Imagine a crisp autumn evening towards the end of October. Halloween is just around the corner, and your corn maze is packed with people enjoying a classic autumn pastime. Suddenly you hear a scream and a father comes running out of the maze with a child in his arms. The child suffered a broken ankle after tripping on a corn stalk. Your heart sinks knowing that you will probably be liable for this accident. However, under the new Idaho Agritourism Promotion Act (IAPA), your liability could be limited.
In order to preserve the adventures that Idaho agritourism offers, the Idaho Legislature drafted a new bill (IAPA) that will go into effect July 1, 2013. Agritourism is any activity on a farm or ranch that allows people to get a taste of what Idaho agriculture has to offer. These activities include, but are not limited to, corn mazes, petting zoos, horseback riding, hayrides, and other farming or ranching activities. Agritourism does not need to be a “paid-for” activity.
Inherent risks are inevitable in these activities, and the elimination of these risks would diminish the agritourism experience. For example, imagine having a petting zoo where the animals cannot be petted. Clearly that would not be a “petting” zoo. Examples of these inherent risks include surface conditions of the land and behavior of wild or domestic animals. Many of these inherent risks on a farm or ranch cannot be completely eliminated.
The IAPA will not limit liability, however, for activities that are the result of negligence or gross negligence on the part of the agritourism provider. For example, if a bale of hay falls on a tourist, and the owner was negligent in stacking the hay, IAPA would not limit liability.
A person engaging in agritourism must post the following warning in a clearly visible area to avoid liability for the inherent risks explained above. This warning must be posted on a sign with black letters at least one inch in height. The warning must state the following verbatim:
Under Idaho law, there is no liability for an injury to or death of a participant in an agritourism activity conducted at this agritourism location if such injury or death results from the inherent risks of the agritourism activity. Inherent risks of agritourism activities include, among others, risks of injury inherent to land, equipment and animals, as well as the potential for you to act in a negligent manner that may contribute to your injury or death. You are assuming the risk of participating in this agritourism activity.
Posting this warning will allow agritourism providers to avoid liability for the risks inherent with every farm and ranch.
– Lance J. Schuster is a lawyer at Beard St. Clair Gaffney. He and his wife raise kids and cattle on their small farm near Idaho Falls. He can be reached at 523-5171 or firstname.lastname@example.org.