Outdoor recreation liability bill passes House

Posted: Sunday, April 21, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- A bill shielding outdoor recreation businesses from some liability for accidents passed the House on Friday.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Pete Kott, R-Eagle River, said it balances the responsibilities of business operators and their customers.

Opponents of House Bill 319 say it's too broad and relieves business owners of too much responsibility.

Although it passed the House 26-12, the bill faces a tougher time in the Senate, where Judiciary Committee Chairman Robin Taylor, R-Wrangell, has killed similar bills in recent years.

Taylor remains opposed to the bill. HE said Friday it provides more protection from lawsuits to profit-making businesses than homeowners or individuals driving a car have.

Under the measure, anyone participating in an outdoor recreational activity accepts the inherent risks of that activity. Participants would be responsible for learning about the risks of an activity, acting within their abilities and heeding all warnings about the activity.

They'd also be responsible for maintaining control of themselves and children with them, as well as any equipment, devices or animals they are using.

Businesses would be required to properly train their workers, maintain their equipment, explain the risks to customers, and operate in a reasonably safe and competent manner.

''It's a balanced bill,'' Kott said.

But Rep. Lisa Murkowski, R-Anchorage, said the definition of recreational activity is too broad, including any outdoor activity undertaken for exercise, education, relaxation, pleasure, sport or as a hobby.

The bill also relieves boat and plane owners from some liability if someone gets hurt while taking a free ride with them.

Voting against the bill in the House were Reps. Ethan Berkowitz, Sharon Cissna, Harry Crawford, Eric Croft, John Davies, Gretchen Guess, Joe Hayes, Reggie Joule, Mary Kapsner, Beth Kerttula, Albert Kookesh and Murkowski.

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