What is the potential liability that a private golf club could have for allowing the public to use their property for sledding?

Asked almost 2 years ago - Westwood, MA

There is a private golf club with a hill made for sledding right off the main road in town with an ample parking field. While they have never officially "invited" the public to sled on their hill, it has been the de-facto "go-to" sledding hill after after every snow fall. Their parking lot can fill with literally 100 cars with many more walkers arriving.

Does the club have any liability for negligence if a child gets injured due to unsafe conditions? Perhaps too many people sledding at a time to be safe or icy walk-ways on the way to the top of the hill?

Again, I am not sure if the sledders are considered trespassers or are even technically welcome. After decades, it is inconceivable to think the club doesn't know the popularity of the hill and has done nothing to dissuade its use.

Attorney answers (3)

  1. Anjali Gupta Stevenson

    Contributor Level 11

    2

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . I agree with both previous attorneys, and I would have to say that I would be surprised that the club would continue to allow the sledding if it wasn't covered under its insurance policy. Organizations like that usually run a tight ship. But I have been surprised before.

    This information is not intended to be legal advice and does not create an attorney-client privilege or... more
  2. Jack Richard Lebowitz

    Pro

    Contributor Level 18

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    Lawyer agrees

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    chosen by asker

    Answered . You are lucky that your golf couse still allows the off-season use for sledding and other traditional winter uses. I can't give a definitive answer to this, except to say that our local hilly country club revoked permission several years back for sledding because of some accidents (sleds crashing into one another willy-nilly from different hills) and the probable advice of their insurance carrier that if they knew of this activity, which they surely did from the cars parked along the highway all winter, although it might be considered trespass, their knowledge and implied permission might elevate the rights of users to the level of "invitees" to which some duties were allowed, such as to regulate areas of sledding, provide staff to assist, etc., or be considered an "attractive nuisance" like a swimming pool or dangerous waterfalls without "keep out" signs or fencing.

    Of course, in our legal system, anyone can sue a property owner for negligence and hope for at least a nuisance settlement to avoid litigation and a trial, and then insurance carriers tend to increase their premiums, so, sadly, sledding and skiing permission was revoked and there is no sledding at the Country Club anymore, as there had been for many decades.

    Although intitially there was a publicity hit in the local papers and some pushback between the perceived rich country club toffs and middle class families, most people blamed it on "the lawyers" and the Country Club was not shamed into reconsidering its position, so the ban continues to this day (fortunately, our City has some parks with sledding hills, though they aren't as numerous and steep as the Country Club's!)

    This answer is provided under the Avvo.com “Terms and Conditions of Use” (“ToU”), particularly ¶9 which states... more
  3. Michael T Millar

    Pro

    Contributor Level 19

    3

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Yes, the golf club could be sued by one who was injured by a condition on their property.

    If this answer was helpful, please mark it as helpful or as a best answer. This answer is for general education... more

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