Massachusetts Appeals Court Holds Go-Cart Facility Not Entitled to Exemption Under Recreational Use Statute

640px-Go-kartsIn Amaral v. Seekonk Grand Prix Corp., a woman suffered injuries while observing her children operate go-carts at the defendant’s go-cart facility in Massachusetts. The injuries occurred when one of the drivers on the course lost control of the go-cart in which he or she was riding, and it crashed through the fence where the woman was standing. Although the woman was required to purchase tickets for her children to use the go-cart facility, she did not have to buy a ticket in order to observe her children from behind the fence.

Shortly after the accident, the woman filed a negligence action against the owner of the go-cart facility, requesting compensation for her physical injuries, which included a painful pulmonary embolism that resulted from a blood clot that formed in the woman’s leg.

In response to the complaint, the defendant filed a motion indicating that summary judgment was appropriate according to the recreational use doctrine. Pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws C. 21 Section 17C, a property owner that allows the general public to use its land for recreational activities without imposing a fee or charge for the use cannot be held liable for any injuries that an individual sustains during his or her time on the property. An exception to this statute is when the property owner engages in reckless, wanton, or willful conduct, and that conduct results in the victim’s injury.

Based on this statute, the defense argued that the claim must be dismissed because the defendant did not charge the woman a fee to use the premises. The woman filed a prompt appeal.

According to the appellate court, the defense needed to prove three elements in order to utilize the recreational use doctrine:  (1) the defendant had an interest in the property; (2) the plaintiff suffered injuries while engaged in a recreational activity on the property; (3) the defendant did not impose a fee or charge for the individual’s use of the property. Applied to the case at hand, the appellate court concluded that a parent who pays on behalf of his or her children for the use of the property constitutes a paying customer, thereby negating the third element of the test.

The court also discussed whether the woman’s mere use of the property to observe her children constituted “recreation” within the intent of the statute. Although some cases had discussed this issue, the court concluded that the consensus was unclear and that the meaning of recreation was undefined. The issue was moot, however, considering the court’s conclusion that the woman was a paying customer of the go-cart facility.

If you or someone you love has suffered injuries as the result of a careless property owner, you may be entitled to compensation in a premises liability action. At the Law Offices of John S. Moffa, we have provided skilled and dedicated legal counsel to accident victims throughout Massachusetts. We understand what you and your family are going through during this difficult time and can ensure that you are treated with compassion and personal attention throughout the process. Call us now at 1-800-446-4485 or contact us online to set up your free consultation.

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