PBG President/CEO testifies in front of Missouri House Judiciary Committee on HB 1743

JimDHLA-3On March 26, Prime Business Group President/CEO Jim Dickerson traveled to Jefferson City, Missouri to testify in front of the Missouri House Judiciary Committee on HB 1743, which is an amendment to the existing Recreational Use Statue in Missouri.  Jim and his wife Sarah are both Missouri State Liaisons for the Recreational Aviation Foundation.  The bill, which was introduced by Missouri State Representative Doug Funderburk, simply adds “aviation activities” to the existing Missouri Recreational Use Statute.

All states in the United States have recreational use statutes that immunize landowners from liability when they allow the public to enter their land for recreational activities. Few states, however, expressly set forth airstrips and associated aircraft operations as a form of recreational activity. While the laws are similar in many respects, states differ in terms of the type of land protected, whether the land needs to be suitable for recreation, and the types of individuals and organizations that may qualify as landowners. States also vary with regard to the recreational activities covered and whether landowners need to give permission for the public to engage in those activities in order to receive protection. If landowners impose charges on the users, the laws may no longer protect the owners. Questions arise over the duty of care and whether the owner acted willfully or maliciously in endangering users. The variety of questions raised indicates that pilots and airstrip owners in the various states would benefit from a thorough review and possible revision of their recreational use statutes to ascertain if aviation activities are specifically included within the provisions of their states’ recreational use statute.

“Recreational Use Statute” is a term given to legislation generally intended to promote public recreational use of privately owned land. The statute does this by granting landowners some protection from liability for personal injuries or property damage suffered by land users pursuing recreational activities on the owner’s land. The underlying policy of a Recreational Use Statute is that the public’s need for recreational land has outpaced the ability of local, state, and federal governments to provide such areas and that owners of large acreages of land should be encouraged to help meet this need. Changes in lifestyle and the environment during the last few decades further support this rationale. These changes include increases in the material wealth and leisure time of urban residents enabling them to spend more time on recreation, a decline in the amount of public recreational space available to urban residents, an increased awareness of the health and fitness benefits of recreation, a desire to provide the public with opportunities to enjoy the benefits of modern environmental control, and a response to increased private tort litigation of recreational accidents.

Dickerson testified that the concept behind the amendment was that this would increase recreational opportunities within a state and thereby increase recreational commerce. That has proven to be the case already in other states. For example, prior to passage of the RUS equivalent in Montana, private land owners were reluctant to allow anglers to pass through their property on their way to fishing access points. Now, fishing has turned into a huge money card for the state and access on private lands or through private lands is common place.

cubsunsetAdding aviation activities to the existing RUS increases both recreational and aviation commerce within the state.  This has already proven to be true in Oklahoma where the addition of aviation activities to the existing statute has resulted in a positive economic impact for many cities, towns and businesses in Oklahoma.

Passage of the amendment to include aviation activities has the potential to increase general aviation activity within the state. More destinations means more fuel sold, more mechanics working, more FBOs supplying services, etc. It also means more aircraft coming into the state from outside the state in order to take advantage of new recreational opportunities on or near airstrips, hence, an increase in air commerce at all levels.

A representative for Missouri Trial Attorneys testified against the bill stating that the entire Recreational Use Statute should be repealed.  He stated that it no one should be protected against being sued for any kind of liability.  He went on to say that legislation like this just “opens the door” for people to never be held accountable for their actions.

Following the testimony provided by the Missouri Trial Attorneys representative, an individual at the hearing stated, “I want to make sure I have this clear.  We have an amendment here that has an economic benefit and can generate revenue for the cities and citizens in the state of Missouri but the trial lawyers don’t want that because they are more concerned that they may not be able to sue someone and make money for themselves?”

Currently, 22 other states have amended their Recreational Use Statutes to include aviation activities.  Following the hearing,  the Missouri House Judiciary Committee decided that they wanted to take a closer look at the current statute and amendment before moving forward.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.



455 Sam Barr Drive - Suite 209 - Kearney, Missouri 64060 www.primebusinesskc.com


Follow @PrimeBusinessKC on twitter.