By Ashley Ellixson
Do you give tours of your farm operation? Do people knock on your door and ask to see your cow, poultry, vegetable operation, or the like? If your answer to either of these questions is YES, you may have legal questions regarding these interested people.
Many of you are concerned about visitors on your farm for various reasons. This is a common concern amongst all farmers no matter what your operation entails. One of the major issues that arise when people visit your property is the fear of a potential lawsuit if they were to be injured or harmed during their visit. To eliminate this risk, or at least be proactive in protecting yourself from potential liability, you should require visitors to sign a liability waiver.
If you do not already have a liability waiver form created for your operation, see the checklist of items that should be included to assist you in making one:
1. What type of property use and/or activities will the waiver cover?
1(a). Define all activities in detail.
1(b). State specifically the use permitted under the waiver.
1(c). Consider what would be property uses outside the waiver.
2. Under what terms may the person or group enter your property?
2(a). Do they require a scheduled appointment? Can they show up unannounced? Do they need a guide/you with them at all times?
3. What are the names/groups of people participating in the activity?
4. Include a description of the land the liability waiver covers.
4(a). Describe the boundaries and the size of the land.
4(b). Describe the areas of the land that are off limits to visitors and safety zones around buildings, barns, pastures, and houses.
4(c). Choose a specified location of entry/exit and require that visitors check in and out at this certain location. State the location of entry and exit on the waiver.
4(d). Describe any specifics that may be particularly harmful about your property (ex: wild animals, sharp edges, poison ivy).
5. Include language that means guests will not sue or attempt to make a claim against the owner regarding their land use and activities. A statement such as, “The user agrees to indemnify and hold harmless the landowner…” is a good example.
6. If the person/group is under 18 years of age, make sure to include a guardian signature line. Consider noting that anyone under 18 years of age must be accompanied by an adult and that the adult “agrees to indemnify and hold harmless the landowner for injuries to the child.”
7. If your venture deals with hunting on your property, it is wise to incorporate firearm guidelines and require that all hunters have completed a hunter safety course.
8. It is always wise to prohibit alcohol consumption on your land during any of your activities.
9. Include in the waiver that the form will be construed under the State of Maryland laws.
10. Update your risk management plan:
10(a). Talk with your insurance agent to make sure your insurance coverage covers activities that will take place on the farm.
10(b). Determine if you need to incorporate a business structure into the farm, such as an LLC or a Corporation to help protect your operation.
This checklist is not a complete list of all concerns that may be unique to your operation, but serves as a general checklist covering the major parts of creating a liability waiver. All details must come from your own personal operation. Requiring visitors to complete a liability waiver will help ease your mind when allowing tourists to visit your farm and create an effective learning environment for all. Please click on the following link to view the generic waiver:
This post does not create an attorney-client relationship.