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Recreational Immunity Could Impact Outdoor Recreation

Updated: Jan 13

January 10, 2024—While attending the annual Friends of Yamhelas Westsider Trail meeting, discussion came up in the meeting about whether recreational immunity played a role in farmers' opposition to the trail. Never heard of recreational immunity. You're not alone. Recreational immunity protects private and public landowners who provide a right of way for the public to access recreation sites from lawsuits due to injuries a user might incur. It’s especially important to Oregonians who want to access Oregon’s open beaches.

Recreational immunity was thrown into chaos when the Oregon Appeals Court overrode a lower court's decision in the Fields vs. Newport case by ruling in favor of the plaintiff. The case stemmed from an incident in which Nicole Fields slipped on a wooden bridge owned by the city of Newport and suffered a broken leg on her way back from Agate Beach using the Ocean to Bay Trail. She sued the city, arguing that her injuries weren’t the result of recreational use of the city’s property. A lower court ruled that recreational immunity protected the city of Newport from the lawsuit. However, the plaintiff appealed the lower court’s decision to the Appeals Court, which overruled the lower court’s decision and held Newport liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.

The City County Insurance Services (CIS) recommended that cities close trails, and now several coastal towns are doing just that. Closures could expand to other cities. This could have a chilling effect on the ability of outdoor recreationists to access recreation lands on city, county, and state properties.

It’s now up to outdoor recreationists and the Oregon Legislature to restore recreational immunity. Find out how you can help.


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