Claim Against Town for Baseball Player’s Injury Barred by Recreational Use Statute

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Parker v. Town of Chatham, Barnstable Superior Court, C.A. No. 1672CV00155 (Sept. 11, 2017)

The Barnstable Superior Court recently granted a Motion for Summary Judgment in favor of the Town of Chatham in a negligence suit brought by a player of the Harwich-Chatham Little League, arising from injuries she allegedly sustained during a game played on a Town-owned field.  Plaintiff claimed that in 2014, she sustained a leg injury while sliding into home plate – which, plaintiff claimed, was “defective” due to the Town’s negligent maintenance.

After discovery, PDP attorney John J. Cloherty III prepared and filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, on the grounds that plaintiff’s claims against the Town were barred by the Recreational Use Statute, M.G.L. c. 21, § 17C.  This Statute provides, in relevant part, that

“[a]ny person having an interest in land including the structures, buildings, and equipment attached to the land, … who lawfully permits the public to use such land for recreational, conservation, scientific, educational, environmental, ecological, research, religious, or charitable purposes without imposing a charge or fee therefor, … shall not be liable for personal injuries or property damage sustained by such members of the public, including without limitation a minor, while on said land in the absence of willful, wanton, or reckless conduct by such person.”

See M.G.L. c. 21, § 17C(a) (emphasis added).

In this case, the evidence was undisputed that the Town permitted the Harwich-Chatham Little League to use its baseball field for free, that plaintiff’s use of the property was for a recreational purpose, and that plaintiff’s claims of negligent maintenance did not rise to the level of “willful, wanton, or reckless conduct.”  The Court rejected plaintiff’s argument that the Town’s practice of permitting various sports teams to reserve the field for scheduling purposes negated the field’s openness to the public.

Accordingly, the Court allowed the Town’s Motion for Summary Judgment, and dismissed plaintiff’s Complaint against the Town in its entirety.