The ‘Recreational Use’ Defense In California Premises Liability Law And Ways To Overcome It

Imagine the following scenario. You have been injured on someone else’s property, and you file a lawsuit against that person or business to recover damages. You do everything by the book: hire a Los Angeles premises liability attorney, gather evidence, get witnesses to testify in court… And then, all of a sudden, the property owner mounts the “recreational use” defense and your case gets dismissed.
“What has just happened?” you are wondering. Well, let us explain. Depending on a variety of factors in your case, the owner or occupier of the property on which you sustained injuries may or may not be held responsible for your injuries.
One of the ways property owners escape liability when someone gets injured on their property is by using the “recreational use” defense. Many states, including California, have “recreational use” statutes, which give property owners immunity from liability when an injured party sustains an injury while participating in a sport or recreational activity on the premises.

What is the ‘recreational use’ defense in California premises liability case?

As you may have guessed, the “recreational use” defense has nothing to do with injuries sustained by spectators at sports venues (this is an entirely different area of premises liability law). What the “recreational use” defense means is that landowners and possessors of properties cannot be held liable for injuries if the injured plaintiff used the premises for recreational purposes.
“The recreational use defense is an affirmative defense to a premises liability lawsuit to argue that the plaintiff’s claim be dismissed due to recreational immunity,” says our experienced premises liability attorney in Los Angeles at the Compass Law Group, LLP.

Exceptions to the recreational use statute

As you may know, under any other circumstances, property owners are legally required to exercise a duty of care toward people who step onto their land. But when visitors use the land for recreational purposes, the property owner is almost always immune from liability.
Also, owners or occupiers of property that is used by visitors to participate in a sport or recreational activity do not have the legal duty to warn their visitors of hazards on the premises. However, as always, there are exceptions to the general rule.
In this particular case, you may be entitled to sue a property owner even if the property was used for recreational purposes if you can prove that the owner willfully or maliciously failed to protect or warn against a dangerous condition or activity. The keywords here are “willfully” and “maliciously.”
In other words, to qualify for this particular exception, your lawyer will have to prove that the owner or occupier of the property (1) had actual or constructive knowledge of the particular dangerous condition or activity, (2) knew or should have known that injury could be caused by the hazardous condition or activity, and (3) consciously failed to take reasonable precautions to reduce or eliminate the danger.

Legal ways to fight the ‘recreational use’ defense in California

Another way to fight the “recreational use” defense in California is to prove that you paid a fee to use the recreational facility. Under California law, property owners and occupiers are NOT immune from liability when recreational users are injured on their premises as long as the user paid a fee to enter the premises and/or use a certain facility.
Also, you could potentially overcome the “recreational use” defense in your premises liability case by proving that you were expressly invited to use the premises for recreational purposes. Consult with a Los Angeles premises liability attorney to find out what the best way to fight back against the “recreational use” defense is.


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