Recreational Use of Land & Water Act Not a Defense

Posted on: June 26th, 2012       Attorney Thomas Newell

A December 2010 decision by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania reversed a Westmoreland County legal opinion.  A spectator at a girl’s softball tournament at Penn Township Municipal Park fell and broke her ankle and elbow.  She tripped after stepping in a hole in a grass and dirt area between 2 softball fields.

A lawsuit was filed versus Penn Township.  The municipality claimed it was immune from suit due to the Recreational Use of Land and Water Act (RULWA).  The evidence established that the 45 acre park had 10 baseball/softball fields, batting cages, courts for hockey, basketball and volleyball, as well as buildings that housed concession stands and restrooms.

The Appeals Court ruled that this highly developed recreational park could not qualify under RULWA.  Since the land was significantly altered from its original state, the improvements must be maintained in a manner safe for public use.  Hatfield v. Penn Township, 12 A.3d 482 (Pa. Cmwlth 2010)

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