July 6, 2007
Pennsylvania landowners who open their properties to hunters are now breathing a collective sigh of relief. Last week, Governor Ed Rendell signed legislation into law that increases landowner liability protection for actions caused by hunters on their properties. It's already in effect.
The law became necessary last year after a state court in eastern Pennsylvania's Lehigh County ruled that the owners of a Lehigh County orchard were partially liable for injuries caused by a hunter one their land. That made a farm liable in a settlement with a woman wounded by a stray bullet fired from a half-mile away by a hunter.
"The fear of landowners about liability was grounded in reality," says state Rep. Harry Redshaw, D-Allegheny, the bill's prime sponsor in the House. "This situation would have amounted to a train wreck for hunters and financial ruin for hunters, landowners and the many businesses that rely on hunting for income."
"Farmers now can be more confident that their livelihood won't be at risk when they open their land to hunters," adds Pennsylvania Farm Bureau President Carl Shaffer. "We want good relationships with hunters to continue. They help us control wildlife damage to our crops while we provide them a place to enjoy recreational activities."
The new law amends the Recreational Use of Land and Water Act. It has provided more than four decades of liability protection for actions occurring on a landowner's property as a result of recreational activity - such as hunting, fishing, swimming and hiking - as long as the landowner doesn't charge a fee.
The new law balances the rights of landowners with the rights of potential victims. "While the law provides reasonable liability safeguards for farmers and other landowners, the law doesn't prevent an injured party from recovering damages from the individual who caused the injury," concludes Shaffer.
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