Published on:

Rural Landowners Now Liable to Recreational Users

A camper was riding a bicycle in a National Forest in California. A forest service employee hit him with his car. The camper sued the U.S. for damages.

The trial court said that the government was immune from liability to a recreational user of the land, due to Civil Code section 846. This provides that landowners owe no duty of care to recreational users. The purpose of this law was to encourage owners of of rural property to allow recreational use, and not fence their land. The camper appealed.

The California Supreme Court found for the camper, saying that when an landowner using their property engages in “active conduct,” they can be liable for negligence which causes injuries to recreational users.

This means that California landowners, in activities on their land, can not be negligent. Driving down a road, or cutting down a tree, creates the same responsibilities to strangers who wander on by just as they would in an urban environment. This decision will encourage landowners to fence and post their property.

Klein v. United States (2010) 50 Cal. 4th 68.