A bill that would shield Iowa cities from lawsuits over some sledding accidents on city property has cleared an initial hurdle at the statehouse. Jessica Harder, a lobbyist for the Iowa League of Cities, said the immunity from lawsuits would only apply to accidents that happen on hills that are designated as sledding areas by a city.
“Obviously, when you see weather like this, I think everyone wants to have a sledding hill in their community if they would like to,” Harder said, “and so we’re just trying to encourage that.”
Scott Sundstrom is a lobbyist for the Iowa Defense Council, a lawyers’ group that supports the bill.
“Sledding is inherently somewhat dangerous. That’s part of what is fun about it. It’s a thrill, like skiing, other types of things,” Sundstrom said. “…You shouldn’t be able to file for a lawsuit to claim that it was somebody else’s fault for a risk that you knew about when you began the activity.”
Brad Lint is executive director of The Iowa Association for Justice, a lawyers’ group that opposes the bill.
“This is really about protecting and ensuring the safety for our kids,” Lint said. “After all, they’re the primary users of sledding slopes and we want to make sure….that municipalities are doing everything they can to make these safe and to protect our children from harm.”
Jim Carney, a lobbyist for the Iowa Bar Association — another lawyers’ group, suggested liability lawsuits aren’t a bit issue in Iowa.
“We believe that when there are claims filed, whether it be in a sledding situation or any other, that Iowa juries are very suspect of such claims,” Carney said. “They require people to prove their case and that juries are very responsible here in Iowa.”
Last year a bill that would have given blanket immunity to cities for sledding accidents on any city-owned property failed on a tie vote in the House Judiciary Committee. This year’s more limited bill, extending liability protection only for hills designed by a city as a sledding area, cleared a three-member subcommittee early this morning.