If a tree falls in the forest, will a court hear a claim in court? In this case, no. A tree branch falls on a camper; the tree was next to the official campsite. Here, the issue was whether the tree was a “public facility” and part of the campground. The Colorado Governmental Immunity Act grants immunity for injuries caused by natural conditions not on a public facility. The trial court, and the court of appeals held that a tree is not a public facility because it is not integral to the use and enjoyment of the campground “merely because they provide shade, protection, and aesthetic values…” Also, the tree, next to the campsite, was still in an “unimproved” area and was a natural condition; so, the state had no duty to maintain the tree. The dissent would have found the tree incorporated into the facility, and a dangerous condition for which the state was responsible. The state was immune.
NOTE: The Colorado Supreme Court granted Certiorari on November 12, 2103.
In the movie Philadelphia, Tom Hank’s character first meets his lawyer, Denzel Washington, as Denzel is on the phone with a potential client who wants to sue after stepping into a clearly marked hole in a city street; Denzel suggested he had a case. But, holes in streets are not the same as holes in parking lots. In this case, the trial court concluded the plaintiff could sue for an injury caused by a hole in a public parking lot. The court of appeals disagreed and held a city is immune from suit for injuries occurring in a public parking lot that services a public golf course. Colorado waives governmental immunity for personal injuries, and thus subjects cities to lawsuits for injuries caused by dangerous conditions in any park or recreation area, public streets, or public buildings. A parking lot is none of these, so the city was immune from suit. Plaintiff’s case was dismissed.