Appellate Division, Fourth Department
Recreational Use Statute
Condition of the Property
Sabia v. Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation, et al.
Appealed from Supreme Court, Erie County
Background: The plaintiff decedent was killed while operating a snowmobile on a trail maintained by the defendant Northern Erie Sno-Seekers Inc. on property owned by the defendant Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation. The decedent had consumed several alcoholic beverages and drove into a metallic gate near a portion of the trail they had passed earlier in the evening. The decedent’s estate sought to recover damages for the decedent’s wrongful death. Both parties moved for summary judgment. The court granted summary judgment to Niagara Mowawk, but denied Sno-Seeker’s motion on the ground that the company’s affirmative action directed riders toward the metal gate without adequate warnings.
Ruling: The appellate division concluded that the court erred in denying Sno-Seeker’s motion. The court found that the decedent was engaged in a cover activity pursuant to General Obligations Law § 9-103. The property had been used for snowmobiling for years and was suitable for that purpose. The appellate division further held that the General Obligations Law does not immunize a landowner from liability for acts of negligence unrelated to the land itself. However, the negligence alleged by the plaintiff was related to a condition of the property. Therefore, Sno-Seekers was covered by the law.
Janet D. Callahan of Hancock & Estabrook LLP for the defendant-appellant; Edward J. Schwendler of the Law Offices of Eugene C. Tenney for the plaintiff-respondent