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Law Offices of James F. O'Rourke Jr. and Associates

503-221-1425 - Portland Office

James F. O'Rourke Jr. and Associates duii defense attorneys

Supreme Court Upholds Tort Liability Immunity for Some Landowners

For many years, Oregon has provided for immunity from tort liability for landowners who allow their property to be used by the public for recreational purposes without charging a fee. The law, ORS 105.682(1), provides that a landowner who makes their land available to the general public for “recreational purposes, gardening, woodcutting or the harvest of special forest products” cannot be sued for injuries that occur during those activities, even if they arise from the negligence of the landowner.

On November 18, 2010, the Oregon Supreme Court again affirmed this statutory immunity for property being used for general recreation in the case of Kelly v. Hochberg. At issue in Kelly was the application of recreational immunity for a person who was injured while using a road owned by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Mr. Kelly was injured when he was struck by a car while riding his motorcycle on a BLM roadway. The BLM had expressly made the road available to the public for purposes of recreation. Mr. Kelly, who was participating in a privately arranged motorcycle rally event, claimed that BLM had failed to cut vegetation on the roadway and dangerously obscured visibility which contributed to his collision.

The Supreme Court rejected Mr. Kelly’s argument that he was merely traveling to a recreational event and that the immunity statute did not apply. The Court broadly construed the term “recreational purpose” to include all activities involved in the particular recreation. Accordingly, the Court held BLM was immune from liability.

As Oregon Personal Injury Attorneys we at James F.O’Rourke, Jr. and Associates aggressively pursue our client’s claims in premises liability cases and cases arising from the negligent maintenance of property creating hazardous conditions.