Landowner Legal Protection
In 1983, the Missouri legislature passed a law designed to protect landowners from lawsuits arising out of the recreational use of their land. This law is commonly known as Missouri’s Recreational Use Act (§537.346-48 RSMo. 1983) ("MRUA" or "Act").
The MRUA specifically states that a landowner cannot be held liable for damages to any person who uses his or her land for "recreational use" as long as there is no fee charged by the landowner. The MRUA explicitly defines what constitutes "recreational use" and includes most activities we normally think of as recreational such as hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, etc. The MRUA also specifies that a fee or "charge" is a price or fee to use the land or where permission is given for purposes of a sales promotion or other business purposes.
The MRUA will protect from liability most landowners who allow access to their land for recreational purposes when unfortunate accidents and/or incidents happen to the people using the land. However, landowners must be aware that there are several exceptions to the MRUA that will take away the protections afforded by this law.
- The MRUA does not protect the landowner from acts of "gross negligence" or "ultrahazardous conditions" on the property. Although not specifically defined by the Act, these types of activities go far beyond simple neglect of one’s land.
- The MRUA does not protect landowners whose land is within any city, town, or municipal boundaries.
- The Act does not apply to incidents that occur in a swimming pool.
- The MRUA does not protect landowners in a "residential area," which is defined as a tract of land less than an acre in size used primarily for residential purposes.
- The MRUA does not apply to land used primarily for "commercial purposes." The Act specifically states that agriculture, grazing, and forestry do not constitute "commercial purposes."
Due to the MRUA, landowners should have a little more peace of mind the next time someone knocks on their door asking for permission to hunt or fish and when farmers wish to allow hunters to help with management of animals destroying crops or causing other damage. However, as discussed above, there are a number of exceptions that landowners should know about before being completely assured that the hunter or fisherman won’t be able to sue him or her as a result of an injury that occurs on their land.
To view the MRUA, visit the following websites:
In 2008, the Missouri legislature passed House Bill 2034 (§537.355 RSMo. 2008) which reinforces the MRUA statutes. To view this, visit http://www.house.mo.gov/ billtracking/bills081/biltxt/commit/HB2034C.HTM.