Going On Someone Else’s Land : Part 2

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Q: Last summer, I went to visit my friend’s brother and his family.  They were fishing near a dock on a river.  One of the children had gotten her fishing line tangled.  I walked out onto an old stone aqueduct to help.   Before I knew it, I had fallen into a hole.

A: In New York, a statute called General Obligations Law § 9-103 protects landowners from liability against claims for ordinary negligence brought by members of the public who come onto their property to engage in certain recreational activities, such as fishing.

This statute does not apply to a full-fledged public recreational facility.  A court will want to know who owned the dock, and the aqueduct.  A court will look at the level of supervision.  If there is a charge, and supervision, then perhaps this is a full-fledged public recreational facility, so that the statute does not block your lawsuit.

The rationale behind the statute is that, without the inducement of liability protection, an owner will feel obliged to end the public’s use of the area for such recreational activities as fishing.   The statute was enacted so that private and public landowners will relax when deciding whether to permit members of the public to enter and engage in recreational activities.  This rationale does not, however, apply to a full-fledged public recreational facility.

Apparently, you yourself were not fishing.  You merely rendered assistance to another person who was attempting to take fish.  However, a court will probably say that you should be caught in the same net as the fishers.  If the statute protects the owner of the dock against a lawsuit brought by them, it protects the owner against a lawsuit brought by you.

To reiterate, the main question under General Obligations Law § 9-103 appears to be, was this a public recreational facility, involving charges and supervision.  Give your lawyer the answers.  He or she can determine your chances of success.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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