The Massachusetts recreational use statute, also known as the Massachusetts public use statute, shields from liability those who make their land available to the public for recreational use in certain situations. Of course, this exemption is not automatic, and a landowner must prove that he, she, or it is entitled to immunity under the circumstances of a particular case.
Recently, the Massachusetts Appeals Court was called upon to decide whether a commercial recreational facility was entitled to relief from liability when it charged a fee to engage in certain activities but not to watch others as a spectator.
Facts of the Case
In the unreported case of Amaral v. Seekonk Grand Prix Corp., the plaintiff was a woman who was injured while watching her sons drive go-carts at the defendant’s facility. She was hurt when another driver crashed a go-cart through a chain link fence near where she was standing. Notably, the woman was not required to pay to get into the facility to watch her sons, but she did have to buy tickets for her sons before they were allowed to drive the go-carts. The woman filed a negligence lawsuit against the landowner, seeking damages for her injuries (including a pulmonary embolism). The trial court granted summary judgment to the landowner on the basis of the recreational use statute. The woman appealed.
The Appeals Court Decision
On consideration by the appellate court, the case was reversed. In deciding whether the defendant was entitled to a statutory exemption from liability based upon the recreational use statute, the court noted that there are three requirements. The defendant must have an interest in the land, the plaintiff must have been injured while engaging in a recreational activity, and the defendant must not have imposed a fee for the plaintiff’s use of the land. The court did not decide whether the first and second requirements were present, but it found that, under the circumstances, the woman was to be considered a paying customer because she had paid for her children to participate in the go-cart activity, and it was foreseeable that a parent of minor children would stay and watch his or her children engage in the activity for which the parent had bought tickets.
According to the court, granting immunity to the defendant under the facts of the case would have undermined the purpose of the statute, which was to encourage landowners to permit free use of their land for recreational purposes. Since the woman paid a fee to use the land, summary judgment for the landowner was erroneous.
To Talk to a Massachusetts Trial Lawyer About Your Case
If you or a family member needs legal advice concerning a slip and fall or other personal injury accident, the experienced Massachusetts premises liability attorneys at the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, are here to help. Call us at 888-262-6664 for an appointment to discuss your case at either our Hyannis or Plymouth office. We serve clients throughout the Cape Cod area, as well as elsewhere in Massachusetts. There is no charge for the initial consultation, and most cases are accepted on a contingency fee basis.
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