Will California's Recreational Use Statute Protect Me?
Q: I operate a boarding stable on my property. Some of my boarders do not want to have their guests sign my liability release form, and they say that the California Recreational Use Statute will protect me. Are my boarders right? If theyre not, what can I show them to convince them?
A: Your boarders are misinformed. California's Recreational Use Statute, which is Civil Code 846, is designed to protect the landowner who allows others to use his or her property for recreation. The statute lists a number of recreational activities, including animal riding,?that fall within the purview of the statute. However, the statute has some key limitations, and among those limitations is that is does NOT protect the landowner who charges people to use the property for recreational purposes. This limitation extends even to those who haven't paid to use the property. So, because your boarders have paid to use your property for horseback riding, you are not protected against claims that might be brought by their guests.
The Recreational Use Statute has another key limitation that is important to the horse property owner: it covers only claims that relate to the safety of the property . So, even if you did not have a boarding business and did not charge anyone to ride on your property, you would still be potentially liable if, for example, you gave a free riding lesson to a neighbor child, failed to tighten the girth and the child was injured.
What can you do to protect yourself against liability related to having guests on your horse property? If you are running a business, you should have commercial liability insurance as well as a quality liability release customized to your business and your property. (See Will Your Liability Release Protect You??/a>) For the purposes of California's Recreational Use Statute, running a business is interpreted very broadly ?you need not actually make a profit. Accepting compensation is enough, and it doesn't have to be cash compensation.
If you are not running a business on your property, you should confirm that your homeowners?insurance covers horse-related accidents on your property. If it does not, you may want to consider obtaining a separate horse owners? liability policy. You should also consider having guests sign a liability release.