In the case of Schafer v. Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources, 2022-Ohio-1829 the Appellate Court held that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (“ODNR”) was immune from liability under R.C. 1533.181, the Recreational User Immunity Statute, where appellant filed a claim alleging negligence and wrongful death when a decedent was killed by a log rolled off a cliff above the decedent by other park users.
Here, the appellant argued that ODNR was negligent in failing to restrict access to the area where the logs were. Appellant further contended that ODNR was negligent in creating a dangerous condition in the state park by stacking logs in an open clearing by a cliff. ODNR raised the affirmative defense of immunity under the Recreational User Immunity Statute. The Recreational User Immunity Statute limits liability of landowners for injuries to recreational users by (1) eliminating the duty of landowners to keep the premises safe for entry or use for recreational users; (2) eliminating assurance to recreational users that the premises are safe for entry or use through the act of giving permission; and (3) eliminating liability from the landowner for injury to person or property caused by any act of a recreational user. The Appellate Court agreed with ODNR.
In support of its decision, the Appellate Court reasoned that the appellant, decedent, and other park users were “recreational users” as defined under the statute. The Appellate Court further explained that the decedent entered the premises for recreational purposes and was injured by the acts of other recreational users on the premises. The Appellate Court found that ODNR had no duty to restrict access to the area where the logs were nor a duty to not affirmatively create a dangerous condition by placing the logs near a cliff. Thus, ODNR was afforded immunity under the statute.
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Authors: Matthew John Markling and the McGown & Markling Team.
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