In Coogan v. D'Angelo, decided on October 2, 2009, the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, granted the defendant's summary judgment motion, ruling that a wrongful death suit was barred by New York State's "Recreational Use Statute".
A youth, driving an all terrain vehicle onto unfamiliar property owned by defendant D'Angelo, struck a metal cable strung across a path, fatally injuring him.
The appeals court affirmed the decision of the trial court that the landowner-defendant was immune from liability for negligence based on the recreational use statute, General Obligations Law §9103(a), which states, in part: an owner, lessee or occupant of premises..., owes no duty to keep the premises safe for entry or use by others for hunting, fishing, organized gleaning, canoeing, boating, trapping, hiking, cross-country skiing, tobogganing, sledding, speleological activities, horseback riding, bicycle riding, hang gliding, motorized vehicle operation for recreational purposes, snowmobile operation, cutting or gathering of wood for non-commercial purposes or training of dogs, or to give warning of any hazardous condition or use of or structure or activity on such premises to persons entering for such purposes;
NY courts had previously ruled that GOL §9103 applied also to landowners that attempted to prevent members of the public from using their lands.
"Recreational Use Statute" is a term used to describe and promote the free use of private lands by granting landowners who allow access to the public, immunity from liability for personal injuries suffered by persons pursuing recreational activities on the owner's land.
While the appellate court made mention that ATV use is specified (as I have highlighted above) in the NY law, I wonder if this case was appealed because the plaintiff (father of the deceased youth) was upset by the mechanism of fatal injury, by "clothesline".
Landowners are not required to keep their premises safe or to warn visitors of hazardous conditions, however they may not deliberately endanger people who enter on their property.
While I understand the legal reasoning and public policy reaffirmed in this appeal, it is not easy to accept the loss of the youth; a warning of some kind may have prevented his death.