A Deep Hole? How Georgia’s Recreational Property Act Could Block You From Bringing An Injury or Wrongful Death Claim
In this increasingly hostile world, where stress debilitates us daily, recreation is a necessity, not a luxury. Although some of the things we do to recreate ourselves can be costly in terms of money and time, they are probably necessary to our health and well-being. There are also dangers involved in the pursuit of happiness.
We recognize the possibility of injury or even death when we sky-dive or go extreme-skiing. Nevertheless, we seem perfectly willing to take those risks. Some risks; however, we simply don’t associate with deer hunting, for example. One of those risks might be dying at the bottom of an abandoned well.
In the case of Handberry v. Stuckey Timberland, Inc. 2018 Ga. App. (2018) a man is planning to hunt on a piece of private property. One of the man’s friends holds the lease to use the land for hunting. The lease specifically allows the lease holder and his invitees to use the land for hunting and fishing purposes only. The lease is based upon the Recreational Property Act. (RPA). This act encourages owners of land to make that land and water available to the public for recreational purposes by limiting the liability those owners might face otherwise if anyone might be injured or killed on that property.
When the friend/invitee goes to scout for hunting places on the leased land, the 4-wheeler he was riding upon tips over and he was thrown into an abandoned well where he died. The man’s wife filed suit against the property owner claiming that her husband died as a result of the landowner’s negligence in not warning the husband of a “known” danger there.
The trial court granted the property owner’s partial motion for dismissal for failure to state a claim. The plaintiff’s requested a review by the Court of Appeals. In that review, the appellate court ruled that the plaintiff actually did not properly state a claim of action given the landowner’s protection under the RPA.
The plaintiffs alleged that the RPA did not protect the owner in this case because the decedent was not actually hunting at the time of his death but merely looking at the land and scouting future hunting locations.
Unfortunately for the family of the decedent, the higher court did not agree, holding that scouting a hunting location is one part of the sport of hunting, and included in the covered activity.
Georgia’s Recreational Property Act can sometimes lead to harsh results. Its important to know how the law may apply in your favor – or against you or your family. If you have a question about how the law may apply to your injury case, call us for a free review of your case. We’ll look at the facts and determine how you should proceed. Our promise to you is to help if we can and to help you understand the law if we can’t. Start with The Millar Law Firm.