Arizona’s Recreational Use Statute, Who Does It Protect?

Arizona’s Recreational Use Statute, Who Does It Protect?

The legislature wrote Arizona’s Recreational Use Statute (A.R.S.§ 33-1551) to promote and encourages open use of public and private lands.  The law provides that a public or private owner, easement holder, lessee, tenant, manager or occupant of premises is not liable to a recreational or educational user except on a showing that he/she/it was guilty of wilful, malicious or grossly negligent conduct.  In addition that person’s conduct must be a direct cause of the injury to the recreational or educational use.

The law does not apply to land were you have to pay an admission fee.  An admission fee does not include a nominal fee the owner charges to offset the cost of providing access.  For example the fees Maricopa County charges for use of a public park are not admission fees.  Whereas the fee Six Flag’s Hurricane Harbor charges is a fee and removes the owner from the statutory immunity.

Who Is Protected Under The Statute?

Owners, lessees, tenants, occupants and managers are protected by the law if the area is for the use by recreational and/or educational users (as defined in the law).  Who is an owner or a lessee does not really need a definition.  But  the law’s lack of a definitions of a manager or occupant is vague.  Since the statute does not define these terms, it is left for the Courts to do that.

The Arizona Supreme Court recently defined “manager” in Normandin v. Encanto Adventures LLC.  The Court defined a managers as someone who is  given or has authority to control the public’s access to the land.   The defendant in the case argued that it was a manager because it was responsible for the maintenance, cleaning and other managerial type of duties.  The Court focused on the defendant’s lack of access control, and wrote:

“….if defendant’s broader definition of “manager” were correct, any independent contractor – including landscapers, tree-trimmers and groundskeepers – would be a “manager,” thus enlarging the class of persons granted immunity beyond the purpose of the statute….”

It is important that you know and understand your rights when you are injured on someone else’s property.  If you (or someone you know) were injured on someone else’s you should at least speak with an attorney so you can have a clearer picture of your rights under the law.