Washington County Superior Court. (WC 12-486). Associate Justice Kristin E. Rodgers.
For Plaintiff: Ronald J. Resmini, Esq.
For Defendant: Brian J. Clifford, Esq.
Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.
In this case, we are once again asked to revisit the scope and applicability of G.L. 1956 chapter 6 of title 32, the Recreational Use Statute (RUS). The plaintiff, Kathleen Carlson, appeals from summary judgment entered in Washington County Superior Court in favor of the defendant, the town of South Kingstown (the town). The plaintiff's claim sounded in negligence and concerned an injury she sustained at a town-owned park while she was a spectator at a little league baseball game. This appeal came before the Supreme Court for argument on February 4, 2015, pursuant to an order directing the parties to show cause why the issues raised in the appeal should not be summarily decided. After hearing argument and examining the memoranda filed by the parties, we conclude that cause has not been shown and we shall proceed to decide the appeal at this time. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.
Facts and Travel
On July 28, 2010, plaintiff attended her son's little league baseball game at Tuckertown Park in the Wakefield section of South Kingstown. The game was a part of the schedule of South Kingstown Little League, Inc., and the park and field were owned and maintained by the town. Ms. Carlson would later testify by deposition
that the game was the league's championship game, that the game was open to the general public, and that no tickets were required to attend. The league had a permit, issued by the town, to host this game, as it did for all its games, but the town charged no fee to use the park. The defendant, through the interrogatory responses and deposition testimony of Theresa Murphy, the town's Director of Leisure Services, said that this was in accordance with a written policy because the league was a nonprofit sports league within the town.
After the game had ended, plaintiff, who had been standing in the area of a set of batting cages located just off the first-base line of the park's lower field, walked towards the concession stand, where she planned to meet her son. Unfortunately, on her way there, plaintiff felt her ankle twist under her and she heard what she believed was the breaking of bones in her leg. Ms. Carlson testified that she never fell to the ground, but " when I took a step on my right leg, I felt my ankle fall into this little divot in the ground." As a consequence of her stumble into the " divot," plaintiff broke her right leg. A witness to the injury would later testify by deposition that this " divot" was a part of a " repetitive problem" caused by " kids waiting to get into the batting cage, [when] they dig their cleats into the ground." There is discrepancy in the record as to the size and shape of the hole that caused plaintiff's injury; plaintiff described the " divot" as " only under two inches but I don't really remember," while another witness said the hole was, " 6, 8 inches across, maybe a little wider than that, a good 8, 10 inches deep." Ms. Murphy testified that the most recent inspection of the field had been accomplished two days before the incident and that the town had received no notice of any hazardous condition existing at the park. The particular hole in question was filled in by defendant the day after the incident.
It was the town's regular policy to maintain the fields at Tuckertown Park on Mondays and Thursdays; no reports had been received about the area of plaintiff's accident. Asked whether the town was aware of holes near the batting cages being a common problem, Ms. Murphy stated, " I'm not sure it's a common problem, but I am aware that that type of thing can happen." However, she admitted that it was not uncommon " to find holes in ball fields after people have used them." Ms. Murphy testified that, if the town had been aware of any potential hazard, ...