A mom went to the high school ball field to watch her son play baseball. As she walked from the parking lot to the bleachers by the junior varsity field, she lost her balance and broke her ankle. In a subsequent lawsuit against the school district to recover for her personal injury, the court held that the area where she fell was in an unimproved condition. Therefore, the New Jersey Tort Claims Act precluded the lawsuit because the Act provided that no public entity was liable for an injury caused by the condition of unimproved public property. The trial court therefore granted the motion of the school district for summary judgment. That was later upheld in an unreported Appellate Division decision.
The court further noted that while the playing fields had been improved, the defendants had made no changes to the grounds between the parking lot and the JV field. The plaintiff was hurt on a slope that was a natural part of the landscape. Plaintiff argued that the slope constituted a dangerous condition but the court found that there was no evidence that any public employee had created the dangerous condition or that the school district had actual or constructive knowledge of a dangerous condition. Additionally, the plaintiff’s expert’s report did not claim that the condition of the property was dangerous, only that it could have been made safer.
As we have previously noted, the Tort Claims Act represents a formidable bar to many personal injury claims against public entities and employees.