State Court Holds Recreational Immunity Does Not Apply to Hot-Air Balloon Company Providing Free Rides on Another’s Property

The Supreme Court in Wisconsin recently released an opinion in a negligence case brought by a plaintiff who was injured when she was waiting in line to ride on a hot air balloon. Apparently, the plaintiff had been waiting in line for about half an hour when one of the hot air balloons began to move toward the people waiting in line. Evidently, the balloon was untethered and struck the plaintiff, knocking her over.

hot-air-balloons-439331_960_720The plaintiff brought a negligence lawsuit against the balloon operator. Evidence concerning the operator’s lack of experience was submitted to court, and the balloon operator admitted that if he had known about the weather, the balloon would have been tethered. However, despite the evidence, the defendants moved for summary judgment and asked the court to dismiss the case.

The defendants argued that the company was protected by the state’s recreational immunity statute and that the plaintiff signed a waiver freeing the company from liability. The lower courts all agreed with the defendants. However, when the case reached the state’s supreme court, the decision was reversed. The court found that the company was not entitled to protection because they were an “occupier,” not an “owner” of the land. Furthermore, the court explained the statute didn’t apply because the hot air balloon should not be considered “property” under the statute. Finally, the court found that the waiver of liability signed by the plaintiff was invalid because it went against public policy.

Landowners’ Liability under New Mexico’s Recreational Use Statute

New Mexico is a beautiful picturesque state that lends itself to many exciting recreational activities. These recreational activities may range from seemingly benign excursions, such as nature walks, to more extreme adventures, such as zip-lining and hot-air ballooning. It is important that when people participate in these activities, they take care to remain safe. However, inevitably accidents will occur. Many states have special statutes that limit the liability of landowners who run these types of activities.

New Mexico law is very limited and states that landowners who allow people to hunt, fish, or use the lands for recreation have a duty of care. However, the exception to the law is that these owners, lessees, or person(s) in control of the land do not thereby:

  • extend any assurance that the premises are safe for each purpose; or
  • assume any duty of care to keep such lands safe for entry or use; or
  • assume responsibility or liability for any injury or damage to, or caused by, such a person or group; or
  • assume any greater responsibility, duty of care, or liability to such a person or group than if such permission had not been granted, and such a person or group were trespassers.

It is important that people understand the uphill battle that a lawsuit of this nature may entail. It is highly recommended that people in these situations consult with an attorney to ensure that all of the proper steps are taken.

Have You Been Injured in a Recreational Activity in New Mexico?

If you or a loved one has been injured in a recreational activity in New Mexico, it is very important that you contact an attorney to discuss your rights and remedies. It is highly likely that you signed a waiver of liability, and these waivers can be difficult to fight without the experience of a dedicated personal injury attorney. An attorney can develop and pursue arguments against enforcing a particular waiver. If you are successful, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you suffered. Contact a personal injury attorney at the Fine Law Firm at 800-640-6590 to schedule your free initial consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Court Holds City Employee Not Entitled to Immunity in Premises Liability Case, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, April 7, 2016.

FDA Issues a “Black Box” Warning for Birth-Control Device Essure, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, March 17, 2016.