8110 – The Court Branches Out


Before you set up your tent, you’d better canvass the trees.  The Aldridge family decided to go camping in a state campground, specifically requesting a campsite with shade.  Right after they set up camp, it started raining and when they heard a severe storm front was on the way, they decided to go into the tent to change clothes to leave.  But as they were taking off, in preparation of taking off, a huge dead tree branch broke off and came crashing down on the tent, seriously injuring Mr. and Mrs. Aldridge.  The Court noted the limb was huge, and if the entire tree had fallen, it would’ve covered the length of the entire campsite.  A family member testified that shortly after the incident a conservation officer told them the tree was dead and should’ve been removed but added “we can’t get them all.”  The family sued, but the Court, refusing to go out on a limb, held that while states have a duty to the general public, they do not have a duty to any individual member of the public and the mere fact the family relied on proper tree maintenance did not create a special duty of care.  So pay attention where you stake out your tent, because if the weather causes a flap, you may not be able to stake out a claim.

Bernadine, Raymond, and Rodney Aldridge v. Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources, Court of Appeals of Indiana, 4/30/99 (694 N.E.2d 313) (see script no. 5468)