The Democratic primary brought wine caves into the national discussion. But have you heard about the fabled target shooting caves of Indiana? Me neither. But SB 9 addresses landowner immunity for people hurt there. I presume they are beautiful but deadly. Like Gymkata. New legislation states:
A person who goes upon or through the premises, including caves, of another . . . for the purpose of target shooting or preparing to target shoot does not have an assurance that the premises are safe for that purpose.
I’m just having a little bit of fun with this one. SB 9, introduced by Sen. Tomes is an effort to bring target shooting under the broader immunities that are already in place for letting people onto your land to use natural resources there and for “agritourism.” The general idea behind what I’m going to call the natural resource immunity (I think there might be another shorthand for this that’s not coming to mind) is that, as a policy matter, we like it when people enjoy the great outdoors for swimming, camping, hiking, sightseeing, accessing or departing from a trail, hunting, fishing, or trapping. However, if standard rules of negligence apply, landowners who might otherwise be cool with letting people wander about are not going to be inclined to take the risk. The immunity does not extend to malicious or illegal acts and preserves common law rules about attractive nuisances.
Existing law defines “agritourism activity” as:
(1) an activity at an agricultural, horticultural, or agribusiness operation where the general public is allowed or invited to participate in, view, or enjoy the activities for recreational, entertainment, or educational purposes, including farming, ranching, historic and cultural agricultural activities, self-pick farms, or farmers’ markets;
(2) an activity involving an animal exhibition at an agricultural fair; or
(3) natural resource based activities and attractions, including hunting, fishing, hiking, and trail riding.
Landowners are given certain immunity if a participant in an agritourism activity gets hurt from an incident arising out of the “inherent risks of agritourism activity.” SB 9 would add target shooting as an agritourism activity.
So, what’s with the caves? It has to do with a legislative drafting choice. The existing natural resource immunity law covering hiking made special mention of caves (I’m going to guess there was a case involving caves at some point). This language was mirrored when the General Assembly added a similar provision for hunting, fishing, and trapping. So, the language was again carried over in this legislation specific to people who enter onto land for the purpose of target shooting.
As a policy matter, I think my main concern is whether this affects liability to uninvolved third parties who get hurt. The scenario I have in mind is a landowner who allows people to use the land for target shooting where the landowner knows or should know that it’s not properly set up for target shooting — maybe it’s too close to a road without some kind of proper backstop or barrier. An errant shot hits someone not involved with the target shooting. The errant shooter doesn’t have the resources to pay for the damage. Is an obvious asset — the land owned by the negligent landowner — protected and unavailable to pay for the damage caused by the negligence? My preference would be to see language specifying that the immunity does not extend to claims by third parties uninvolved in the target shooting.