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Wisconsin Court of Appeals Strengthens ‘Recreational Immunity’ Protections

Wisconsin Court of Appeals Strengthens ‘Recreational Immunity’ Protections

If a private property owner negligently maintains their property to such an extent that the safety of others is in jeopardy, they can be held liable for any resulting injuries under the doctrine of comparative negligence. Property owners who install pools, trampolines, and other “attractive nuisances” are often held to a heightened standard of care to prevent the injury of others. However, Wisconsin law has carved out certain exceptions to the general rule of premises liability, granting immunity from suit to certain owners.

For instance, Wis. Stat. § 895.52(2) creates the “recreational immunity” exception which states that municipalities and other owners of real property used primarily for recreational purposes have no duty to keep the property safe, inspect the property for safety hazards, or warn users of potential dangers. The statute goes even further and grants immunity to these owners from any liability arising out of the injury or death of “a person engaging in a recreational activity on the owner’s property.”

In Wilmet v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals expanded the doctrine of recreational immunity to extend even to those persons who do not directly engage in the recreational activity, but supervise those who do. In 2012, Carol Wilmet accompanied her grandson to the De Pere city swimming pool for an afternoon of fun. As she watched her grandchild play from outside the pool’s fenced perimeter, she became alarmed when her grandson headed toward the high-dive platform while no lifeguards were present. In an effort to stop him from diving, she rushed through the pool entrance and tripped on the protruding doorstep, sustaining bodily injury.

When Ms. Wilmet sued the City of De Pere for damages, the City invoked the doctrine of recreational immunity as a defense. Ms. Wilmet argued that she was not “engaging in a recreational activity” as required by statute for the exception to apply; rather, she was supervising another person who was engaged in the activity.

On February 28, 2017 a 3-judge panel for the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court holding that the recreational immunity exception applies to the injuries sustained by Ms. Wilmet. The court held that “the recreational activity of the supervisee also becomes the recreational activity of the supervisor – even if the supervisor is not ‘recreating’ in the same sense as his or her pupil.”

If you have sustained personal injuries on property other than your own, it is important to consult with a legal expert to determine your options for compensation. Many factors impact the analysis of fault, which ultimately determines what damages, if any, you may receive. Call John M. Kelly, Attorney at Law, LLC today to speak with a seasoned personal injury expert.