Maryland’s Recreational Use Statute

Maryland has a diverse and unique landscape, providing ample opportunity for Marylanders to get outside and engage in the hobbies they enjoy. Whether it’s crabbing on the Chesapeake, fossil hunting in Calvert Cliffs, mountain biking, rock climbing, or kayaking, there is always something to do in Maryland.

Each of these activities, however, presents some level of risk that something goes wrong. And while the individual engaging in the activity certainly bears some responsibility to make sure that they are being safe, landowners that allow for people to use their land may also have a duty in certain situations, as Maryland premises liability law provides. Maryland’s recreational use statute governs when a landowner has a duty – and thus can be held liable for a violation of that duty – to those whom the landowner allows to use their land.

Maryland Code section 5-1104 explains that, in general, “an owner of land who either directly or indirectly invites or permits without charge persons to use the property for any recreational or educational purpose or to cut firewood for personal use does not . . . extend any assurance that the premises are safe.” Nor does the landowner “assume responsibility for or incur liability as a result of any injury to the person.”

Importantly, this statute does not apply when a landowner charges a fee for the use of their land. A recent case illustrates how courts apply the recreational use statute.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the parents of a girl who was injured when she slipped through a gap in the bleachers while attending a youth football game. In order to gain admission to the game, the parents paid a small admission fee. However, the couple’s daughter was granted free admission because she was under the age of six.

The couple filed a premises liability lawsuit against the city that operated the stadium, arguing that it was negligent in allowing the gap in the bleachers to exist, and in failing to warn attendees of its presence. The city defended against the lawsuit by claiming that it could not be held liable under the recreational use statute. The city claimed that since the plaintiffs’’ daughter was not charged a fee, the recreational use statute shielded the city from liability.

The plaintiffs argued that the immunity should not apply because the city charged the majority of attendees, and it was only a select group of attendees who were granted free admission.

The court resolved the case in favor of the city, explaining that the statute was clearly written to confer immunity when the person injured was not charged a fee. Thus, the court was not concerned that the city charged most people to enter the stadium, holding that immunity would attach as long as the person who was injured was not charged a fee.

Have You Been Injured on the Property of Another Party?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured while on the land of another party, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Maryland premises liability lawsuit. While issues of immunity may arise in a select group of cases, do not let that discourage you from reaching out to discuss your case with an attorney. With a Maryland personal injury attorney’s assistance, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries, including your medical expenses, lost wages, and compensation for any pain and suffering you endured as a result of the accident. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Court Holds Hotel May Have Voluntarily Assumed Duty to Provide Aid to Imperiled Guest, Maryland Accident Law Blog, February 15, 2018.

Court Considers Whether Maryland Plaintiff’s Case Against Nursing Home Had to Comply with Medical Malpractice Requirements, Maryland Accident Law Blog, February 1, 2018.

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