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Landowner Rights

New Hampshire Landowner Liability and Duty of Care Laws

Your Rights and Responsibilities Outdoor Recreation on Private Land: What Landowners Need to Know

 

This information applies to landowners, land lessee, easement holders, land occupants, and land managers.

 

If someone comes onto my land and gets hurt, am I liable? 
No, except in a few rare cases.  The Landowner Liability Law (RSA 508:14) and Duty of Care Law (RSA 212:34) protect landowners from liability when someone gets hurt on their property.

 

If someone uses your land for outdoor recreational activities and they get hurt on your property, you assume no responsibility or incur no liability.  You are protected whether or not you give permission to use the land, and whether or not you sign your land as “No Trespassing”.  

 

What does the landowner liability law NOT protect?
There are a few situations where you are not protected.  These include charging a fee for entering the property to recreate, maliciously failing to warn against a dangerous condition, and intentionally hurting the recreational user.

 

Is the recreational user responsible for their own risk?
Yes, RSA 212:34 clearly states that “outdoor recreational activities may be hazardous”.  Therefore participants of outdoor recreation activities must assume the inherent risk and dangers they may face including variations in terrain on trails and paths such as rocks, stumps, equipment not in use, other objects, other people, and in snow or ice conditions.

 

Useful Definitions taken from RSA 212:34, Duty of Care Law
"Charge" means a payment or fee paid by a person to the landowner for entry upon, or use of the premises, for outdoor recreational activity.
"Landowner" means an owner, lessee, holder of an easement, occupant of the premises, or person managing, controlling, or overseeing the premises on behalf of such owner, lessee, holder of an easement, or occupant of the premises.

 

"Outdoor recreational activity" means outdoor recreational pursuits including, but not limited to, hunting, fishing, trapping, camping, horseback riding, bicycling, water sports, winter sports, snowmobiling as defined in RSA 215-C:1, XV, operating an OHRV as defined in RSA 215-A:1, V, hiking, ice and rock climbing or bouldering, or sightseeing upon or removing fuel wood from the premises.

 

"Premises'' means the land owned, managed, controlled, or overseen by the landowner upon which the outdoor recreational activity subject to this section occurs                                                           

 

If there is something dangerous on my property and I guard the area off, post signs, or verbally tell a recreational user about it, am I assuming liability?
No, any warning given by a landowner, whether oral, sign, guard, or other means, shall not be the basis of liability for a claim that the warning was inadequate or insufficient.  The exception is if the landowner maliciously fails to warn against the dangerous condition.

 

Is it still possible for me to get sued in spite of the landowner liability law?
Yes, however the law includes a provision that makes the claimant responsible for all court fees that may be a deterrent for bringing the lawsuit.  Also, the few cases that have been brought to court have all been in favor of the landowner not owing any liability. 

 

If I am found not liable in a court of law, do I have to cover my court costs? 
No. If the court finds that there is no reasonable basis for bringing a claim against the landowner, the claimant will be ordered to pay for reasonable attorney’s fees and costs incurred by the landowner in defending against the action.

 

Practical Advice:
While the Landowner Liability and Duty of Care Laws protect landowners, use common sense when dealing with unwanted recreation users on your land.  If you do not want a certain type of recreation use on your land, clearly sign and mark the restriction so that it is visible day and night and all times of the year.  Reach out to local recreation groups and inform them of your decision to change allowable uses on the land. 

 

The information contained in this brochure is only a summary.  Please consult a lawyer for more detailed information and advice specific to your situation. 

 

NH Rev Stat § 508:14

NH Rev Stat § 212:34

 

Laws and Rules

State of New Hampshire
NH Fish and Game

NH RSA 212:34 Duty of Care

NH RSA 635:2 Criminal Trespass