Washington Case Law Update: Washington Court of Appeals Confirms That a Landowner Need Not Warn a Licensee of Dangers on Property They Do Not Own

Washington Case Law Update: Washington Court of Appeals Confirms That a Landowner Need Not Warn a Licensee of Dangers on Property They Do Not Own

From the desk of Tom McCurdy: Landowners owe certain duties to individuals present on their land. The extent of the duty depends on whether the individual is an invitee, a licensee, or a trespasser. Regardless of status, must a landowner warn of dangers on another’s land? Read on to find out.

Case Pointer: In this premises liability case, a young girl was camping with a youth group near Lake Cle Elum when she tragically drowned while swimming. Her youth group was camping on land adjacent to the lake, which was owned by a third party. After her death, her estate filed suit against the landowners of the campsite, arguing that they had a duty to warn the girl of the dangers of the lake. The trial court granted the landowners’ motion for summary judgment, holding that landowners have no duty to warn licensees of dangers on land owned by others. The Washington Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that landowners have no duty to warn guests of dangers present on the land of another. Although unreported, this case provides valuable insight on limitations of the scope of a landowner’s duty to warn licensees about dangers on adjacent property.

Bethay et al. v. Parker et al., Wash. Ct. of Appeals, No. 35541-1-III (October 2, 2018) (unpublished).

In July 2015, Shawn Parker and KBSM, LLC (“Defendants”) allowed a youth group to camp on land they owned near Lake Cle Elum. Defendants had been allowing the youth group to utilize the land for camping trips free of charge for several years without incident. However, on July 27, 2015, Christine Bethay drowned while swimming in nearby Morgan Creek Cove. Four counselors from the youth group led fifteen children from the camping area on Defendants’ land across a federally owned strip of land and down into the cove to swim. Christine Bethay was among those children and, while the...

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