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New Mexico’s Recreational Use Statute

Posted in Firm News

Under New Mexico law, landowners have a duty to keep their property safe for the people whom they invite onto the property. In almost all situations, a landowner has at least some duty to protect visitors from harm. The level of the duty owed to the visitor depends largely on the reason why the visitor is on the landowner’s property. For example, trespassers are owed very little care, whereas business invitees are owed a much higher duty of care. A violation of this duty of care may lead to a New Mexico premises liability case.

Another category of visitor is the “recreationalist,” who is on another party’s land to engage in some form of recreation, whether it be hunting, fishing, boating, swimming, or skiing. In these situations, the landowner may be protected under a recreational use statute. Recreational use statutes provide immunity to landowners who allow the public to use their property for recreational uses at no cost. When the statute applies, someone who is injured while on the landowner’s property may be prevented from holding the landowner responsible. A recent case illustrates how courts interpret recreational use statutes.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff’s son was playing on a lake with some friends. The children were taking turns swinging from a rope swing into the lake. As one child was swinging in the lake, the others would try to slap his feet before he hit the water. When the plaintiff’s son tried to swipe at his friend’s feet, the two children collided, and the plaintiff’s son suffered serious injuries as a result.

The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the town, as the owner of the lake. The town claimed that it was entitled to recreational use immunity because the boys were engaging in a recreational activity when the injury occurred. The plaintiff claimed that the recreational use statute did not apply because the act of using a rope swing was not specifically listed in the recreational use statute as a covered activity. Essentially, the plaintiff’s argument was that the recreational use statute only applied to the activities that were specifically listed in the statutory language.

The court disagreed, pointing to language in the statute defining the term “outdoor recreational activity” as including, but not being limited to, hunting, fishing, trapping, camping, horseback riding, bicycling, water sports, winter sports, snowmobiling. . . .” The court explained that using a rope swing to fling oneself into the water is sufficiently close to the listed activities that it should be covered under the “included, but not limited to” language. The court also noted that it may be considered a water sport, which was a listed activity. As a result, the case against the town was dismissed.

Have You Been Injured on Another Party’s Property?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured while on another party’s property, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The skilled New Mexico premises liability attorneys at the Fine Law Firm have extensive experience handling a wide range of New Mexico personal injury cases. We represent clients across the state and have conveniently located offices in Albuquerque and Rio Rancho. Call 505-889-FINE to schedule your free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Degenerative Brain Diseases Caused by Participation in High-Impact Sports in New Mexico or Elsewhere, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, October 4, 2017.

Dealing with Difficult Insurance Companies Following a New Mexico Car Accident, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, October 11, 2017.