Thursday, August 11, 2022

County Found Immune From Liability Under Recreational Use of Land and Water Act

In the case of Clark v. Schuylkill Canal Ass’n, Inc., No. 611 C.D. 2020 (Pa. Cmwlth. June 13, 2022 McCullough, J., Wallace J., and Leavitt, S.J.) (Op. by McCullough, J.), the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled that a trial court had properly found that Montgomery County was immune from suit under the Recreational Use of Land and Water Act given that the decedent’s fatal accident, caused when a tree fell, occurred in a natural and undeveloped recreational area which came under the protection of the Act.

In so ruling, the appellate court applied the four (4) point test to consider whether the recreational use of Land and Water Act applied to protect a particular landowner from tort liability.

The court noted that these factors included: (1) the nature of the area in question, that is, whether it was urban or rural, indoors or outdoors, large or small; (2) the type of recreation offered in the area, that is, whether persons entered to participate in one of the recreational purposes listed in the Act; (3) the extent of the area’s development, that is, whether the site was completely developed and/or significantly altered from its natural state and the characters of the area’s development; and, (4) whether the area was adapted for a new recreational purpose or would be amenable to recreational purposes of the act even without alteration.

In this case, the accident occurred at a 60-arce outdoor, rural, forested area along a riverbank. The site was not largely developed or improved in any significant way or altered from its natural state in any significant manner. The area was also not adapted for any new recreational purpose. Rather, the court found that the area, which consisted of a muddy riverbank, rocks, and trees left open for those who enjoy the outdoors had dangers that were comparable to those of a natural forest.

As such, the court found that the area in question was the type of which would fall under the protection of the Act. As such, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s finding of immunity in favor of Montgomery County.

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

Source: “Digest of Recent Opinions.” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (July 6, 2022).

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