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Injuries from agritourism increase

Fall is here. For many of us that means hours in front of the TV watching football. But for others, it means apple-picking, hayrides, corn mazes, cider and donuts. In other words, “agritourism.”

There’s a good chance you’ve never heard that term, but it’s defined as agriculturally based recreational activities that bring paying visitors to a farm or a ranch. It provides a profitable revenue stream for smaller family farms that struggle to compete with large-scale corporate farming operations.


Tourist farms can make for a great family outing, but it’s important to know that farms can be deceptively dangerous places.


Tourist farms can make for a great family outing, but it’s important to know that farms can be deceptively dangerous places. If you’re not alert and aware of the risks, you or a family member could get injured or worse.

Take the case of Cassidy Charette, a 17-year-old high school student who suffered fatal injuries in 2014 while on a “haunted hayride” at Harvest Hills Farm in Maine when a Jeep that was towing a wagon flipped over.

Investigations after the crash showed that the Jeep’s rear brakes didn’t work right, and that the Jeep was hauling more than double its towing capacity.

Cassidy’s family sought to hold the farm accountable, arguing that its negligence (in other words, its failure to be as careful as it should have been under the circumstances) wrongfully resulted in her death. The family appeared to have a strong case. The farm agreed to settle the case for an undisclosed amount, enough for Cassidy’s family to fund a charity in her name.

While Cassidy’s case sounds like an extreme example, it’s not the only one.

Two-year-old Ella Feuhring was killed and her mother injured in 2014 while attending the annual harvest festival at a popular New Jersey tourist farm.

Somehow mother and child became trapped between two shuttle buses in a busy loading area. The farm settled in that case as well.

Less severe injuries have included animal bites and falls from ladders while climbing for high-hanging fruit, and kids suffering scrapes, bruises and bone breaks from rough play in bouncy houses or from climbing on tractors and haystacks.

Tourists have even been injured at farm stands by tripping over produce that fell from overloaded pallets and baskets onto the floor.

Many states, seeking to protect the economic boost agritourism provides to rural regions, have passed laws making it harder for tourists to hold farms responsible for injuries.

For example, in North Carolina, the law limits the liability of agritourism businesses for customers’ harm as long as the farm posts a warning with large letters in a conspicuous location. The law specifically prevents customers from suing over any injury or death from a risk “inherent” to an agritourism activity.


Even if you’re in a state with laws that protect the agritourism industry, it is important to call an attorney to discuss your options if you or a loved is hurt visiting a tourist farm.


Ohio provides farms with similar immunity from suit for agritourism-related injuries, defining “inherent risks” as those related to the condition of the land itself, the behavior of farm animals, the dangers of farm equipment and the risk of disease from contact with animals, their feed and their waste. In fact, more than half of states have enacted agritourism immunity laws of one type of another.

Meanwhile, even in states that haven’t passed such laws, it can be hard to hold a farm fully accountable for agritourism injuries if the farm’s liability insurance policy doesn’t cover such injuries. In that instance, the farm may not have sufficient resources to pay out of pocket for serious harm.

But even if you’re in a state with laws that protect the agritourism industry, it is important to call an attorney to discuss your options if you or a loved is hurt visiting a tourist farm. In many cases, such laws do not apply when a farm has engaged in “gross” (extreme) negligence. The law in your state may have other exceptions as well.

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