Neb. Bill Extends Some Protection to Cities, Counties from Lawsuits

May 4, 2007

An agreement with Sen. Ernie Chambers this week paved the way for a bill that could open parks that closed following a Neb. state Supreme Court decision.

Senators gave second-round approval to the bill (LB564), which would extend some protection to cities and counties from lawsuits by those injured on government-owned property.

Chambers fought the measure through the first and second rounds of debate, asking senators to indefinitely postpone it and offering various amendments. He said cities should be held responsible when a child is injured at a skate park

Then on May 2nd, he agreed with supporters of the bill to stop his assault if senators approved an amendment that requires cities to post a sign at skateboard parks and bicycle motocross parks, warning that the city isn’t liable for injury or death resulting from the inherent risks of the activity.

“The signage requirement is a small price to pay for what they are getting in return,” Chambers said of political subdivisions.

Failing to post the sign would not create liability.

Chambers said he would honor his promise not to filibuster in the final round of debate, making the bill’s eventual success likely. Chambers was the only senator to vote against the bill in the first round of debate.

“Count yourself fortunate that I adhere to the policy of Satan when it comes to dealmaking,” said Chambers, who said Satan is at least consistent in keeping promises.

Sen. Mike Friend of Omaha, who introduced the measure, said the amendment was an acceptable compromise.

“I wanted to thank _ dang it _ Senator Chambers for the help,” Friend said.

Under the measure, cities and other political subdivisions would be protected if the injury were a result of the inherent risk of the recreational activity. They still could be sued if officials were aware of an unsafe condition and did nothing to repair it in a reasonable time.

The Supreme Court ruling that prompted the bill was in favor of a woman who severely injured an ankle when she stepped into a hole on the lawn of the Dawes County courthouse while attending a celebration in 2002 organized by Fur Trade Days Inc., a not-for-profit organization.

A state district court judge and the Nebraska Court of Appeals said the woman could not sue the county for damages because it was protected under Nebraska’s Recreation Liability Act. The high court disagreed, saying that law did not protect cities and counties.

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