Understanding recreational user status in Ohio

Ohio is a great state for outdoor activity, and thousands of people from in and out of state enjoy hiking, fishing and other recreation on public and private lands. Accidents can happen in the forests and fields, and it is important for adventurers to know what protections they can expect.

Owners of property that is voluntarily offered to the public or specific individuals may escape liability if a person is injured on that land. The Ohio statute that covers this is known as "recreational user" liability, and there are exceptions to its coverage.

Recreational activity under Ohio law can only happen on nonresidential land. A visitor to a private home may experience an injury in or near a house and the owner of the property would be liable without the recreational user statute applying.

The recreation user statute is voided if an owner or operator of property is paid for the use of the land. For example, if an owner allows people to enjoy his lakefront property for free and a person trips and falls, the owner is generally free of liability. If he charged admission or a use fee, he would be liable for any serious injury or fatality that occurs because of the use of his land.

Lease fees, which are often attached long-term contracts for responsibilities and use of land, may be received by the owner and not void the recreational user statute. If a person is in doubt as to his or her legal status after an accident or other injury on private property, consult legal counsel regarding options.

Source: Ohio State Bar Association, "Ohio Law Protects Property Owners from "Recreational User" Liability," Peggy Kirk Hall, accessed Aug. 18, 2017

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