Earlier this month, the Rhode Island Supreme Court issued an opinion of interest to anyone considering filing a premises liability case against a landowner. In the case, Roy v. State, the court discussed how a state’s recreational use statute may act to prevent an injured party from seeking compensation for their injuries if the injuries occurred on the land of another party that had been opened up for free use by the general public.
Roy was paralyzed after he dove into a pond in a state-owned park. The park had “no swimming” signs posted around the pond, but the swimming prohibition was not strictly enforced. In fact, it seems that there would even be lifeguards on duty some days to ensure that those who did decide to swim were doing so safely. In addition to the “no swimming” signs, there were also “no diving” signs, and from the evidence at trial, this prohibition was enforced.
On the day in question, Roy dove into the pond after quickly inspecting the water level from above. He explained that it looked deep enough to dive into and also that he didn’t enter the water at a perpendicular angle, but instead at a more gradual angle through what he called a shallow dive. In any event, Roy struck his head on the bottom of the lake and broke his neck. He suffered permanent paralysis as a result. He then filed a premises liability lawsuit against the state, as the owner and operator of the park, alleging that the state was negligent in the maintenance of the park.