10th Circuit Concludes Recreational Use Statute Case
A panel of judges upheld a $7 million verdict after a case’s second appeal

by Tony Flesor

After a second trip to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, a case blaming the federal government for a man’s traumatic brain injury reached a $7.3 million final judgment for the plaintiff.

The 10th Circuit’s opinion hinged on the issue of whether to apply an exception to the Colorado Recreational Use Statute and had the federal court weighing in on a matter of state law to create a precedent. While the case’s outcome is instructional, rather than binding precedent, outside the 10th Circuit’s jurisdiction, the ruling may offer guidance for state and federal courts around the country for other similar recreational use laws.

The case originated in 2008 when James Nelson crashed his bicycle on a trail that had been damaged by a sinkhole near the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Nelson was flung from his bike and sustained serious permanent injuries resulting from the crash. 

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the February 18, 2019 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.