North Dakota Law Review

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M.M. v. Fargo Public School District No. 1, 2010 ND 102, 783 N.W.2d 806In M.M. v. Fargo Public School District No. 1, the North Dakota Supreme Court held North Dakota’s recreational use immunity statutes were not applicable when a student was injured on school grounds during school hours. Thus, a school district, as a political subdivision, can be liable for a student’s injuries pursuant to section 32-12.1-03 of the North Dakota Century Code. Recreational use immunity statutes, or some variation of the statutes, can be found in all states and are in place to encourage landowners to open their property for recreational purposes without facing the risks of liability. While landowners do not have a duty to warn or keep the premises safe for recreational users, a willful or malicious failure to guard or warn against a dangerous condition, use, structure, or activity may still result in liability. Since North Dakota’s enactment of the recreational use immunity statutes in 1965, the statutes have endured several modifications and judicial interpretations, including their applicability to political subdivisions. However, through consideration of the purpose of the recreational use immunity statutes, the location of the accident, other laws pertaining to the special relationship between schools and students, and the analysis provided by other courts, the North Dakota Supreme Court declined to immunize the school district under these statutes when M.M., a student, injured himself while performing a bike stunt in the school auditorium shortly after classes adjourned. By narrowing the use of the recreational use immunity statutes, more liability may result from the M.M. decision as contrary to the legislature’s policy decision behind enacting the statutes.

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