New York has a statute referred to as the “Safety in Agricultural Tourism Act” that was enacted to provide protection to owners and operators of “agricultural tourism” areas if a guest is injured on their premises. The business activities to which the Act applies include the production of maple sap-based products, farm and winery tours, “U-pick” activities, the cutting of Christmas trees, hiking, hunting, indoor and outdoor equine activities, and outdoor recreation activities offered to farm visitors when certain criteria are met.
The Act is consistent with the State’s intention to encourage certain recreation and tourism activities, as previously demonstrated by General Obligations Law § 9-103. That statute offers protection to property owners, occupants and lessees who allow their land to be used for activities that include hunting, fishing, canoeing, boating, trapping, hiking, cross-country skiing, tobogganing, sledding, speleological activities, horseback riding, bicycle riding, hang gliding, motorized vehicle operation for recreational purposes, snowmobile operation, cutting or gathering wood for non-commercial purposes and dog training.
The Act encourages agricultural businesses by shielding their owners and operators from traditional negligence liability as long as they comply with certain notice, signage and warning requirements for consumers and visitors. Owners and operators who comply with the provisions of the Act will not be held liable to visitors who sustain injuries while participating in the covered activities.
The State has offered some guidance on the types of notices and warnings that will satisfy the Act’s requirements and your team at Hancock Estabrook can help you to get those in place. In addition to the posting requirements, owners and operators wishing to avail themselves of the statutory protection will have to train their employees who are involved with activities that fall within the scope of the Act.
If you have questions or would to discuss the protections provided by statute for the above leisure, recreation and tourism activities, please contact James J. O’Shea, Esq.