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Landowners who open their land to the public for recreational purposes, free of charge, are generally not liable for unintentional injuries to such users. However, the recreational land use statute, Wash. Rev. Code § 4.24.210(1), (3), (4)(a), creates an exception where an injured party may overcome this immunity by showing either (1) a fee for the use of the land is charged; (2) the injuries are intentionally inflicted; or (3) the injuries are sustained by reason of a known dangerous artificial latent condition for which no warning signs are posted. § 4.24.210(1), (3). All four elements (known, dangerous, artificial, latent) must be present in an injury-causing condition for liability to attach to a landowner.
This case involves statutory interpretation of Washington's recreational land use statute, RCW 4.24.210. Steven Jewels sued the city of Bellingham for negligence following an injury he sustained when he was thrown from his bicycle after hitting an obstacle in a city-maintained park. Under the statute, landowners who open their property for recreational use free of charge are immune from liability when visitors injure themselves. This statutory immunity does not apply, however, “for injuries sustained to users by reason of a known dangerous artificial latent condition for which warning signs have not been conspicuously posted.” The trial court dismissed Jewels’ claims on summary judgment, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.
Was the city of Bellingham liable under the recreational land use statute?
The court held that the city of Bellingham was not liable under the recreational land use statute, Wash. Rev. Code § 4.24.210(1), (3), (4)(a), because, although the city of Bellingham had knowledge of the injury-causing condition and that the condition was artificial, the condition was obvious, not latent, when any person could stand near the water diverter and see it.