued that the immunity statute did not apply to her case. Plaintiff argued: (1) the cross country meet was not the type of recreational event contemplated by the statute, (2) plaintiff was not on the paper mill’s property for recreational purposes, and (3) the paper mill was grossly negligent in failing to warn the plaintiff of the hole in the property.

Defendant looked to prior recent cases and argued: (1) if parks fall under the statute, then the paper mill certainly qualified, (2) that if spectator activities at a baseball game qualify as “recreational purposes,” then plaintiff’s participation at a cross country meet also fell within the statute, and (3) because the paper mill did not charge anyone fees to use the land for the meet, the paper mill could not be considered a “commercial enterprise.” The court agreed with the paper mill and the paper mill was thus entitled to immunity.

However, the plaintiff could still recover damages if it proved that the paper mill was grossly negligent. Here, plaintiff had to prove a malicious or willful failure to warn against a dangerous condition. The trial court stated that plaintiff had not supplied any evidence that the paper mill knew of the hole. Instead, the plaintiff argued that due to the area’s high foot traffic and the paper mill’s grounds keeping services, the paper mill must have known about the hole. The court ruled that this argument was not enough to show that the paper mill was grossly negligent and found that the defendant was entitled to immunity under the statute.

Sexson v. Boise Cascade Corp., 2013 WL 3894106 (W.D. La. 2013).