Florida is the latest state to contemplate liability shield laws for recreational activities and campgrounds.
New legislation would urge people to camp at their own risk, shielding private campgrounds from liability claims.
A Florida State Senate bill, SB 1054, and a correlated House bill, HB 1323, would limit claims against commercial campground facilities not situated on public lands. The legislation aims to shift the burden of responsibility to campers instead of the campgrounds, offering “civil liability protection for private campground owners and specified employees of private campgrounds for injury, death, or property damage resulting from the inherent risk of camping.”
States codifying limits to risks of camping
Florida and other states have begun codifying limits to natural and inherent risks of camping and outdoor recreation. These risks have generated litigation against campground operators in the past. Lawsuits citing insect bites, adverse weather, falling trees and limbs, campfire burns, and encounters with wildlife have arisen against campground operators. Under the liability shield laws, persons using camping facilities would primarily be responsible for safeguarding against risks that are a part of recreating in nature.
Certain unnatural risks, including animal bites by other campers’ dogs, intruders in the campgrounds, etc., would cease to be the responsibility of the campground operator. The campground would be shielded from liability if a camper was injured or killed unless the operator was negligent or demonstrated “willful or wanton disregard” for the victim’s safety.
Liability shield laws help protect campground operators from litigation
Campgrounds are the critical element necessary for many to enjoy the RV lifestyle. Not everyone enjoys boondocking. But as with any business, campground operators have come under pressure from risks and liabilities and, like most consumer-facing industries, have seen their share of liability lawsuits. Liability shield laws protect campground operators from litigation for injuries arising from the inherent risks of persons being outdoors in the camp and recreational environment.
Proponents claim that a primary benefit of liability shield laws is that they encourage property owners to open their property to recreational use. Many campgrounds are on private land, and without liability protection, the owners may be hesitant to allow camping on their property.
An additional benefit of a liability shift is that the laws can promote and reinforce responsible behavior for campers. When people know they are accountable for their safety, they may be more attentive to their risks and hazards and take precautions to avoid accidents and injuries.
Liability shield laws are not 100 percent protection for campground operators
Liability shield laws do not provide 100 percent blanket protection for campground operators. Under certain circumstances, campgrounds can still be held liable for injuries. For example, suppose a campground operator is found negligent in maintaining their property or fails to warn campers of a known hazard. In that case, they may still be held liable for injuries resulting from negligence.
Further, liability shield laws are not a substitute for responsible business practices. Campground management still has a duty to maintain a safe environment for campers. They must take reasonable steps to prevent accidents and injuries. This means regularly inspecting the campground for hazards, providing adequate warning of any hazards present, and taking active and timely action to address any identified risks.
How does all this affect RVers? The laws are a mixed bag, with the positive side being a means to encourage the development of campground facilities and keep existing ones open and available. The downside is that it may make it more difficult for an injured campground guest to sue to recover legitimate injury and loss.
No respect for the rules and no respect for the playground equipment or the “toys” we provide to entertain them.
Parents don’t watch their kids and campground owners aren’t going to take the hit just because they don’t want to watch them.
Neligence is one thing, stupidity is another, and yes there is a difference.
Frivolous lawsuit legislation would make more sense. We have a lawyer problem in this country.
Funny how the legislatures never cared about this till 80% of the campgrounds became corporate.
What this will lead to is insurance companies making higher profits and having less risks.
They absolutely will not lower their premiums to campground owners and if anything the risk cost will be passed on to the RV owner.
I think Florida has the right idea, again. In today’s society of government programs that make it easy for hordes of people to shun personal responsibility and place blame anywhere but on themselves, it is good to see a government body taking steps to turn the tide. Hopefully, this protection from ridiculous trivial lawsuits will lead to more private campground expansion in Florida. I also hope other states look at Florida and follow their lead with similar legislation.
Every state has a Recreational Use Statute (RSU) that protects landowners from liability if they allow others to use their property for recreation such as fishing, biking, camping, etc. The RSU of each state has to have each type of activity covered by the statute listed. I am not clear if any charge can be made for use of the property.
One thing that wasn’t mentioned in the article is what about campgrounds with full time residents not just recreational campers? How would this legislation affect them?
