New Hampshire landowners who make their properties obtainable to the general public for recreation at no cost don’t take pleasure in full immunity underneath the state’s leisure use statute. Landowners have immunity from negligence solely the place the sufferer of negligence is definitely utilizing their property.
In an opinion issued last Friday, New Hampshire’s Supreme Court docket overturned a decrease court docket that granted immunity to the landowner—on this case, the state — in a case the place a girl standing on federal land was injured by the collapse of a wall of an adjoining fort that was owned and maintained by the state.
The justices mentioned the statute granting immunity needs to be interpreted strictly. The legislation’s plain language states that immunity from legal responsibility from private harm is proscribed to accidents incurred by those that “use” land for leisure functions freed from cost.
In line with the info relayed by the court docket, in June 2018, the plaintiff, Janet Bisceglia, and her household visited a historic lighthouse located on land in New Fort, which is owned by the federal authorities. That federal land is adjoining to Fort Structure, which is owned and operated by the state. Whereas the plaintiff was standing on the federal land subsequent to the outer wall of Fort Structure, a portion of the wall fell on high of her, inflicting her substantial accidents.
Bisceglia sued the state for negligence.
The trial court docket granted abstract judgment for the state. The court docket decided that, as a result of the state held Fort Structure out to the general public at no cost and the wall “was maintained as a part of the historic web site for the use and delight of the general public,” the legislation shields the state from legal responsibility, no matter whether or not the plaintiff was bodily on the state’s property on the time of the harm.
On enchantment, the plaintiff argued that the trial court docket erred in ruling that the statute bars her go well with when it’s undisputed that she by no means entered upon or used the state’s property in any approach.
The state argued that “leisure use immunity doesn’t activate whether or not a specific particular person was utilizing the topic property for leisure functions on the time she or he was injured,” however, somewhat, “the operative query is whether or not the landowner has permitted members of most people to make use of the land for leisure functions
However the excessive court docket rejected the state’s argument.
The leisure use statute at problem (RSA 508:14, I) offers: An proprietor, occupant, or lessee of land, together with the state or any political subdivision, who with out cost permits any individual to make use of land for leisure functions or as a spectator of leisure exercise, shall not be liable for private harm or property injury within the absence of deliberately induced harm or injury.
The excessive court docket famous that the aim of the legislation is to “encourage house owners of land to make land and water areas obtainable to the general public for leisure functions by limiting their legal responsibility in direction of individuals getting into thereon for such functions.”
The statute limits the legal responsibility of landowners who make their land obtainable for public leisure makes use of “on the speculation that it’s not affordable to count on such house owners to bear the dangers of legal responsibility for harm to individuals and property attendant upon using their land by strangers from whom the accommodating proprietor receives no compensation or different favor in return,” based on the court docket.
Nevertheless, citing legislative intent and former court docket rulings, the excessive court docket discovered that the language of the statute limits its applicability to on-premises accidents and doesn’t eradicate all widespread legislation duties of landowners towards all entrants on land.
“To interpret the statute within the method prompt by the State would require that we add language that the legislature didn’t see match to incorporate,” the judges wrote.
As a result of it’s undisputed that the plaintiff didn’t use the state’s land, the trial court docket erred in granting the state’s movement for abstract judgment primarily based on the leisure use statute, the stat’s excessive court docket concluded.
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