In May 2012, Jane Westmas and her son Jason were attending a retreat at Conference Point Center in William Bay, Wisconsin. The site is a camp and conference venue that was originally the Lake Geneva Youth Camp. Conference Point Center hired Creekside Tree Service of Crystal Lake, WI to work on pruning large trees throughout the property. Mrs. Westmas and her son were walking along the Lakeshore Path near where Creekside was sawing limbs. Coincidentally, they hiked beneath a tree where the contractor had just clipped a 17-foot limb off of a 50-foot oak tree, which crashed down on Mrs. Westmas. Shortly after the accident, she died from severe internal bodily injuries.
In reaction to the incident John Westmas, her husband, filed a wrongful death suit in Walworth County Court. The case was dismissed on the grounds that the parties were sheltered from liability based on a recreational immunity law. Recreational immunity protects a property owner or agent from potential liabilities when a death occurs while individuals are participating in recreational activities on their property.
Attorneys for Creekside Tree Service contended that they were an agent of the Conference Point property when the incident occurred. Mr. Westmas appealed his case to the District 2 Court of Appeals. The appeals court responded in sharp contrast to the County Court. They declared that Creekside wasn't an agent of Conference Point and did not have control of the property--rather they were using it temporarily. In summary, it was stated that third parties who had no responsibility for opening land to the public did not qualify for immunity.
How This Law Applies in Colorado
The purpose of (C.R.S. 33-41-101) is to encourage owners of land to make their properties available for recreational purposes by limiting the liability they can incur for people entering for such purposes. The Wisconsin case above emphasized that the contractor was not an agent of the property in their role. Colorado's definition says that it applies to the owner, tenant, lessee, occupant, possessor of other interest in the land, or other individual who is able to grant permission for usage of the land.
The Limitations on Liability
The limitation on liability applies to those who in a direct or indirect manner either invite or permit usage of their property for recreational purposes. The landowner is not thereby:
- Making any assurances about the safety of the premises.
- Assuming the duty of care as would be the case with invitees or licensees.
- Making an assumption of responsibility or liability for the actions of others.
Contact a Colorado Personal Injury Attorney
Incidents which result in serious injuries or death that stem from the negligence, recklessness or indifference of another do occur. In these unfortunate circumstances, it is important to seek the financial reparations afforded by the law. The Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal is a defender of the rights of Colorado injury victims. Contact the office for a consultation to review your case today.