It’s been called “The Storm of the Century” or simply “MegaStorm” and regardless of where you receive your weather forecast, you know Massachusetts will be buried in snow over the next few days. Once the travel ban imposed by Governor Patrick is lifted, we will undoubtedly hear of many accidents, with injuries, in the Boston area blamed on snowy roadways. To be sure, snow, like ice and rain, makes driving more challenging and dangerous. Such conditions, however, are not an excuse for failing to drive a vehicle safely or for causing a snow-related Boston automobile accident.
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The Massachusetts Recreational Use Statute, G.L. c. 21, § 17C, provides, in part, that “any person having an interest in land . . . who lawfully permits the public to use such land for recreational . . . purposes without imposing a charge of fee therefor . . . shall not be liable for personal injuries . . . sustained by such members of the public . . . while on said land in the absence of wilful, wanton, or reckless conduct by such person.” Some Courts have focused on whether the injured party actually handed over money in exchange for access the land when determining whether a landowner/occupier is entitled to immunity for negligence. As a result, the Recreational Use statute has been interpreted by some courts to lead to absurd results where one visitor may be entitled to common law duty of care, but another visiting on an admission-free day, may be without remedy when injured. Moreover, some premises liability victims have been left without remedy despite the fact that the landowner/occupier is making substantial sums from activities at the location at issue, either through direct payments from user groups or due to the sale of goods and services on the premises. Such interpretations have improperly expanded the scope of immunity under the Recreational Use statute.
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