Scenario 2: 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 figures that he doesn’t need to post the statutory warning notice, but he does brief his visitors on the risks they face while visiting his farm and has each of the students 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 Andrew didn’t post the statutory notice, 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 compliance with Virginia Code Chapter 64, Title 3.2. Under Section 3.2-6402(A), every agritourism professional must post and maintain signs that contain the following notice:
“WARNING” or “ATTENTION” followed by “Under Virginia law, there is no liability for an injury to or death of a participant in an agritourism activity conducted at this agritourism location if such injury or death results from the inherent risks of the agritourism activity. Inherent risks of agritourism activities include, among others, risks of injury inherent to land, equipment, and animals, as well as the potential for you to act in a negligent manner that may contribute to your injury or death. You are assuming the risk of participating in this agritourism activity.”
Further, every written contract entered into by an agritourism professional for the providing of professional services, instruction, or the rental of equipment to a participant, whether or not the contract involves agritourism activities on or off the location or at the site of the agritourism activity, must contain in clearly readable print the above notice.
Section 3.2-6402(C) provides the kicker: “Failure to comply with the requirements concerning signs and notices provided in this section shall prevent an agritourism professional from invoking the privileges of immunity provided by this chapter.” Because this limitation on the agritourism professional’s liability is one created by this statute, then the statute must be complied with to receive its benefits.
In this case, Andrew failed to post the signs as required by the statute. Thus, even though he included the language on a written waiver that each student signed, Section 3.2-6402(C) will likely prevent him from asserting the protection afforded by the statute.
Practice Tip: Make sure you strictly comply with the terms of the statute. Have appropriate signs posted at the entrance to your property, where the agritourism activities are taking place, and on the waiver form that each of the participants signs.
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.