N.H. House committee rejects campground liability immunity bill 

  • Flooding at Yogi Bear campground in New Hampton on Sunday, July 2, 2017. A House committee voted Wednesday not to recommend a bill to offer campground owners immunity from litigation over “an inherent risk of camping.” Courtesy of Priscilla Piscopo

Monitor staff
Published: 4/12/2018 1:38:21 PM

A bill to make campgrounds immune to broad categories of liability lawsuits was rejected by the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday in a unanimous recommendation that moves to the House floor.

Senate Bill 502, sponsored by Sen. Kevin Avard, R-Nashua, would have given campground owners blanket immunity to all litigation that falls under the “inherent risk of camping,” shielding them from any lawsuits that don’t involve man-made structures, willful disregard, and “gross negligence” on the part of employees.

Campground owners said the bill would prevent frivolous lawsuits that can prove financially destructive and have driven up insurance costs. But opponents such as the New Hampshire Association for Justice, a professional association of trial attorneys, said the bill was unnecessary and would create an impossible legal standard to meet.

“On behalf of the New Hampshire Association for Justice, we thank the House Judiciary Committee for voting to preserve the rights of citizens to pursue legal remedies in court,” said Neil Nicholson, president of the association, in a statement Wednesday.

Speaking after the vote, committee vice chairwoman Claire Rouillard, R-Goffstown, said she opposed what she saw as an attempt to evade liability. “I think that individuals that go camping would like to know when they’re going into a campsite that it has been checked and that they’re safe to have their children go into the campsite,” she said.

In opposing the bill, the committee opted to defer to the existing statute, which exempts from liability people offering their land for camping free of charge – but keeps those who charge on the hook. Rouillard said she thought that arrangement is fair.

The vote Wednesday was 14-0. The full House is expected to vote on the measure in coming weeks.

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at edewitt@cmonitor.com, or on Twitter at @edewittNH.)

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