OR Case Update: No Immunity Under Public Use of Lands Act if Land is Already Available for Public Use

Attorney Profile Case Update Template - KDB

From the desk of Katie D. Buxman: Under Oregon law, generally where a landowner makes his or her property available to the public for recreational use, the landowner is immune from liability.  However, where the land was already available for public use, the landowner cannot rely on such immunity.  Read on to find out when the landowner can rely on immunity.

Claims Pointer: In this case arising out of a trip-and-fall on a sidewalk abutting a public road, the Oregon Court of Appeals held that because Washington County had already made the sidewalk available for general public use and not specifically for recreational use, immunity under Oregon’s Public Use of Lands Act did not attach.  The case provides an important interpretation of the Public Use of Lands Act and puts public bodies on notice that unless the land is made available for recreational purposes under the terms of the Public Use of Lands Act, immunity under the act is unavailable.

Landis v. Limbaugh, 282 Or App 284 (November 16, 2016)

While out jogging on a sidewalk that bordered a street, Sheila Landis (“Landis”) tripped and fell over a section that was pitched upward.  As a result, she sustained a fractured elbow and underwent multiple surgeries.  Landis brought a negligence action against Washington County and Wayne Limbaugh (“Limbaugh”) as a personal representative of the Herwick Estate, the entity that deeded the land to Washington County.  She alleged that both defendants had failed to inspect and maintain the sidewalk and had failed to warn pedestrians of the sidewalk’s condition.

Washington County moved for summary judgment, contending that under the Public Use of Lands Act, it was entitled to “absolute immunity.”  Under that Act, an owner of land is not liable in contract or tort for personal injury, death, or property damage “that arises out of the use of the land for recreational purposes” when the owner of land either directly or indirectly permits any person to...

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