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Massachusetts Court Discusses Immunity Under the Recreational Use Statute

In Massachusetts, property owners are expected to maintain their property in a relatively safe condition. The duties imposed on property owners apply regardless of whether the owner is an individual or business. Even if the injured party can prove he or she was injured on a person or entity’s property, however, the injured party may be denied damages if an exception to the general rule applies. For example, as discussed in a recent case decided by the Appeals Court of Massachusetts, under certain circumstances a property owner that permits people to use its property for recreational purposes can avoid liability. If you suffered injuries in a recreational facility it is prudent to meet with a skillful Massachusetts personal injury attorney to discuss the circumstances under which you were injured and your potential claims for pursuing damages.

Factual Background of the Plaintiff’s Harm

Allegedly, the plaintiff was at the defendant indoor sports facility, watching her son play dek hockey. When she was leaving the bleachers after the game, she fell and suffered a torn ligament in her knee. She sued the defendant, alleging that it negligently failed to properly secure the bleachers. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that it was insulated from liability by G.L. c 21, § 17C, which is known as the recreational use statute. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion, dismissing the case. The plaintiff appealed.

Immunity Under the Recreational Use Statute

Under the recreational use statute, landowners are protected from liability for negligence claims brought by people who suffered injuries while using the land for recreational purposes with no charge. In the subject case, it was undisputed that the plaintiff did not pay a fee to use the defendant’s facilities. The plaintiff argued, however, that she paid an indirect fee for the use of the defendant facility, through payments made to her son’s dek hockey league to allow him to play in the defendant facility.

The court noted, however, that even if the plaintiff paid a fee for her son to play in the defendant arena, it would not remove the defendant’s protections under the recreational use act for spectators watching games in the facility. Rather, the court reasoned that because she was not charged a fee the plaintiff was no different than any other person who entered the facility to watch the game. Further, the court noted that to the extent the recreational nature of the plaintiff’s activity was disputed, Massachusetts case law clearly held that spectating is a recreational activity. Additionally, the court held that regardless of whether the defendant operated its business for profit, it was protected under the recreational use statute for covered activities it permitted the public to engage in for free. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court’s ruling.

Meet with a Seasoned Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorney to Discuss Your Case

If you were injured on someone else’s property it is important to understand any defenses the property owner may be able to set forth to avoid liability. A seasoned Massachusetts personal injury attorney can assist you in attempting to prove the property owner’s liability and refuting any potential defenses. The capable personal injury attorneys of Karsner & Meehan will help you formulate compelling arguments in favor of your recovery of compensation. You can contact us through our online form or at 508-822-6600 to set up a consultation to discuss your case.