Inline skating, also known as Rollerblading, has become increasingly popular in recent years, which is why in 1999, Florida Statute § 316.0085 was enacted addressing rollerblading liability. The statute encourages governmental owners to make their land available for rollerbladers, but it recognizes that they have failed to do this due to liability exposure and the sport’s inherent dangers. The statute allowed for government entities, like a county or municipality, to designate certain areas for rollerblading activities, while giving them partial immunity to liability. The statute says, “[a] governmental entity … is not liable to any person who voluntarily participates in . . . inline skating . . . for any damage or injury to property or persons which arises out of a person’s participation in such activity, and which takes place in an area designated for such activity.” The statute also is clear that it does not grant permission for any person to rollerblade on governmental property unless the area is specifically designated for rollerblading activity.
In a recent Florida appellate case that was published on September 27, 2017, the Plaintiff, John Casserly, sued Delray Beach for sustaining injuries while rollerblading. Specifically, Mr. Casserly sustained injuries while rollerblading on a public street not designated for rollerblading activities, when he tripped over a pothole. Mr. Casserly argued that Delray Beach was negligent in failing to repair or warn against the dangerous pothole. After Mr. Casserly lost his case in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, he appealed, but the appellate court affirmed the county court’s decision and stated that the case was correctly dismissed.
Mr. Casserly argued in part that the county court erred in dismissing his case because the statute did not apply to him. He argued that while the statute precludes liability to governmental entities for injuries sustained while rollerblading in designated areas, that since he was not rollerblading in a designated area, the governmental immunity did not apply to him. The appellate court reject this argument as an absurd proposition. The appellate court stated, “[w]e reject this first argument as leading to an absurd result. Given the Legislature’s expressed intent in subsection (4) to absolve a governmental entity from liability where a person is damaged or injured while inline skating “in an area designated for such activity,” it would be an absurd result to hold a governmental entity liable where a person is damaged or injured while inline skating in an area not designated for such activity.”
The statute not only applies to rollerblading, but also other activities like skateboarding, freestyle and mounting biking, off-road bicycling, and paintball.
Of course there are exceptions to the liability preclusion. The statute expressly does not limit liability that would otherwise exist due to, in part: (a) The failure of the governmental entity or public employee to guard against or warn of a dangerous condition of which a participant does not and cannot reasonably be expected to have notice; and (b) An act of gross negligence by the governmental entity or public employee that is the proximate cause of the injury. Despite the exceptions, the case is important because it reminds us that there is a road block to suing governmental entities for injuries sustained while participating in certain dangerous sporting activities in public places. Rollerbladers assume a certain degree of risk when participating in the sport, so rollerbladers must take caution at all times, understanding that if they are injured, it may not be an easy task to seek compensation from a third party.
If you or anyone you know has been injured in a accident involving rollerblading, skateboarding, freestyle and mounting biking, off-road bicycling, or paintball accident, you should discuss the accident with an experienced attorney. Call us at Barbuto & Johansson, P.A. for a free case evaluation. Our number is (561) 444-7980.