Recreational Purpose Immunity in Premises Liability Lawsuits

October 24, 2018

Generally speaking, Pennsylvania landowners have a duty to maintain their property in reasonably safe condition for premises entrants, and to either correct dangerous conditions of property (e.g. hazards) or warn premises entrants of such hazards.  If you tripped and fell on the defendant’s property due to some hidden hazard, such as a loose floor tile, then you could potentially sue and recover damages pursuant to standard premises liability rules.

Things get a bit more complicated when the injury takes place on land that was made available to the public for recreational purposes.  Pennsylvania shields landowners from liability in certain limited circumstances with the “recreational immunity,” which is intended to encourage landowners to keep their land available for public use.

Let’s take a look at the basics.

How the Recreational Immunity Works

In Pennsylvania, recreational immunity is granted by the Recreational Use of Land and Water Act.  The Act ensures that landowners can benefit from immunity to injury liability for trip and fall incidents (and other premises-related injuries) occurring on the property at-issue so long as the landowner allowed the general public to access the land for a recreational purpose.

Simply put, the recreational immunity prevents the imposition of liability on landowners for failing to correct hazards or to warn premises entrants of hazards, unless the hazard was known to the landowner (before the injury occurred).

Confused?  We’ll put this all into context with a quick example.

Suppose that you trip and fall while sitting on a dock on the defendant’s lakeside property, fishing.  The defendant is a major landowner in the area and made that portion of their property open to the public for fishing.  As it turns out, however, the dock wood was rotting and therefore broke easily under your steps, causing you to trip and injure yourself.

Now, if the hazardous dock condition was actually known to the defendant landowner, then they could be held liable for your injuries (as the continuation of the hazard would represent a willful failure to correct it or warn of the risks).  On the other hand, if the defendant landowner was unaware of the rotting wood below the dock — even if they should have inspected it and found it, had they been careful — they can take advantage of the “recreational immunity” and avoid liability.

In many recreational immunity cases, the key issue is therefore whether the defendant actually knew about the hazard.  There are, of course, other ways to overcome the recreational immunity in Pennsylvania.  If the defendant did not actually make their property available to the general public for the recreational use at-issue, then they cannot take advantage of the immunity.

Schedule a Free and Confidential Consultation With Our Allentown Trip and Fall Lawyers

Here at Drake, Hileman & Davis, PC, our attorneys have extensive experience representing those who have been injured in a variety of situations, including premises liability trip and fall scenarios.

We have litigated numerous trip and fall claims, and have overcome various defense arguments, such as the recreational immunity.  The recreational immunity can pose a significant challenge to your recovery, so it’s critical that you work with a team of attorneys who understand how to effectively navigate the dispute process (in spite of such barriers) and secure compensation on your behalf.

Ready to speak to an attorney about your claims?  Call 215-348-2088 or submit an online case evaluation form to arrange for a free and confidential consultation with our experienced Allentown trip and fall lawyers.