New Hampshire Bill Addresses Landowners’ Liability for Recreational Use

A lawsuit by a hunter seriously injured when a tree stand he was using collapsed has again prompted legislation to protect New Hampshire landowners from similar suits.

The House could vote this week on a bill that says any landowner, lessee or manager of property open to hunting, fishing, trapping, camping and other recreational activities is not responsible to keep the land safe for entry. The bill would not protect landowners from malicious acts or if the injury happened while performing services for money.

The bill was prompted by a lawsuit that was later dropped by a Manchester man hurt while scouting hunting locations in Epsom in November 2009. The hunter thought the landowner had given him permission to use the tree stand but later found out he had not.

Landowners and lawmakers, however, are concerned of a possible chilling effect from the lawsuit. State Rep. Gene Chandler, a Bartlett Republican, and state Sen. Andy Sanborn, a Henniker Republican, attempted to advance the legislation last fall. Backers of the legislation say many landowners fear legal liability if they keep their land open to bird-watchers, hikers, hunters and sporting vehicles.