Mountain Project Logo

Private Land Owner Liability


Original Post
Angela Kalar · · Missoula, MT · Joined Jun 2017 · Points: 0

We just purchased a climbing area in Montana that includes approximately 100 routes.  We are concerned about our liability if we continue to allow climbing.  We don't want to close it but have recently been advised to close access because of the high potential for being sued.  Does anyone have information regarding this?  Thanks!

Igor Chained · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 70

The first step might be reaching out to the climber's alliance for the area.
There are 3 for MT.

https://www.accessfund.org/meet-the-access-fund/our-network/local-climbing-organizations

Ira O · · Hardwick, VT · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 61
  • In VT anyway, we have a landowner liability law which states that if someone is recreating on someone else's property and gets hurt then the landowner is not liable. It pertains to hiking , hunting, climbing, what have you. Maybe something similar in your state? If not you could make people sign a release or something like at RRG. Or just a sign saying that if you trespass you do so at your own risk... 
Angela Kalar · · Missoula, MT · Joined Jun 2017 · Points: 0
Igor Chained wrote: The first step might be reaching out to the climber's alliance for the area.
There are 3 for MT.

https://www.accessfund.org/meet-the-access-fund/our-network/local-climbing-organizations

Thanks Igor!  I did reach out to the Access Fund and am awaiting their reply.  That seemed like a good place to start. 


Our worry is even if protections are in place if someone were to sue us we would still have costs associated with that lawsuit, frivolous or not.
Angela Kalar · · Missoula, MT · Joined Jun 2017 · Points: 0
Ira O wrote:
  • In VT anyway, we have a landowner liability law which states that if someone is recreating on someone else's property and gets hurt then the landowner is not liable. It pertains to hiking , hunting, climbing, what have you. Maybe something similar in your state? If not you could make people sign a release or something like at RRG. Or just a sign saying that if you trespass you do so at your own risk... 

Ira - how do they get the word out at RRG that people have to sign a release?  Great ideas!

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

Have you spoken to an attorney? You should.

Angela Kalar · · Missoula, MT · Joined Jun 2017 · Points: 0
FrankPS wrote: Have you spoken to an attorney? You should.

Not yet.  I suppose we should but sometimes I hesitate to jump to that as attorneys have a tendency to cause more worry.

Brian · · North Kingstown, RI · Joined Sep 2001 · Points: 725

Montana has a recreational use limited liability law.  
https://recreation-law.com/2018/02/21/montana-recreation-responsibility-act/ 

David A · · Boulder, CO · Joined Oct 2008 · Points: 405

Just curious...when you purchased the property, were you aware that there was a climbing area with "approximately 100 routes " on said property?

If the answer to the above question is "yes", was liability any concern for you before/during the purchase of this property?

I'm not too familiar with MT crags, but a crag with 100+ routes on it seems pretty significant. As a climber yourself, how do you feel about potentially closing access to people within your "tribe" (for lack of a better word)?

Ira O · · Hardwick, VT · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 61
Angela Kalar wrote:

Ira - how do they get the word out at RRG that people have to sign a release?  Great ideas!

I believe there are signs at parking areas. Also on the guidebooks and here on MP. You can sign a waiver online which may be more complicated than you would want to deal with.... 

Andrew Krajnik · · Plainfield, IL · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 1,673

You might try contacting bill weishaar. He and his brother just opened a crag in MO (EM: Robinson Bluff) that is on land that they purchased. The website is robinsonbluff.com, and includes the ability to complete waivers online.

Graining Fork Nature Preserve (a.k.a. Roadside Crag) in RRG is also privately owned. Their website is grainingfork.org/. I don't see a "contact" page, though, so I'm not sure how to get in touch with the owners.

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Arkansas is another privately owned crag. Their website is https://horseshoecanyonduderanch.com/.

John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,535
Brian wrote: Montana has a recreational use limited liability law.  
https://recreation-law.com/2018/02/21/montana-recreation-responsibility-act/ 

This is the law that protects you- Kentucky has it and it’s the reason several crags at the Red are still open to the public.

A good attorney will be able to tell you whether to require a waiver- the pro is that you’ll have a release, the con may be that by requiring a waiver you’re accepting some responsibility (Muir Valley is a good case study for this, because they do provide all bolting kit and have requirements if you develop on their land- and as such, a waiver is required).
larrys · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 0
David A wrote: Just curious...when you purchased the property, were you aware that there was a climbing area with "approximately 100 routes " on said property?

If the answer to the above question is "yes", was liability any concern for you before/during the purchase of this property?

