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Saturday, October 31, 2009

SD Law Limits Bike Trail Liability?

One of the arguments I've heard against building the Lake Herman bike trail is liability. Private landowners don't want to be sued by individuals who might tumble off their bikes on their land or wander off the trail and trip on a corn stalk or who-knows-what. I think I've even heard some folks fret about the liability the county might incur if the trail is alongside the road.

I'm still waiting for someone to provide an example of case law where an adjoining landowner gets sued by a cyclist for an accident on a bike path. We are certainly a litigious society, so I would think if there's a legal leg to stand on, someone would have already filed such a case.

But I'm thinking you won't find such an example in South Dakota, because statute appears to protect landowners and public officials from such liability. Check out South Dakota Codified Law Chapter 20-9, Liability for Torts. Specifically, see SDCL 20-9-12 through 20-9-22. SDCL 20-9-13 appears to absolve farmers like David Pitts of any obligation to maintain safe conditions around a bike trail through their land or even to warn trail users of hazards on the land. SDCL 20-9-21 appears to protect local government from liability for accidents on land local government might invite folks to use for recreation. Certainly landowners and public officials still have some obligations, but so do users of recreational land.

As far as I can tell, state law has just the protections I was looking for for landowners next to the bike trail. If I go for a ride and take a tumble, it's pretty much my own darn fault.

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