MARIBETH BLONSKI v. METROPOLITAN DISTRICT COMMISSION,
Judicial District of Hartford
Governmental Immunity; Recreational Land Use Act; Whether a Public Water Company that Provides for the Free Recreational use of its Property is Immune from Liability for a Recreational User's Injuries Under the Doctrine of Governmental Immunity or the Recreational Land Use Act. The defendant is a political subdivision of the state that provides water, waste management and regional planning for its member municipalities. It permits members of the public to use some of its property free of charge for recreational purposes. In 2002, the plaintiff was riding her mountain bicycle on one of the defendant's trails when she collided with a closed gate, thereby sustaining various injuries. The plaintiff brought this action, alleging that her injuries resulted from the defendant's negligence. The case was tried to a jury, which returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff. The defendant filed a motion to set aside the verdict, arguing that it was entitled to governmental immunity pursuant to General Statutes § 52-557n (a) (2) (B), which provides that a political subdivision is not liable for negligent acts that are discretionary in nature. It acknowledged that, under § 52-557n (a) (1) (B), a political subdivision is liable for negligent acts that are committed in performing functions from which it derives a pecuniary benefit. The defendant maintained, however, that liability may only be imposed where the allegedly tortious conduct was inextricably linked to the political subdivision's proprietary function. It contended that, in the present matter, it was entitled to governmental immunity for its discretionary decisions regarding the closed gate because the plaintiff's claims related only to its governmental function of providing for the free recreational use of its property, not its proprietary function of providing water to the public. The defendant further argued, in the alternative, that it was immune from liability pursuant to the Recreational Land Use Act, General Statutes § 52-557f et seq., which grants immunity to private landowners who permit the public to use the land for recreational purposes without charge. It maintained that, to the extent that its allegedly negligent acts were inextricably linked to a proprietary function, it was entitled to the same immunity as a private landowner who allows the recreational use of the land without charging a fee. The trial court denied the motion to set aside the verdict, finding that the evidence supported the conclusion that the defendant's negligent acts were connected to its business of supplying water and holding that the Recreational Land Use Act only applies to private landowners, not political subdivisions. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the trial court properly denied the defendant's motion to set aside the verdict.