Recreational immunity limits the liability of property owners when a person is injured while engaging in recreational activity on their property. Wisconsin statute section 895.52 grants recreational immunity under several circumstances. The statute itself is complex and has several exceptions and exclusions. The statute was originally titled “the berry picking statute”. The legislature’s intent was to provide immunity for property owners to encourage them to allow individuals onto their land for berry picking, hunting, fishing and various other outdoor activities without the property owners having to worry about liability arising from injuries that may occur during the recreational use of the land.
The immunity given to landowners in Wisconsin includes protection in the event of failure of the property owner to inspect the property for hazards or to warn of unsafe conditions.
Although recreational immunity is intended to apply broadly it is by no means all encompassing. There are many exceptions and limitations in the statute. For example, if the property owner was renting out the property for use and made more than $2,000.00 on that rent a year the property owner would no longer have an immunity. Further, if a hazard was already known to the property owner and the property owner did nothing to correct it, the property owner also would lose protection under the recreational immunity statute. Finally, if the obstruction or if the unsafe condition was close to the property owner’s home where the property owner “should have known “of the hazard and did nothing to warn or prevent the property owner again may have lost protection under recreational immunity.
Applying this law to a fact situation shows how complicated and fact intensive a review of recreational immunity is as it applies to certain cases. For example, if you are hunting on an individual’s land and accidently fall into an open sink hole, typically the property owner will be able to enjoy the protection of the recreational immunity clause. However, if the property owner was leasing use of the land for hunting and made more than $2,000.00 in the calendar year, the property owner no longer has immunity under the statute. Further, if the property owner was aware that the sink hole existed and didn’t bother to notify the people leasing the land of the condition, the property owner would again lose immunity and be responsible for any injuries created by the sinkhole. To throw another wrinkle into this, if the sink hole was less than 300 ft. from the property owner’s home and the property owner legitimately did not know of its existence immunity would likely not apply to the property owner as the statute provides that if the hazard is within 300 ft. of a home or structure the property owner should have known of the hazard and therefore notified all the parties.
As you can tell from this discussion, the recreational immunity statute has so many limitations and requirements that my best advice would always be to contact a lawyer to discuss your specific situation rather than assuming that recreational immunity protects you in any way. If you have any questions do not forget you can call Daniels & McAvoy for a free 30 min. consult on this or any other legal issue.