Court Rejects Defendant’s Recreational-Use Immunity Defense, Finding that the Land in Question Was Not Offered for Public Use

hunting blindRecently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing the state’s recreational use statute, and whether it applied to bar the plaintiff’s claim against the defendant. Ultimately, the court concluded that the recreational-use statute did not apply because the defendant’s land was not offered for public use. The case is important for Maryland premises liability plaintiffs in that it discusses a key element of a defendant’s recreational-use defense.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the son of the defendant (Father), and was injured on his father’s land while hunting. Father owned about 40 acres, and allowed his immediate family to use the property to hunt. Father excluded other members of the community, extended family members, and friends of his children from using the land to hunt.

Father had constructed several blinds from which hunters could hide and wait for animals to approach. One day, the plaintiff was hunting on Father’s land when a wooden board came loose from the blind, and the plaintiff fell 16 feet to the ground below. The plaintiff broke both his legs as a result of the fall, and filed a personal injury lawsuit against his father.

Father claimed that he was entitled to immunity from the plaintiff’s lawsuit under the state’s recreational-use statute. Under the statute, a landowner who 1.) gives permission to another 2.) to use his land for recreational purposes 3.) without charging a fee cannot be held liable for any injuries that occur as a result of that person’s use of the land. The parties agreed that Father met each of these three elements. However, the plaintiff argued that the statute was passed with the stated purposed “to encourage and promote the use of … privately owned lands and waters by the public for beneficial recreational purposes.” Thus, the parties offered different definitions of the term “by the public.”

Father claimed that by allowing some members of the public, i.e., his immediately family, he met the requirements of the statute. The plaintiff, however, argued that in order for the statue to apply, a defendant must open up his property to public generally. Here, the court held that Father’s exclusion of others from his property meant that he had not opened his land up for public use. Thus, the court determined that he was not entitled to immunity under the recreational-use statute, and the plaintiff’s case was permitted to proceed forward towards trial or settlement negotiations.

Have You Been Injured on Another’s Land?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured while on the property of another individual, business, or government, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Maryland premises liability lawsuit. While issues of immunity do come up in some cases, it is the defendant’s burden to establish that a defense applies. At the Maryland personal injury law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC we have decades of experience representing injury victims and their families in all types of Maryland premises liability lawsuits, including those involving issues of governmental and recreational-use immunity. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Premises Liability Cases Involving Known and Obvious Hazards, Maryland Accident Law Blog, July 16, 2018.

Maryland Court of Appeals Allows Premises Liability Case to Proceed Based on Defective Condition of a Property Built in 1990, Maryland Accident Law Blog, July 2, 2018.

Photo Credit: Robert Heber / Shutterstock.com

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