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I ran across a story in the New York Times recently that they are looking at the possibility of shutting down the Newport Rhode Island Cliff Walk. It’s a sad thing to even know they are thinking about. I went there so many times as a kid and spent my honeymoon there. I had some of the same concerns recently when I was writing about the shutting of the front doors of the United States Supreme Court.

The first question again was why? The simple answer is lawsuits. The directions from there are obvious. I can hear the whaling of the "frivolous lawsuit" bargained as they jump on another opportunity to blame lawyers for something else.

Without knowing all of the facts, I can’t truthfully write that there isn’t at least a grain of truth in their overblown tales. But, it does seem like the facts as presented by the paper support questions about responsibility.

Governmental immunity: Basically, you can’t sue the king. While we created a whole country that was based on the government of the people, the legislatures have started and the courts have continued a march back to prohibitions of claims against the government.

Assumption of the risk: What risks do you take when you head out onto the cliff walk? I can assure you that jurors look hard at this issue.

Duty: What should the maintenance and owners of the walk consider as they keep the walk in repair? They know that many people use the walk. The town even uses the walk to promote tourism to the town.

Notice: The article suggests that at least two others have died on the path. I read about it out here in Minnesota, so I would think that it is known there in town.

When someone dies or his horribly injured, these questions must be looked at by everyone involved. Everyone isn’t going to have a case just because it happened. But, in the same vein, those responsible shouldn’t be able to again and again hide from their responsibility.

If the walk is really that unsafe then the hard questions whether it should even be open have to be asked. If it’s simply a question of maintenance, then the value of the walk needs to be weighted against the cost to fix it.

I personally would hope that it stays open forever. It’s a beautiful walk. But, those who are there every day need to understand that with the success and profit it brings to town, there is also a responsibility and an understanding that most of the tourists only come there once and rely upon what they are sold about what to do when in Newport.

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