Michigan Bill Would Limit Liability of Private Air Strip Owners

By Alisha Green | April 24, 2015

Horse owners and private air strip operators in Michigan would be exempt from liability in certain cases where people are injured under two bills that have moved through the Republican-controlled House.

One bill, passed by a 79-31 vote, would add aviation to the recreational activities for which an injured person couldn’t sue a landowner. The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Peter Pettalia of Presque Isle, said it would protect landowners from people who trespass on private land with aircraft and are injured in the process.

Pettalia said the air strips impacted are typically in a farmer’s field, hunting camp or other privately owned and maintained land.

“What we are trying to do is protect that landowner … from somebody that would trespass without permission to land and somehow damage their plane or have a bodily injury,” he added.

The protection already applies for cases involving fishing, hunting, snowmobiling, and other recreational activities where the injured person was trespassing.

There are more than 500 privately owned air strips in the state, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency.

An amendment by Rep. Jeff Irwin, an Ann Arbor Democrat, clarifies that landowners who know of a fault in the landing area and give permission to land could still be held liable for any damage or injuries.

Another bill approved 63-46 in the House would limit liabilities for horse and other equine owners if someone riding the animal is injured. It also would set the standard for negligence to “wanton and willful disregard” for the safety of the rider.

The bills will now go to the Senate for consideration.

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