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New York State parks not liable for woman's death

When you go to visit New York State's parks, make sure to heed warnings. New York's appellate court recently found that visitors cannot sue the parks if they are injured while flouting warning signs. Last week's decision was a reversal of a Syracuse court decision involving the death of a 51-year-old woman at Taughannock Falls State Park.

A New Jersey woman died in a rock slide in 2005 while she was standing below the 215-foot falls. Her husband filed a wrongful death claim against the state. According to the defense, the woman was standing in an area that was expressly prohibited.

The State's defense argued that there are several warning signs including photographs of rock slides and physical barriers to the falls. The appeals court argued that it is, "difficult to understand how a victim could fail to appreciate the dangers," posted on the warning signs. The appeal rejected a ruling claiming that a trial was necessary to determine if the park's warnings were sufficient.

The appellate court found that the state's efforts were sufficient in thwarting behaviors and illegal conduct. Every summer, warnings go out to prevent hikers and other park visitors from entering prohibited areas. Individuals who are injured while disobeying signs cannot pursue claims against the state for injuries or fatalities occurring on the park's premises.

While the case against the state was unsuccessful, a victim may have a different claim if an injury occurred in an area that was not blocked off or if there were other hazards without appropriate warning signs.

Source: The Ithaca Independent, "Court: State Not Responsible for Woman's Death in Tompkins County Park," Ed Sutherland, June 11, 2012.