Barton v. City of Valdez
Barton v. City of Valdez (Alaska Sup. Ct., Jan. 21, 2022): After falling from a cliffside tire swing in an undeveloped section of a city park, plaintiff Barton sued the City of Valdez, alleging that although the swing had not been built by the city, the city was negligent in failing to remove it. Barton was confined to a wheelchair and partially paralyzed as a result of the fall. The superior court granted the city discretionary function immunity, a form of immunity meant to avoid court intrusion into certain planning-related policy decisions. The court dismissed the suit after finding the city did not have “a policy to inspect or remove hazards from undeveloped areas of parks.” The Alaska Supreme Court reversed, finding that failure to remove the swing was not a policy planning decision, but an operational decision, and there were “no conceivable policy reasons for declining to remove the unauthorized swing—a human-made hazard that was not known, easily accessible, and simple to remove.” Read the full decision here.