Recreation on Connecticut public land

We’ve traced the cases in which the Connecticut courts, reversing longstanding law, have thrown open lawsuits against towns over recreation injuries on public land. Bob Dorigo Jones records some of the results, as well as the public pressure that’s been building for legislative reform in Hartford:

As usually happens in a case like this, the collateral damage quickly spread across the state. A group of mountain bikers preparing new trails for a Livestrong charity project was forced to abruptly stop their work because of the lawsuit. …

[A new bill filed in the Connecticut House and slated for an April 4 hearing] would provide local governments and quasi-municipal entities like the water authority with protection from personal injury lawsuits if they open their property to the public for free recreation.

The legislation has drawn support from thousands of citizens and a broad coalition of groups including the Connecticut Forest & Park Association.

More: Rick Green, Hartford Courant.


  • Washington law allows broad immunity (with some exceptions) when opening up land for recreational use.

  • Two thoughts come to mind when reading this story. (1) Why does the bill only apply to public or quasi-public lands? Why not private as well? I don’t know about in Connecticut, but there are some places where hiking and biking trails are developed that sometimes cross, with the owner’s permission, private lands. Why shouldn’t those owners also be exempt from lawsuits? (2) Even if the bill becomes law, I have no doubt creative lawyering will find a way to work around it or render it meaningless. The real problem behind lawsuits like this isn’t with the laws that legislatures pass or fail to pass; it’s with a court system that no longer believes in personal responsibility. As long as courts and juries believe an injured person deserves compensation simply because they’re injured, they’ll find ways to award it regardless of what the intent of the law is.

  • Time to re-route the Appalachian National Scenic Trail from New York directly into Massachusetts, bypassing the dangerous hazards of the Connecticut Lawyer Industry.

  • (1) Why does the bill only apply to public or quasi-public lands? Why not private as well?

    Private land are already immune.