But, landowner liability changes when that land is used for commercial intent. For example, when a landowner tells someone, you have permission to hunt on my property, he is covered by an RSU. But when that landowner tells someone you have permission to hunt on my property for a designated sum of money, everything changes.
Generally such statutes do not apply to campgrounds that charge a fee for use of the facilities.
Sounds like slowing down all those liability lawyers that advertise on late night TV.
Now that Florida campgrounds will no longer be responsible for falling trees, can I bring my chainsaw and do whatever trimming I believe necessary in order to control my risk?
Sure, but be prepared for claims of destruction of property. Unfortunately guess one needs wait for damage to occur, file claim w/ insurance & let your insurance go after campground.
If the tree is in poor condition, take pictures of it and show it to the owner. You may also want then to sign a paper stating that they have seen the pictures or the tree.
It’s no different than your neighbors tree falling on your house. If the tree is healthy and in good condition and the wind blows it over, your neighbor is not responsible. If you notify them by certified mail, they are no longer off the hook.
I don’t see anything wrong with the proposed laws. More and more people in today’s world take no personal responsibility and think everyone else owes them something. If no one is watching little 2 year old Johnny and he falls into the fire pit, that’s not the Campground owner’s fault.
I will say that “negligence,” under the law, is a high bar to meet for proof. “Reasonably should…” is a better level that would help owners but still give protection to consumers.
This is asinine. As a fairly new camper, who loves where we stay, I quickly recognized that the management does not enforce their own rules and often must be prodded to action to handle very simple and common sense maintenance and safety issues. Our courts could dismiss frivolous lawsuits. Leave the tort laws as they are.
Looks like you want the campground owner to be responsible for you and your actions.
He did not say that at all.
Sounds like you want campground owners to just collect money and turn their backs on everything else.
If you are going to be in the campground business do it responsibly. No different than having rental property, just shorter stay times.
Right, that will happen, sure it will. The insurance companies would never settle a lawsuit pre-trial in order to mitigate greater loss or mitigate the cost of defending against a frivolous lawsuit even if they were to win the defense. Why not add a layer of protection against frivolous lawsuits for RV parks. Personal responsibility is sadly lacking in the current social construct. Sue baby sue.
I agree that campgrounds don’t enforce their own rules. I’m not into suing anyone. But if they have a rule for kids to keep bicycles off paths and dogs on leashes for example, and they do nothing about person’s not following those rules, problems can and do occur. In my useless opinion, those people should be told to leave before someone gets hurt. It is rare that people follow the rules because they are all special.
Law suits against aircraft manufacturers got so bad that most small aircraft builders just stopped building planes from 1987 to 1997. Tort relief for the aircraft industry in the 1980s sure turned that industry around.
The USA has far too many lawyers. They have changed the great American dream to “who can I sue to get rich”.
Didn’t know that bug bites and bad weather are so rampant in the private campground industry. Sounds suspiciously like the insurance industry lobby pushing for laws to limit their liability.
To protect the CG from foolish and nuisance law suits, I’m all for it. Hard to believe some folks out their sue over bee stings and their stupidity around campfires.
Absolutely!! People need to take responsibility for themselves and not think someone else is going to take care of them and then sue because stuff happens. The CG operators need to be responsible for the things in their control.
The campgrounds should not be totally responsible for the action of other campers. Dogs, kids actions and stupidity on the part of the campers does not fall on the CG owner. They can only enforce rules when they know about a violation.
If there are situations such as hornets nest in a tree, a nest of ground bees on the site, a tree getting ready to fall, the campground should take care of the problem “IF” they have been notified of the problem.
Agree, I’m against suing. But, who’s to say they’ve been notified. You inform them of a leaning dead tree but leave CG. 6 months later it falls & destroys TT. No proof abt them being notified.
A responsible campground owner/operator should have ‘routine’ documented safety inspections and corrections of identified deficiencies as well as documented customer reports.
Documented/inspection/corrective action reports should improve campground safety and demonstrate the owner/operators are interested in customer safety and could provide some protection in a civil action.
Routine safety inspections are required in numerous industries/companies, i.e., hospitals.
Generally, pro-active is better than reactive.