HARTFORD — Rep. Rob Sampson today called for his colleagues on the legislature’s Judiciary Committee to vote on a bill that would grant cities and towns immunity from lawsuits filed by people injured on municipally-owned recreational land. Sampson contends the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association has successfully lobbied committee leaders to backburner the bipartisan H.B. 6557, An Act Concerning Liability for the Recreational Use of Lands. The issue grabbed headlines last year after a controversial jury verdict awarding a Rocky Hill resident nearly $3 million after she crashed her bicycle on a trail at a Metropolitan District Commission reservoir.
Consequently, MDC officials, fearing a similar lawsuit in the future, threatened to padlock its various properties used by thousands of people throughout Connecticut.
“That jury verdict caught the attention of mayors and first selectmen throughout the state,” Sampson said. “The legal fees alone from a suit filed by someone who trips on a trail would be enough to wreak havoc on any municipal budget. Now, many local leaders believe tacking up a ‘keep out’ sign is a good move.”
Immunity under the bill would include municipalities, political subdivisions of the state and special districts as owners of land entitled to immunity under the Recreational Land Use Act—which does offer that protection to individuals, corporations, nonprofits, and private utilities. The bill also clarifies the definition of “land” and “recreational purpose.”
Sampson, a co-sponsor of the bill, said the proposal deserves a committee vote by Friday’s deadline.
“Many policies and initiatives pursued by this legislature and our state agencies focus on healthy living,” he said. “Essentially, we have a special interest group chipping away at that work—encouraging the pocketing of an effort that would help ensure residents have continued access to a lot of recreation land.”