Monday, December 14, 2020

Court Applies Recreational Use of Land and Water Act in Snowmobile Case



In the case of Conway v. N.E.P. Sno Trails, Inc., No. 15-CV-6543 (C.P. Lacka. Co. Dec. 4, 2020 Nealon, J.), the court granted a landowner’s Motion for Summary Judgment but denied a snowmobile club’s Motion for Summary Judgement in a case arising out of a snowmobile accident.

According to the Opinion, this suit was filed by a Plaintiff snowmobile operator who was injured while traveling on a designated snowmobile trail when his snowmobile suddenly crashed into a six foot deep gully. The Plaintiff filed this negligence suit against his snowmobile club that had established a trail and allegedly assumed the responsibility for ensuring that it was clear of hazards. He also sued the landowner that had granted permission to the snowmobile club and its members to use the land for recreational purposes free of charge.

The court noted that, under the Recreational Use of Land and Water Act, the owner or occupant of land made available to the public for recreational use is immune from negligence liability for harm caused by a dangerous condition, unless the owner or occupant “charges the recreational user” to enter or use the land.

Absent any such monetary charge, the owner or occupant of the land may be liable only for “willful or malicious failure to guard or warn” against a dangerous condition or activity.

In this matter, both the landowner and the snowmobile club filed Motions for Summary Judgment on the grounds that the snowmobiler could not establish a cognizable duty in order to sustain a tort claim under the Recreational Use of Land and Water Act. The snowmobile club alternatively argued that it owed no duty to the snowmobiler who had assumed the risk of his own injury.

After noting that the landowner had not charged either the snowmobile club or the snowmobiler any fee to enter its land or to use the trail, the court noted that the Defendant landowner was entitled to summary judgement under the Act. The court also noted that there was no allegation or evidence that the landowner was chargeable with a willful or malicious failure to guard or warn against the dangerous condition.

With regards to the motion filed by the snowmobile club, the court denied the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by the snowmobile club as there were issues of fact as to whether the club charged the Plaintiff a fee to use the trail. The court also found issues of act as to whether the snowmobiler had assumed the risk. As such, the snowmobile club’s Motion for Summary Judgment was denied.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.


I send thanks to Attorney Joseph R. Rydzewski of the Clarks Summit, Pa law firm of Spall, Rydzewski, Anderson, Lalley & Tunis, P.C., for bringing this case to my attention.

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