Portland trails raise liability issues

A fascinating article in The Oregonian last week spotlights an oft-overlooked Portland premises liability issue. The article details how a local non-profit group, Southwest Trails, has spent years creating walking trails throughout the Portland area. Most of the time these trails run along streets. In a few cases, however, they cut through city owned easements behind houses.

When the trails go through an easement they are not supposed to be improved (by, for example, adding a staircase) without both a city building permit and the permission of the adjacent property owners. Property owners could, according to the paper, incur Oregon property liability for accidents on a staircase or path abutting their homes. As the article details, however, it has recently emerged that Southwest Trails often failed to obtain the necessary clearances for its work – and that until recently the city never enforced the requirement for permits.

The issue is an especially serious one because of the liability issues to which property owners might be exposed. When someone is injured on public property, or on a public easement, a Portland premises liability attorney should be consulted immediately to see whether a case exists under Oregon personal injury law.

According to The Oregonian, city codes say adjacent property owners are not responsible for maintaining staircases and other improvements to easements. The city, however, does not maintain these and has balked at assuming liability for the walking trails. It notes that when Portland tried to shift liability to trail users the city attorney issued an official opinion rejecting the proposal.

The paper reports that work on the walking trails has stopped for the moment. Southwest Trails plans to resume work soon – this time with the required permits – but is still hoping that the city will assume Oregon premises liability for the trails.

The Oregonian: Fight over trail stairs has larger repercussions for Portland residents