Archive for Sunday, November 16, 2003

Liability issues have held up agri-tourism

November 16, 2003

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— Some lawmakers say an obstacle to developing agri-tourism in Kansas is the question of liability if a tourist is hurt on a farmer's property.

The issue last legislative session resulted in Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' first veto.

Approved by the Legislature, Senate Bill 134 would have protected farm tourism and horseback riding operations from personal injury lawsuits unless there was willful or malicious failure to guard against a dangerous condition.

Current law limits liability for property owners who allow their land to be used for recreational purposes, such as hunting, camping and fishing. The bill would have expanded that immunization to "recreational purposes," including recreational farming and ranching activities.

But Sebelius vetoed the measure, saying it would endanger tourists and make agri-tourism less attractive.

"If this bill became law, I fear we would regret it once the first child was injured while riding on unsafe farm equipment or playing in a dangerous area," she said.

The Senate voted to override Sebelius' veto, but an override attempt in the House failed.

State Sen. Derek Schmidt, R-Independence, who sponsored last session's measure, said he would file a bill for the 2004 legislative session that attempts to reconcile differences over the bill. He said the proposal would be more "narrowly targeted."

Sebelius, who was once a lobbyist for the Kansas Trial Lawyers Assn., has said "some level of immunity may be appropriate for agri-tourism."

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