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Landowners - And Their Employees - Responsible For Negligent Conduct In National Parks

In a recent decision, the California Supreme Court held that National Park and other recreational workers must ensure the safety of visitors, or be found liable for their actions.

The impact of this holding could have far-reaching implications throughout California - including in National Parks such as Yosemite and Muir Woods - and across the country.

In Klein v. US, a bicyclist was riding through the Angeles National Forest when he struck head-on by a car driven by a volunteer working for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. He was seriously injured in the collision.

At issue was whether a landowner owes a responsibility to those on its land for recreational purposes. Here - the landowner is the United States government. After extensive review, and based on the plain language of the statute at issue (Civil Code Section 846) the Court determined that landowners may be held liable for the negligent conduct of their employees - including vehicular negligence. The Court rejected the United States' argument that the landowners were shielded from liability for negligent acts because they were on Federal Property. Rather, the Court was swayed by California's "strong interest in promoting the safe driving of motor vehicles and in preventing or minimizing personal injuries from motor vehicle accidents."

As a California personal injury attorney, I strongly support this decision. When an individual suffers serious injuries due to the negligence of another, they should be entitled to recover damages. Hopefully this decision will lead to greater protection and safety to the hundred of thousands of individuals who enjoy our National Parks each year.