I'm not too familiar with MT crags, but a crag with 100+ routes on it seems pretty significant. As a climber yourself, how do you feel about potentially closing access to people within your "tribe" (for lack of a better word)?

Hey David! I am the other owner.  When we purchased it we did know it was a climbing area which was part of the attraction.  We did not think about liability until an attorney brought it to our attention.  Another concern he brought up is that the local university takes paying students and children to the climbing area.  


It is a significant climbing area and we do not want to close access.  It would be devastating to the local climbing community and we will do everything we can to keep it open without exposure to ourselves.
Harumpfster Boondoggle · · Between yesterday and today. · Joined Apr 2018 · Points: 65

If you seek commercial advantage from the climbing area that is where waivers come in...that is a whole nest of vipers if negligent conditions exist on the crag...ie a frivolous suit might have to be settled. But tbh, waivers don't mean jack in a court of law if real negligence is present.

However, if you seek nothing from the users and allow them access to your land at their own risk I don't think anyone has ever, ever been successfully sued and even frivolous suits have no merit no matter what activity they are engaged (ie hunting, fishing, hiking, climbing etc) unless the land owner negligently actively created a hazard (ie left open a mine shaft and knew kids were exploring it etc).

Basically treat the climbers as trespassers that you don't bother calling the cops on and you have no liability unless you are leaving bear traps everywhere.

The Laws in states that protect landowners in this regard were mostly enacted to reassure landowners so that access for the public was maintained, not that people were being sued right and left is how I read the history of such things when I was an Access Fund representative.

This post is no substitute for a real legal consultation and you should work with a local climbing organization and their lawyers (who will be happy to work with you and your own representation) to maintain access.

Ģnöfudør Ðrænk · · Get off my lawn. · Joined Nov 2017 · Points: 2
larrys wrote:

.. the local university takes paying students and children to the climbing area. 

In this case, I would want a written agreement with the university that they accept liability and are insured to cover all related incidents.

Harumpfster Boondoggle · · Between yesterday and today. · Joined Apr 2018 · Points: 65
larrys wrote:

Hey David! I am the other owner.  When we purchased it we did know it was a climbing area which was part of the attraction.  We did not think about liability until an attorney brought it to our attention.  Another concern he brought up is that the local university takes paying students and children to the climbing area.  


It is a significant climbing area and we do not want to close access.  It would be devastating to the local climbing community and we will do everything we can to keep it open without exposure to ourselves.
The University will undoubtedly assume liability for their trips, but if there is a problem the victims might come after you two also looking for any deep pockets. :(

Are you guys climbers too? That is a little more tricky as it may be able to be shown that you knew about loose rock or bad bolts etc....if you are not climbers then as above very unlikely for you to be found negligent.
Ģnöfudør Ðrænk · · Get off my lawn. · Joined Nov 2017 · Points: 2

The other question that I would have is will the judge order the plaintive to pay your court costs, because regardless of what the law says, they can still try to sue which means a grand or two in lawyer fees even if the judge throws the case out.

Alex Davis · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined Mar 2010 · Points: 5
Angela Kalar wrote:

Not yet.  I suppose we should but sometimes I hesitate to jump to that as attorneys have a tendency to cause more worry.

They cause more worry because they are raising potential issues that you haven't thought of (which is the reason why you hired an attorney to begin with).  I suggest finding a solo practitioner real estate lawyer to give you some advice; a competent one should be able to do this relatively inexpensively, and then you can weigh the cost and benefit of proceeding with their recommendations.


I'm a real estate lawyer and I can tell you that if I was buying a crag with that much development I would seek the advice of counsel familiar with that geographic region (even being a real estate lawyer myself) given the high likelihood of people climbing there (considering there are 100 routes, which suggests its a fairly active crag).  Ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Dylan B. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 521
Angela Kalar wrote: We just purchased a climbing area in Montana that includes approximately 100 routes.  We are concerned about our liability if we continue to allow climbing.  We don't want to close it but have recently been advised to close access because of the high potential for being sued.  Does anyone have information regarding this?  Thanks!

Don’t take legal advice from strangers on the internet. Consult with a lawyer licensed to practice in your state. 

phylp · · Upland · Joined May 2015 · Points: 617

If you look at the Access Fund site in the aquisitions section/ Handley Rock, you will see how Bill and Bev Oldfield dealt with this issue at Handley Rock, in The Bay Area.

I’m sure the Access Fund will be able to give you much good info. 

PRRose · · Boulder · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 0

Consult a Montana real estate attorney.

The Access Fund may be able to give you information, but they are not your lawyer and are adverse to you in the sense that their interest is in preserving access and not protecting you from liability.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

General Climbing
Post a Reply to "Private Land Owner Liability"

Log In to Reply