Happy New Year Humboldt County

This is the first blog post of yours truly as the new associate at Janssen Malloy LLP! It’s been great being back home where I grew up, seeing old friends, and having the chance to experience the natural beauty that makes our area such a great place to live. I look forward to seeing more familiar faces, building new relationships, and serving this community.

With that in mind, I want to talk about being outside and enjoying everything this County has to offer. Humboldt County has a dearth of open space for anyone who wants to get out there and hike, bike, hunt or fish. The County is full of some of the best public parks in the country. But what about accessing private lands? One concern for landowners, among many, in granting permission to access their land (no trespassing!) for recreational purposes is the issue of liability. Premises liability can be a confusing area of the law, and most landowners would rather not risk exposing themselves to liability by granting members of the public permission.

To alleviate potential liability and encourage landowners to grant access to members of the public, the California legislature enacted California Civil Code §846. §846 says that an owner of real property, owes no duty of care to keep his premises safe for entry or use by others for any recreational purpose. Therefore, an owner of an interest in real property, who gives permission to another for entry for recreational purposes upon his or her premises does not (a) extend any assurance that the premises are safe for recreational purposes, (b) grant the person given permission any legal status for which a duty is owed, or (c) assume responsibility for or incur liability for any injury to a person or property caused by any act by the person to whom permission has been granted. This is an exception to the general rule that a landowner has a duty to at least warn of potential hazards to anyone permitted to enter his or her land.

However, there are exceptions to the exception. First, the person seeking to avoid liability has to be the land owner. Second, there can be no money given in exchange for permission to access the land. Third, the land owner cannot willfully or maliciously fail to guard or warn against a dangerous condition, use, structure, or activity. Finally, there is no safe harbor if the injury occurs to a person who has been “expressly invited rather than merely permitted to come upon the premises by the landowner.”

Lastly, what qualifies as a recreational activity? The statute lists some of the more popular recreational activities such as hunting, fishing, hiking, and biking. But did you know that the safe harbor extends to activities such as spelunking, sport parachuting, and gleaning? So to all you gleaners, be careful out there!

I want to end with a shameless plug for one of the happenings in our community. Come out and support the Clarke Museum at its Murder Mystery Roundup on Saturday, January 18th, 2014 from 5 pm to 9pm at The Bayside Grange located at 2297 Jacoby Creek Rd., Bayside. Tickets are $50 and includes a buffet dinner, a professional murder mystery performance, line dancing, and a silent auction. Click this link to the events Facebook page: Clark Museum.