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Posted on: December 9, 2020

City prevails in Greenway lawsuit

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CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. –  The City of Clarksville has prevailed in its defense against a lawsuit seeking damages after a bicycling injury on the Clarksville Greenway.

Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Ross H. Hicks on Nov. 30 granted the City’s second Motion for Summary Judgment dismissing the case, known as Marquis v. City.  

According to the lawsuit, Michael and Laurie Marquis, represented by Clarksville attorney Pete Olson, were riding bicycles on Jan. 6, 2016, along the Greenway between the Pollard Road and Mary's Oak Drive access points.

Laurie Marquis encountered an incline just east of mile marker 1.5 and "voluntarily got off her bicycle to push” at which point she “lost control and fell,” the plaintiffs claim in their complaint filed in January 2017.

Marquis testified by deposition that her pants got caught on the bicycle seat as she was getting off it and that she then rolled down a ravine, causing injury to her left ankle and "other harms and losses," for which the plaintiffs contended the city of Clarksville was liable.

The plaintiffs also claimed that the City left elevated portions of the Greenway "without guardrails," which "created dangerously defective conditions."

After a lengthy legal proceeding, Judge Hicks disagreed, and ruled for the City.

“The Court is of the opinion that the City's Motion for Summary Judgment is well taken and should be and is hereby GRANTED,” Judge Hicks wrote. “This is a premises liability action against the City brought pursuant to the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act (GTLA) for injuries allegedly caused by ‘a defect, unsafe or dangerous condition of any street, alley, sidewalk or highway, owned and controlled by the Defendant.

“The lawsuit arises from the Plaintiffs' voluntary recreational use of a traill on the Clarksville Greenway. The Court determines that there is no genuine issue of material fact that the Plaintiffs' recreational use of the greenway is subjected to and governed by the Tennessee Recreational Use statute. The Court finds that pursuant to the provisions of that statute, the City owed no duty of care to keep the greenway safe for entry or use by Plaintiffs for their recreational activity of biking and thus the recreational use statute completely insulates the City from Plaintiffs' claims.

“Further, the Court finds as a matter of law that under the GTLA, the City's sovereign immunity is not removed, because the City's decision concerning the purchase and placement of fencing along the greenway constitutes a discretionary function. 

“For the reasons stated above, the Court finds that the City is entitled to Summary Judgment in this matter as to the entirety of Plaintiffs' claims in this cause. This action is DISMISSED and the costs of this case are adjudged against the Plaintiffs.”

City Attorney Lance Baker called the ruling “great legal news for the City.” He credited the work of staff attorneys in his office, Jeff Goodson and Neil Stauffer, for their “legal research and analysis, and legal brief writing and oral argument skills” that earned the City a favorable ruling in the case.

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