CHARLESTON – A bill to protect landowners from being sued by trespassers if they are injured is headed to the governor to sign.
On Thursday, the House of Delegates passed Senate Bill 3 by a 98-0 vote. It now goes to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
“I am pleased with the passage of this bill and have been working for several years to support this initiative on behalf of my constituents in the counties of Greenbrier, Monroe and Summers,” said Delegate George Ambler (R-Greenbrier), vice chairman of the House Natural Resource Committee. “We must assure there are safeguards in place to help protect farmers and landowners from lawsuit abuse by illegal trespassers.”
Another delegate attacked trial lawyers in his support of the bill.
“The bill codifies a long-standing principle of common law that has been undermined by trial lawyers,” Delegate Ray Canterbury (R-Greenbrier) said. “Most West Virginians will agree that no landowner should be sued by a trespasser who has been hurt when they entered another person’s property without permission.”
A Brooke County Republican delegate said it is a common-sense bill for landowners.
“Today’s bill is another part of our intent to create more predictability in West Virginia’s legal system,” Ryan Weld said. “It will help landowners in their understanding of their duty to trespassers on their property.”
Some lawmakers said the measure will benefit farmers and others whose private property might be used for hunting, hiking, horseback riding and ATV riding.
“This legislation will relieve farmers and citizens of the fear of being sued for actions of someone trespassing on their property,” House Agriculture Chairman Allen Evans (R-Grant) said. “I am pleased with the efforts of both chambers to take up such important legislation.”
House Energy Chairman Woody Ireland echoed those thoughts.
“Today’s passage provides consistency with other recreational uses of private property, such as hunting, ATV riding, hiking, and horseback riding for which fee is not charged,” Ireland (R-Ritchie) said.
West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse also heralded the passage of the bill.
“We applaud the bi-partisan group of legislators in the State Senate and House of Delegates who supported Senate Bill 3, which will protect property owners from people who illegally trespass on their property are injured and then attempt to file a lawsuit," WV CALA Executive Director Roman Stauffer said. "We encourage Governor Tomblin to sign this legislation so property owners will have the protections they deserve.
“Additionally, we are very optimistic that the Legislature will continue to advance lawsuit reforms that will bring West Virginia into the national mainstream. Senate President Bill Cole and House Speaker Tim Armstead realize that lawsuit reforms are a vital tool to help create more jobs and boost our economy.”