Vol. 82, No. 6, June 2009
Noffke v. Bakke is a reminder of the breadth of Wisconsin’s recreational immunity laws. The careful attorney should begin review of any case involving recreational activity by turning to Wis. Stat. chapter 895. The legislature has enacted both broad and specific civil liability exemptions:
- Equine activities (section 895.481)
- Ski patrol members (section 895.482)
- Limitation of property owners’ liability for recreational activities (section 895.52)
- Restrictions on civil liability for participation in recreational activities (section 895.525)
- Sport-shooting-range activities (section 895.527)
The exemptions present a wickety-thicket of rules, exceptions, and exclusions; all deserve close, careful attention.
Nor can the importance and potential impact of the recreational immunity laws be understated. The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association estimated in its 85th annual yearbook that nearly 90,000 students participate in high school amateur athletics. According to the Wisconsin State Horse Council’s August 2008 press release, more than 700,000 people participate in horseback riding per year, making it one of the top four outdoor recreational activities in Wisconsin. And in March 2009, the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, which earlier reported that travelers in Wisconsin spend billions of dollars per year on everything from lodging to recreation, announced a new slogan for the state: “Live Like You Mean It.”
Recreational activity plays a vital role in Wisconsin’s economy and identity. Recreational immunity laws are an important piece of that fabric.