Have you ever been afraid to give permission to someone or a group of persons to use your land for recreational purposes, say for hunting, target shooting or four-wheeling, because you feared he or they might get hurt on your land and make a claim against you? This article discusses several points to consider when approached by someone asking to use your land.    
To encourage the free use of land for recreational uses, in order to preserve and utilize our natural resources, the Missouri legislature has enacted the Recreational Use Act (§537.345 to §537.348), which applies most generally to rural Missouri. It states that an owner of land owes no duty of care to any person entering his land without charge (“the entrant”), to keep his land safe for recreational use, or to give any general or specific warning to such person with respect to any natural or artificial condition, structure, or personal property located thereon. Further, the landowner does not assume responsibility for any damage or injury done to any third party caused by an act or omission of the entrant while on your land.  
There are, of course, several exceptions to the rule. For example, the RUA will not protect a landowner who is “malicious” or “grossly negligent” in failing to guard or warn against dangerous conditions, structures, personal property or “ultrahazardous” conditions, which the landowner knows or should know to exist on his property. Simply forgetting to inform a recreational user about a potentially dangerous condition, such as a strip pit or a personal landfill, will not undercut the protections offered by the RUA, so long as it was done without malicious or gross negligence.
Another exception is triggered when there is an injury suffered by a person who has paid a charge for entry onto the land, such as hunting fee. The key here is not to charge or accept money or anything else of value for the proposed recreational use. It was once rumored that my great-grandfather allowed people to hunt and fish on his land, so long as they brought him a six-pack of beer. Even receiving something like beer, as silly as it sounds, is still receiving something of value, which potentially could erode the protections offered by the RUA.  
Finally, there are exceptions for injuries occurring (i) on land within the corporate boundaries of any city, municipality, town or village, (ii) in any swimming pool, (iii) in any residential area or (iv) on any “noncovered land,” which generally means land used primarily for commercial, industrial, mining or manufacturing purposes.    
In summary, when approached by someone asking to use your land, you should ask these questions:
1. Does my land qualify under the RUA?
2. Is the intended use of my land for recreational purposes?
3. Am I going to charge anything for such recreational use?
As long as your land qualifies under the statute (i.e., it’s rural), the intended use is recreational and you do not charge anything for such use, you may rest assured that you will have statutory immunity protection in the event the recreational user is hurt on your property. Of course, even then, such protection will only be afforded to you as long as his or her injuries were not the result of some dangerous condition, structure, personal property or ultrahazardous condition about which you maliciously or with gross negligence failed to guard or warn against.
Jerry Potocnik is an attorney in Blue Springs, Mo. He is licensed in Missouri and Kansas.


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