Across Pennsylvania, there are farms that offer visitors the option to pick their own fruits and vegetables growing on the land. Many different products may be acquired this way, including berries and vegetables in warmer months, then pumpkins, gourds and Christmas trees in the fall and winter. In addition, many offer other activities such as wagon rides at Way Fruit Farm in Port Matilda or the Aerial Adventure Park at Hellerick's Family Farm in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.
“U-Pick” farms invite the public to venture out on their land, typically for a fee, and enjoy family-type outdoor recreation and adventure. Here, we will analyze how potential financial liability is assessed for accidents that cause injuries at these farms. The majority of these operations require visitors and the parents of minors to sign some variation of an “activity release” or other indemnity agreement. These agreements are designed to have visitors agree that they are entering “at their own risk”.
The provisions that are contained within these agreements may include some following examples:
- Guests agree that there are inherent risks involved with participation that may be dangerous
- All participants should be in reasonably good health and capable of comprehending all instructions prior to entry
- (GUEST NAME) has read the waiver and liability release and makes (FARM) exempt from liability
- The liability release applies to personal injuries, damages to property, & wrongful death caused by negligence or gross negligence
- (GUEST NAME) is foregoing the right to bring any claims against (FARM) for any actions or inactions leading to harm
PA Agricultural Immunity Statute
The Pennsylvania legislature enacted Title 42 that address certain rights and immunities. It explains that no actions may be brought against owners, occupiers, or lessees of land for personal injuries by parties who are visiting the premises to pick or purchase farming or agricultural products unless the injuries were the result of a condition with an unreasonable risk and when all of the following is true:
- The owner, occupier, or lessee has knowledge of (or should have known) the existence of potentially dangerous conditions
- The owners, occupier, or lessee demonstrated a failure in exercising “reasonable care” to remedy the conditions or warn visitors of the potentially dangerous risk
- The statute defines farming or agricultural products as being natural items from a nursery, vinery, grove or garden that includes, yet is not limited to, trees or firewood.
PA “U-Pick” Statute
Another legislative provision contained in Title 42 is referred to as the “U-Pick” law. The legislative intent is similar to that of the Agricultural Immunity Statute, yet was uniquely implemented through recognition of the benefits that “U-Pick” operations bring to the community. These operations are considered productive and traditionally farm owners were reluctant to place themselves at risk for liability by allowing entrants to explore their properties. The legislature allows for these landowners to maintain immunity from liability from injured land entrants to encourage participation in such activity.