THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS ASKS HIGH COURT TO DECLARE ALL BICYCLISTS TRESPASSERS!
Sept. 6, 2019
In a case pending at the Texas Supreme Court, the University of Texas has asked the Court to declare that any bicyclist riding on Campus, or any other University of Texas property be deemed a trespasser. The case, No 18-0740, The University of Texas v. Garner, involves alumni, Garner, who was riding her bicycle on Alvin Street on UT property. A University of Texas employee driving a work truck struck Garner. The University of Texas Campus Police investigated the crash, and determined The University of Texas employee was at fault. When Garner brought a claim for her injuries, the university asserted Garner was a trespasser, and therefore, even if the university’s driver was negligent, Garner's recovery was barred. Both the Travis County Court who heard the case, and the Austin Court of Appeals, ruled in Garner's favor, The University of Texas decided to take their case to the Texas Supreme Court. The case is pending acceptance for review from the Court.
In their briefing at the Supreme Court, The University of Texas argues that any cyclist riding on university property is a trespasser, because the "recreational use" statute says riding a bike is a recreational use. The recreational use statute also says walking a dog, pleasure driving, or any form of skating is a recreational use. If the Supreme Court were to adopt The University of Texas' position, that all bicyclists on university property were trespassers, then every student, staffer or employee riding a bike, walking a dog, skating, or taking a pleasure drive across campus, would be deemed a trespasser.
The effect of being found to be a trespasser means that any cyclist injured by a university vehicle that runs a stop sign, backs out of a parking place without looking, speeds over the limit, or hits a cyclist while texting and driving, would have no responsibility for the injuries to the cyclist. In other words The University of Texas is asking the Supreme Court to give its drivers, no matter how negligent, immunity when they run over a cyclist. Essentially, The University of Texas would delegate cyclists to unprotected second-class citizens on campus. This would take the most vulnerable people on the road and bar them from recourse for injury due to a driver’s negligence.
As the trial court and appeals court has already found, The University of Texas’ position should not be the law. Every other court in Texas that has considered The University of Texas’ position has rightly rejected it.