Understanding and Reducing Timberland Ownership Liability

Common law dictates that landowners are responsible for the well being of every individual that steps foot on their property, regardless of whether they are a trespasser or an invited guest. This means that if someone gets hurt as a result of “gross negligence,” a lawsuit can result because you, as a purchaser of Florida timberland for sale, should remove dangers whenever possible or post or provide verbal warning for dangers that can not be controlled.

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Florida Statutes Chapter 375, Section 251

If you’re in the market for timberland for sale in Florida or already own a piece of land, it’s important to be familiar with F.S. 375.251. The statute protects landowners who make land public for recreational purchase from liability and states, “An owner or lessee who provides the public with an area for outdoor recreational purposes owes no duty of care to keep that area safe for entry or use by others, or to give warning to persons entering or going on that area of any hazardous conditions, structures, or activities on the area.”

Outdoor recreational purposes includes: hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, swimming, boating, camping, picnicking, hiking, pleasure driving, nature study, water skiing, motorcycling, and visiting historical, archaeological, scenic, or scientific sites.

According to the statute, if the land use is hunting, fishing, or wildlife viewing, limited liability will only be granted if notification of the provision is given before or at the time of entry. It is also important to note that if a fee is charged for entry or revenue is generated in any way for the recreational use of the property, the liability protection is lost and you may be subject to litigation stemming from personal injury or property damage.

Tips to Mitigate Liability

If you plan to lease your property to individual hunters or hunting clubs, there are ways that you can reduce the risk of injury or damage, by taking certain safety steps.

1. Remove hazards immediately once you are made aware that they exist.

2. Post signage that informs visitors of dangerous areas on the property.

3. Require written releases from all visitors.

4. Purchase liability insurance.

5. Create maps of the property with potentially dangerous areas highlighted.

6. Create rules and guidelines for land use.

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*Disclaimer: This information should not be substituted for legal advice.