Bill giving lawsuit protection to campground owners passes House

Staff writer

A bill that provides qualified immunity for Ohio campground owners has been approved by the House of Representatives.
State Rep. DJ Swearingen, R-Huron, a co-sponsor of House Bill 355, said it is designed to protect campground owners from frivolous lawsuits. The bill was approved by the Civil Justice Committee before going to the House for the floor vote.
“Eleven million visitors come to Erie and Ottawa counties annually and many constituents make their livelihoods on our tourism sector with 14 campgrounds in the 89th district, which is very important for jobs throughout the district,” Rep. Swearingen said.
The legislation exempts campground owners and operators from certain liability for damages resulting from risks inherent to camping.
However, Swearingen indicated that it does not exonerate them from all liability, including:
- Damages for recreational activities within their control
- Purposeful or criminal conduct from the campground owner or operator
- Willful disregard for the safety of the campers
Additionally, the bill requires owners place signage at the entrance of the campgrounds for campers to be aware of the risks of camping.
Chip Hanawalt, president of the Ohio Campground Owners Association, testified before the
committee, saying the bill “will provide clarity for our members and for our campers.”
“Many of the things commonly associated with camping carry risks for the participant: fishing, campfires, hiking, walking the grounds, etc.,” he said. “An owner cannot eliminate those risks and should not be held liable if an injury occurs.”
He said the bill is modeled after legislation that provides similar protections to agri-tourism businesses.
John Van Doorn, director of government affairs for the Ohio Association for Justice, told the committee the OAJ isn’t opposing the bill but has been working with the sponsors on amendments “that will tighten the scope of immunity.”
He said features of a campground such as zip lines, rock climbing or archery should not be granted immunity.


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