Court of Appeals Opinions 03.10.09

The court published a decision on recreational-use immunity this morning.  The decison is notable for firmly establishing that certain conditions (here, a gouge in the sidewalk outside a rec center in St. Paul) are simply not “inherently dangerous conditions likely to cause death or serious bodily harm” and are not subject to factual dispute.  The Court also rejected the argument that the traditional standard of liability, or the calculation of inherent risk, is different if the facility is used by more vulnerable people (here, a 76-year-old woman). 

The Court also issued an unpublished opinion on conditional use permits, finding Sherburne County’s denial of permits relating to a gravel-pit expansion to be arbitrary and capricious.  The opinion is fact-specific and heavily influenced by the long history of litigation between Veit/Vonco (pit operator) and Sherburne County.  The opinion’s main use is the affirmation and application of the holding from Trisko v. Waite Park, finding that if an authority can create conditions that would allow it to address concerns and approve a CUP, then it must do that.  Here, the County Board identified 37 conditions that could have applied, so the Court found refusal to employ these conditions to be arbitrary and capricious.  Also note – the Court reached its main conclusion on page 9 of the opinion.  The opinion is 13 pages.  Thus, the other takeaway is that the Court does not hesitate to smack your board’s decision around as much as possible when it’s sending it back to you on remand.  Beware.

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