On October 23, 2017, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the “Safety in Agriculture Tourism Act.” This law is an inherent risk act intended to shield equine and agricultural tourism businesses from liability for the potential risks incurred by inviting the public onto farm property.
The Act applies to farms engaged in certain types of indoor and outdoor equine activities, u-pick farms, wineries, and maple sugar farms.
There are some exclusions to the new law, such as equine therapy, U-pick Christmas Trees, hiking, hunting and other forms of outdoor recreation offered to farm visitors.
Purpose of This Bill
To provide a uniform standard of care owed to the public by agritourism proprietors and farm animal professionals. It established limited liability protection for inherent risks of inviting the public onto a farming operation.
Highlights under This Act
Agricultural tourism means activities, including the production of maple sap and pure maple products, farm and winery tours, and equine activities both outdoors and indoors. The act excludes equine therapy, U-pick Christmas trees, hiking, hunting, and other outdoor recreation offered to farm visitors, conducted by a farmer on-farm for the enjoyment and or education of the public, which primarily promote the sale, marketing, production, harvesting or use of the products of the farm and enhance the public’s understanding and awareness of farming and farm life.
Additionally, this act creates a new line of defense against frivolous lawsuits frequently encountered by operators of agritourism farms. This should in turn lower insurance rates and business expenses.
Operators of Agricultural Tourism Have Additional Responsibilities
- To post and maintain way finding signage to delineate the paths, areas and buildings that are open to the public.
- To adequately train employees who are actively involved in agricultural tourism activities.
- To post at every point of sale or distribution of tickets, whether on or off the premises of the agricultural tourism area, a conspicuous “WARNING TO VISITORS” relative to the inherent risks of participating in activities on working farms as well as providing written information having text and graphics as the Commission of Agriculture and Markets shall specify, which shall conspicuously direct the attention of all visitors to the required “WARNING TO VISITORS”.
- To post a conspicuous notice to visitors at every point of sale or distribution of tickets that visitors have a responsibility to exercise reasonable care regarding the disclosed risks of the agricultural activity, and reasonably comply with posted way finding signs, reasonably remain in areas designated for agricultural tourism activity, reasonably follow any and all written and conspicuously posted rules of conduct provided by such operator to visitors or verbal or other communication for persons with disabilities, and not to willfully remove, deface, alter or otherwise damage signage, warning devices or implements or other safety devices.
- To take reasonable care to prevent reasonably foreseeable risks to visitors, consistent with the responsibility of a landowner to keep his or her premises reasonable safe for intended and reasonably foreseeable uses and users. A conspicuous notice to visitors is to be posted alerting the visitor of his/her right to a refund in the initial amount paid for any tickets which are returned to the operator of the agricultural tourism area, upon declaration by such purchaser that he or she believes that he or she is unprepared or is unwilling to participate in the agricultural tourism activity due to the risk inherent in the activities or the duties imposed upon him or her in conducting the activity.
- Owners and operators of agricultural tourism areas shall not be liable for an injury to or death of a visitor if the provisions of this subdivision are complied with.
- Visitors to agricultural tourism areas have the responsibility to exercise reasonable care regarding the disclosed risks of the agricultural activity.
- They must reasonably comply with posted way finding signs and remain in areas designated for the agricultural tourism activity.
- All written information and conspicuously posted rules of conduct provided by such operator to visitors must be followed.
- Visitors can not willfully remove, deface, alter or otherwise damage signage, warning devices or implements or other safety devices on the farms property.
Marcia Jacobiwitz is a partner concentrating in Commercial and Residential Real Estate, Municipal Law and Equine Law. You can Email Marcia or call her at 845.764.9656.