October 2012 - Parks & Recreation - 40

LAW REVIEW

OBVIOUS TREE HA Z ARD ON PARK SLEDDING HILL

believed the trees presented a hazard
to people sledding in the park. Pierce's
comments surprised Slaven, because
she assumed people would not sled
over a sidewalk. Without further inquiring about Pierce's comments, Slaven
decided to leave the crab apple trees on
the southeast slope. She reasoned the
trees had made it through one sledding
season without incident.
Several sledding injuries occurred
after the renovation project was completed. One accident occurred on December 17, 2000. A father had allowed
his two children (3 and 8 years old at
the time) to slide down the slope on
a saucer sled. The sled got turned
around, and they hit one of the crab
apple trees on the right side of the slope
that Pierce had told Slaven to move.
One child sustained injuries as a result
of the collision.

38

Parks & Recreation

The Incident
On December 29, 2000, plaintiff Timothy Connelly decided to take his daughters sledding at Memorial Park. Rachel
and Chelsea were 5 and 10 years old,
respectively, at the time. This was the
first time Timothy had been to Memorial Park. He chose the park because
his daughters were getting older and
looking for a longer sledding hill, and
he knew Memorial Park was used by
the public for sledding.
Upon arriving at the park, Timothy
walked to the southeast slope. He assessed the slope's dangers and noticed
trees to the left, to the right, and at the
bottom. He chose a starting point near
what appeared to be the center of the
slope. Chelsea then placed a saucer sled
on the slope. The sled had no steering mechanism, and Timothy knew it
could go in an unintended direction.

| OCTOBER 2012 | WWW.NRPA.ORG

Rachel sat on the saucer behind Chelsea, and Chelsea pushed off. The sled
began veering right, and the sled collided with one of the crab apple trees
on the right side of the slope.
Rachel and Chelsea were taken by
ambulance to a nearby hospital. Chelsea sustained injuries to her ribs and
chest, from which injuries she recovered. Rachel sustained a fracture dislocation of her spine, which resulted in
permanent paralysis from the shoulders down.

Trial Court
Following a trial on the issue of negligence liability, the district court found
the City liable " for its actions in planting and maintaining the tree in Memorial Park " because " the City was aware
that the crab apple trees posed a danger
to persons sledding in Memorial Park,



October 2012 - Parks & Recreation

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