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Recreational Use Statutes

Most, if not all, of the New Hampshire statutes that govern landowner liability when members of the public are allowed to use private, Federal, State, or municipal lands free of charge are listed below. These statues are generally referred to as "recreational use" statutes. The limited liability in all of the recreational use statutes is based on the premise that the public is allowed to use the property without being charged a fee by the landowner to use the property.

All of these statutes apply to the State Trail System.

RSA 508:14, Landowner Liability Limited

  1. An owner, occupant, or lessee of land, including the state or any political subdivision, who without charge permits any person to use land for recreational purposes or as a spectator of recreational activity, shall not be liable for personal injury or property damage in the absence of intentionally caused injury or damage.
  2. Any individual, corporation, or other nonprofit legal entity, or any individual who performs services for a nonprofit entity, that constructs, maintains, or improves trails for public recreational use shall not be liable for personal injury or property damage in the absence of gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct.
  3. An owner of land who permits another person to gather the produce of the land under pick-your-own or cut-your-own arrangements, provided said person is not an employee of the landowner and notwithstanding that the person picking or cutting the produce may make remuneration for the produce to the landowner, shall not be liable for personal injury or property damage to any person in the absence of willful, wanton, or reckless conduct by such owner.

212:34, Duty of Care
  1. In this section:
    1. "Charge'' means a payment or fee paid by a person to the landowner for entry upon, or use of the premises, for outdoor recreational activity.
    2. "Landowner'' means an owner, lessee, holder of an easement, occupant of the premises, or person managing, controlling, or overseeing the premises on behalf of such owner, lessee, holder of an easement, or occupant of the premises.
    3. "Outdoor recreational activity'' means outdoor recreational pursuits including, but not limited to, hunting, fishing, trapping, camping, horseback riding, bicycling, water sports, winter sports, snowmobiling as defined in RSA 215-C:1, XV, operating an OHRV as defined in RSA 215-A:1, V, hiking, ice and rock climbing or bouldering, or sightseeing upon or removing fuel wood from the premises.
    4. "Premises'' means the land owned, managed, controlled, or overseen by the landowner upon which the outdoor recreational activity subject to this section occurs.
  2. A landowner owes no duty of care to keep the premises safe for entry or use by others for outdoor recreational activity or to give any warning of hazardous conditions, uses of, structures, or activities on such premises to persons entering for such purposes, except as provided in paragraph V.
  3. A landowner who gives permission to another to enter or use the premises for outdoor recreational activity does not thereby:
    1. Extend any assurance that the premises are safe for such purpose;
    2. Confer to the person to whom permission has been granted the legal status of an invitee to whom a duty of care is owed; or
    3. Assume responsibility for or incur liability for an injury to person or property caused by any act of such person to whom permission has been granted, except as provided in paragraph V.
    4. Any warning given by a landowner, whether oral or by sign, guard, or issued by other means, shall not be the basis of liability for a claim that such warning was inadequate or insufficient unless otherwise required under subparagraph V(a).
  4. This section does not limit the liability which otherwise exists:
    1. For willful or malicious failure to guard or warn against a dangerous condition, use, structure or activity;
    2. For injury suffered in any case where permission to enter or use the premises for outdoor recreational activity was granted for a charge other than the consideration if any, paid to said landowner by the state;
    3. When the injury was caused by acts of persons to whom permission to enter or use the premises for outdoor recreational activity was granted, to third persons as to whom the landowner owed a duty to keep the premises safe or to warn of danger; or
    4. When the injury suffered was caused by the intentional act of the landowner.
  5. Except as provided in paragraph V, no cause of action shall exist for a person injured using the premises as provided in paragraph II or given permission as provided in paragraph III.
  6. If, as to any action against a landowner, the court finds against the claimant because of the application of this section, it shall determine whether the claimant had a reasonable basis for bringing the action, and if no reasonable basis is found, shall order the claimant to pay for the reasonable attorneys' fees and costs incurred by the landowner in defending against the action.

215-A:5-c, Inherent Dangers of OHRV Operation
It is recognized that OHRV operation may be hazardous. Therefore, each person who drives or rides an OHRV accepts, as a matter of law, the dangers inherent in the sport, and shall not maintain an action against an owner, occupant, or lessee of land for any injuries which result from such inherent risks, dangers, or hazards. The categories of such risks, hazards, or dangers which the OHRV user assumes as a matter of law include, but are not limited to, the following: variations in terrain, trails, paths, or roads, surface or subsurface snow or ice conditions, bare spots, rocks, trees, stumps, and other forms of forest growth or debris, structures on the land, equipment not in use, pole lines, fences, and collisions with other operators or persons.

