Legal Liability Issues

Protect your business and personal assets by addressing potential liability issues before you begin leasing your land for hunting or other outdoor recreational purposes.

Mississippi Code Related to Landowner Liability for Recreational Use of the Land

Mississippi Code (Section 89-2-23) provides some protection for landowners allowing the recreational use of their land. The code differs depending on whether a fee is charged for use or not.

Legal Obligations Differ Depending on Status of Individual

Trespassers: A landowner owes no duty to a trespasser because they are not supposed to be there in the first place. The landowner only has the obligation to not willfully or wantonly injure the trespasser. So, do not shoot the trespasser!

Licensee: A licensee is someone who has permission of the landowner to be on the property, even though the landowner is not really deriving any particular benefit from them being there. Maybe the landowner has given somebody permission to hunt, or given somebody permission to fish, the landowner is not really getting any benefit from that. Landowners do not have a much greater obligation than they do toward the trespasser other than maybe to warn a licensee of any known dangers on the property.

Invitee: A business invitee is someone who is on the property of the landowner and is benefiting the landowner. So for instance, if a landowner is charging people to come on the property for paid hunts, fee-fishing, trail riding, hiking, bird-watching, agritainment activities such as: u-pick vegetable operations, pumpkin patches, corn mazes, hay rides and etc., or any other outdoor recreational business, and the landowner is financially benefiting, or benefiting from that person being on the property, then the landowner owes them a duty to either make the premises reasonably safe, not perfectly safe, reasonably safe, or to warn them of any known dangers. So for instance, if a bridge across a creek was about to cave, a sign explaining the danger, “cross at your own risk” should be displayed. This is similar to grocery stores displaying “caution: wet floor signs” when there has been a spill in an area.

In order of landowner obligation from least to greatest, a trespasser is owed no duty, licensee is a middle ground, for an invitee, information is provided by the landowner to either make the premises reasonably safe, or warn them of any known dangers.

Ways to Reduce Legal Liability

  • Select the appropriate business structure to minimize your personal liability.
  • Purchase general liability insurance.
  • Require visitors to your land to sign waivers releasing you from liability - but have the waiver read and signed prior to their visit to your business.
  • Warn visitors of any dangers on your land.
  • Do your best to make your land and buildings reasonably safe.
  • Make sure your lease is well-written and includes terms to cover all potential problems

This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the need for legal advice from a professional. Seek advice from a lawyer when considering liability issues, leases, waivers, or other legal tools.

Other Publications

Hunting Clubs and Land Owners: Liability Issues and Hunting Leases (PDF)
G. Michael Massey of Massey, Higginbotham, Vise and Phillips, P.A.

Written by a lawyer from a local Jackson, MS firm who is well-versed in outdoor recreational issues, this article discusses liability issues for landowners and hunting clubs and what can be done to protect yourself.

Sample Liability Waiver for a Hunting Lease (PDF)

This lease is not meant to be utilized as such but is intended for educational purposes only. Consult a lawyer when drafting a lease to ensure that the details are appropriate for your specific situation.

Wildlife Leases and Liability Issues on Private Lands (PDF)
University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture

A written lease agreement can help protect you and your assets if an accident occurs on your leased property. This publication takes you through the steps for setting up a lease, the points to discuss with a local attorney, the different types of hunting leases, and the basics of a contract. The topics of insurance, indemnity agreements, and risk management are also discussed.

Rural Landowner Liability For Recreational Injuries: Myths, Perceptions, and Realities (PDF)
Journal of Soil and Water Conservation

This article examines rural landowner liability risk through analysis of the 50 state recreation-use statues intended to protect landowners from legal exposure tied to injuries sustained on their land.

Liability and Protection in Private Outdoor Recreation (PDF)
Oregon State University

This 1970 publication discusses the principles of liability and insurance protection that apply to most recreation enterprises regardless of size.

Handbook of Florida Fence and Property Law: Visitors and Responsibilities to Visitors (PDF)
University of Florida IFAS Extension

This handbook is designed to inform property owners of their rights and responsibilities in terms of their duty to fence. Discussed areas include a property owner's responsibility to fence when livestock is kept on the property, the rights of adjoining landowners to fence, the placement of fences, encroachments, boundary lines, easements, contracts, nuisances, and a landowner's responsibilities towards persons who enter his property.

Landowner Liability in Fee-Hunting Enterprises (PDF)
Alabama Cooperative Extension System, 1996

This document discusses the liability of landowners in fee-hunting enterprises, particularly liability and negligence as well as ways to reduce exposure.