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Georgia Supreme Court Extends Landowner Protection Under the RPA Even if Some Individuals Were Charged a Fee to Use the Property

March 16, 2018

 

            The Georgia Supreme Court recently granted certiorari to determine whether a landowner would be shielded from liability by the Recreational Property Act (“RPA”) where that landowner charged a fee to some people who used the landowner's property for recreational purposes, but did not charge a fee to the injured party who used the property for the same such purposes.  Mayor of Garden City v. Harris, 2018 WL 575988 (Ga. 2018).  On November 10, 2012, Willie and Kristy Harris took their six-year-old daughter, Riley, to a youth football game at a facility owned and maintained by the City of Garden City (the “City”).  Willie and Kristy each paid the required $2 admission fee; however, the Harris' were not required to pay an entrance fee for Riley.  During the game, Riley slipped and fell between the bench seats, causing serious injuries.  The City argued that it could not be held liable because Riley was not charged a fee to use the City's property for recreational purposes.  However, the trial court denied the City's motion for summary judgment, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's ruling on appeal.

 

            A natural reading of the plain language of the RPA indicated that “a landowner remains free from potential liability to any individual person who is injured on the landowner's property who has been allowed to use the property for recreational purposes free of charge.” See O.C.G.A. § 51-3-23.  Additionally, “[n]othing in this article limits in any way any liability which otherwise exists ... [f]or injury suffered in any case when the owner of land charges the person or persons who enter or go on the land for the recreational use thereof.” See O.C.G.A. § 51-3-25(2). Therefore, the Court found that in any case where the injured party was a person who had been charged a fee to use the landowner's property for recreational purposes, the landowner would not be immune from potential liability.  The landowner only receives liability protection with respect to injured persons who have not been charged a fee to use the property for recreational purposes.   Accordingly, because Riley was not charged a fee to use the City's property for recreational purposes, the City was shielded from liability for her injuries as a matter of law by the RPA.

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