Georgia Appellate Court Discusses Recreational-Use Statute in Recent Premises Liability Case

A hunter went out on a piece of rural property and fell down a well and died and then his family tried to sue the land owner because of the hidden well. The Court of Appeals took a hard look at the immunity for hunting statute and rendered an opinion that squarely rebuffs any attempts like this. The Court of Appeals of Georgia issued the opinion in a Georgia premises liability lawsuit discussing the applicability of the state’s recreational-use statute to the plaintiff’s case. The court ultimately held that the defendant landowner was entitled to immunity because the plaintiff’s husband was on his land for the purposes of hunting, which was covered under the recreational-use statute.

ATVThe Recreational-Use Statute

Under OCGA § 51-3-20 and OCGA § 27-3-1 (e), a landowner who “gives permission to another person to hunt, fish, or take wildlife upon the land with or without charge” “may not be held liable for personal injuries resulting from unsafe or defective conditions existing on the premises.”

The Facts of the Case

The defendant leased land to another man who planned on starting up a hunting club. The lease limited the hunting club’s use of the land to hunting purposes only, and, while the lease did not name anyone else in the document itself, the lease did contemplate that there would be others entering the land to hunt.

One day, one of the members of the hunting club was scouting out a location for a future hunt on a four-wheeler, when he ran over a boarded-up well. The board broke, and the man fell inside the well, where he passed away a short time later.

The man’s wife filed a lawsuit against the defendant. In response, the defendant claimed that since the plaintiff’s husband was on his land pursuant to the lease, and the man was on his land for hunting purposes, the state’s recreational-use statute should shield the defendant from liability.

The plaintiff argued that the lease did not specifically grant her husband permission to be on the land, and therefore the recreational-use statute should not apply. Additionally, the plaintiff claimed that her husband was not on the land for hunting purposes, also removing the case from the reach of the recreational-use statute.

The court rejected the plaintiff’s arguments and dismissed her case under the recreational-use statute. The court explained that the lease signed by the founder of the hunting club did not need to list the plaintiff’s husband by name in order for him to have permission to be on the land. The court looked at the language of the lease, which contemplated that others would use the land, and then found this language sufficient to establish that the defendant gave the plaintiff’s husband implicit permission to use the land.

The court then moved on to the plaintiff’s argument that her husband was not actually hunting but was scouting for a future hunt. The court was not satisfied that there was a difference between the two, but it noted that even if there was, the plaintiff would be considered a trespasser because the lease only granted permission to use the land for hunting purposes. If the plaintiff’s husband was considered a trespasser, the court explained that the defendant would only have a duty not to willfully or intentionally cause harm, neither of which was alleged by the plaintiff.

Have You Been Injured on Another Party’s Property?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured on another party’s land, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Georgia premises liability lawsuit. Attorney Christopher Simon helps Georgia accident victims pursue claims for compensation from those responsible for their injuries. We represent the victims of Georgia slip-and-fall accidents and other accidents. To learn more, call 404-259-7635 to schedule a free consultation.

Read More:

Spoliation of Evidence by the Plaintiff in Georgia, Atlanta Injury Attorney Blog, published April 17, 2018

In a Georgia Slip and Fall Case, Testimony Turns the Tide, Atlanta Injury Attorney Blog, published April 23, 2018