Scenario 1: Agritourism Activity Liability

Question: Andrew owns and operates a beef cattle operation. Andrew’s friend Betty, a biology teacher at the local high school, persuades Andrew to let her class visit Andrew’s farm to learn about crossbreeding applications in a real-life setting. Although hosting visitors to his farm isn’t part of his regular business activities, Andrew agrees to host the class on a volunteer basis. Andrew posts the appropriate warning notices and is careful to brief his visitors on the risks they face while visiting his farm. They each sign a waiver containing the warning notice language. During the guided tour, Chuck, the star high school quarterback, sneaks away with some friends. To show off his stellar quarterbacking skills, Chuck gets behind a cow as if to receive a snap. The cow, who is usually docile, has no interest in being Chuck’s center and gives him a swift kick, breaking Chuck’s kneecap and ruining his prospects for a college football scholarship. Chuck sues Andrew for damages, claiming that since this was a one-off visit and Andrew isn’t in the Agritourism business, the statutory Agritourism Activity Liability protection doesn’t apply. Is Chuck correct, or is Andrew protected by the statute?

Answer: This scenario addresses the question of what is “agritourism activity” and who is an “agritourism professional” under Virginia Code Chapter 64, Title 3.2. Section 3.2-6400 defines agritourism activity as any activity carried out on a farm or ranch that allows members of the general public, for recreational, entertainment, or educational purposes, to view or enjoy rural activities, including farming, wineries, ranching, horseback riding, historical, cultural, harvest-your-own activities, or natural activities and attractions. An activity is an agritourism activity whether or not the participant paid to participate in the activity. Similarly, it defines an agritourism professional as any person who is engaged in the business of providing one or more agritourism activities, whether or not for compensation.

In this scenario, Andrew’s hosting of Betty’s biology class likely falls within the definition of the statute since the activity being conducted is for educational purposes. The fact that Andrew doesn’t do this on a regular basis or that he wasn’t being compensated as an agritourism professional is likely irrelevant. Assuming Andrew otherwise complied with the terms of the statue, he would fall under the protection it offers.

Practice Tip: Err on the side of caution. Post the warnings as required by the statute even if you don’t consider your agricultural operation to be in the agritourism business.

Disclaimer: This is a hypothetical situation provided for general educational purposes and shouldn’t be relied on to resolve a specific case. As each case can turn on different facts, always consult with counsel in your jurisdiction for your specific situation.