Driveway Crossing State Trail Didn't Make Driver a "Trail User"

Minnesota case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: Negligence, state trail.

Stewart v. Koenig. MN negligence, state trail.

Patrick Brian Stewart was injured in a 2005 car-bicycle accident with a car driven by Christopher Michael Koenig. Stewart was riding his bicycle on Douglas Trail, a state recreational trail in Olmsted County, Minnesota. He collided with Koenig's car at the point where Koenig's driveway crossed the state trail.

A DNR regulation requires a "trail user" who is entering or crossing trail must yield the right of way to users already on the trail. The plaintiff asked for a jury instruction stating that defendant had violated this regulation, and that this violation established negligence per se. Th defendant argued that he was not a "trail user". Trial court agreed with the defendant, and instead give a common-law negligence jury instruction.

The Minnesota Supreme Court, in an opinion written by Justice Dietzen, held that the defendant was not a "trail user" for purpose of this regulation. Therefore, the trial court did not err in failing to give requested instruction, and the high court affirmed the verdict.

No. A08-1209, 783 N.W.2d 164 (Minn. June 10, 2010) .

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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