Some Outdoor Recreation Law
Do you play outdoors?
Do you own land used for outdoor recreation?
Then do you know about New York State General Obligations Law §9-301? If you don’t, you should and, please, read on.
This law was enacted to encourage property owners to permit people to come onto their land to engage in specified recreational activities without fear of liability for injuries suffered by those people.
The activities include only the following:
• Organized Gleaning (According to New York Agriculture and Markets Law, organized gleaning means the harvest of an agriculture crop that has been donated by an owner, lessee or occupant of a premises or occupant of a farm by persons who are sponsored by a charitable not-for-profit organization)
• Cross-Country Skiing
• Speleological Activities (The study of caves)
• Horseback Riding
• Bicycle Riding
• Hang Gliding
• Motorized Vehicle Operation for Recreational Purposes
• Snowmobile Operation
• Cutting or Gathering of Wood for Non-commercial Purposes
• Training of Dogs
• To Give Warning of Any Hazardous Condition or Use of or Structural Activity on Such Premises to Persons Entering for Such Purposes
Our highest court has held that the statute is properly applied where (1) the injured person is engaged in one of the activities identified above and that (2) he/she is doing so on land suitable for that activity. If these two conditions are met, an injured person might not have a claim or case against the property owner.
Perhaps you are wondering whether this applies to public parks. Where a municipality has opened land for supervised recreational use, such as a park, the statute’s intended purpose of encouraging a property owner to make his/her property available for public use would not be served. In other words, the municipality has already assumed the duty to act reasonably in maintaining the park in a reasonably safe condition in view of all of the circumstances. Immunity under §9-103 does not apply. The statute does apply, however, to undeveloped areas of public parks.
Most people will not go onto someone else’s private property for recreational use but instead will go to a park. There was a case brought against the Village of Otisville and was litigated in Orange County. The facts were that Barbara V. was walking with her son to a hill in a park owned by the Village where people were sledding. The hill was in an area of the park that was not maintained by the Village but rather left by the Village in its natural state. The hill had been used for sledding for approximately 50 years. Barbara V. was injured when she was standing at the bottom of the hill and was hit by someone coming down the hill.
After it was sued, the Village invoked §9-301 and the Court said that it applies to undeveloped areas of public parks. The Court went on to note that there is immunity provided by the statute as it also provides that the owner does not assume responsibility for or incur liability for any injury to a person caused by any act of another person to whom permission is likewise granted.
Returning, then, to the beginning, if you enjoy playing outdoors should you simply walk on to some property and begin, for example, to explore caves or ride your bicycle?
Going on to the property of another without permission is never recommended. On the other hand, if you own property, should you open it up for use by the public, relying upon this statute?
Allowing someone else onto your property is likewise often not a good idea.
If you are on either side of this recreational equation and have a legal question, contact a qualified attorney.
Robert M. Lefland is Senior Counsel and primary attorney in charge of Personal Injury at J&G.
He can be reached by calling 866.303.9595 toll free or 845.764.9656 and by email .
He is available by appointment on Saturday’s.
If you need his immediate attention, you can reach him on cell.