215-A:34, Posted Land
  1. An owner may post all or any portion of his land against use by an OHRV. Such notices may read "SNOW TRAVELING VEHICLES PROHIBITED'' or "OHRVs PROHIBITED'' or may have in lieu of these words an appropriate sign with the designated symbol of sufficient size to be readable at a distance of 50 feet indicating that use of this land is prohibited for the purpose so specified. Whoever without right enters such land that has been so posted shall be guilty of a violation. Provided, however, that failure of an owner to post his land as provided in this section shall not be construed as granting any license to users of OHRVs to enter said premises, nor shall said failure be construed as implying any duty of care to the user of an OHRV by the owner.

215-C:55, Posted Land
  1. An owner may post all or any portion of his or her land against use by a snowmobile. Such notices may read "SNOWMOBILES PROHIBITED'' or may have in lieu of these words an appropriate sign with the designated symbol of sufficient size to be readable at a distance of 50 feet indicating that use of this land is prohibited for the purpose so specified. Whoever without right enters such land that has been so posted shall be guilty of a violation. Provided, however, that failure of an owner to post his or her land as provided in this section shall not be construed as granting any license to users of snowmobiles to enter said premises, nor shall said failure be construed as implying any duty of care to the user of a snowmobile by the owner.
  2. It is recognized that snowmobile operation may be hazardous. Therefore, each person who drives or rides a snowmobile accepts, as a matter of law, the dangers inherent in the sport, and shall not maintain an action against an owner, occupant, or lessee of land for any injuries which result from such inherent risks, dangers, or hazards. The categories of such risks, hazards, or dangers which the snowmobile user assumes as a matter of law include, but are not limited to, the following: variations in terrain, trails, paths or roads, surface or subsurface snow or ice conditions, bare spots, rocks, trees, stumps, and other forms of forest growth or debris, structures on the land, equipment not in use, pole lines, fences, and collisions with other operators or persons. 

RSA 216-F:3
No person who has granted a right of way for a trail across his land, or his successor in title, shall be liable to any user of the trail for injuries, suffered on said portion of the trail unless the same are caused by the willful or wanton misconduct of the grantor or such successor in title, as the case may be.

RSA 212:34, Duty of Care

  1. An owner, lessee or occupant of premises owes no duty of care to keep such premises safe for entry or use by others for hunting, fishing, trapping, camping, horseback riding, water sports, winter sports, snowmobiling, or OHRVs as defined in RSA 215-A, hiking, sightseeing, or removal of fuel wood, or to give any warning of hazardous conditions, uses of, structures, or activities on such premises to persons entering for such purposes, except as provided in paragraph III hereof.
  2. An owner, lessee or occupant of premises who gives permission to another to hunt, fish, trap, camp, ride horseback, hike, use snowmobiles as defined in RSA 215-C, use OHRVs as defined in RSA 215-A, sightsee upon, or remove fuel wood from, such premises, or use said premises for water sports, or winter sports does not thereby:
    1. Extend any assurance that the premises are safe for such purpose, or
    2. Constitute the person to whom permission has been granted the legal status of an invitee to whom a duty of care is owed, or
    3. Assume responsibility for or incur liability for an injury to person or property caused by any act of such person to whom permission has been granted except as provided in paragraph III hereof.
  3. This section does not limit the liability which otherwise exists:
    1. For willful or malicious failure to guard or warn against a dangerous condition, use, structure or activity; or
    2. For injury suffered in any case where permission to hunt, fish, trap, camp, ride horseback, hike, use for water sports, winter sports, use of snowmobiles as defined in RSA 215-C, or use of OHRVs as defined in RSA 215-A, sightsee, or remove fuel wood was granted for a consideration other than the consideration, if any, paid to said landowner by the state; or
    3. The injury caused by acts of persons to whom permission to hunt, fish, trap, camp, ride horseback, hike, use for water sports, winter sports, use of snowmobiles as defined in RSA 215-C, or use of OHRVs as defined in RSA 215-A, sightsee, or remove fuel wood was granted, to third persons as to whom the person granting permission, or the owner, lessee or occupant of the premises, owed a duty to keep the premises safe or to warn of danger.
  4. Except as provided in paragraph III, a person using the premises as provided in paragraph I or given permission as provided in paragraph II, shall not maintain an action against the owner, occupant, or lessee of the premises for any injury which resulted while on the premises.