If a landowner allows access to the M-M Trail across their property, will he or she become exposed to liability suits for injuries suffered on his or her property?
Trail users can sue a landowner, but liability is limited by law to circumstance of unlawful, wanton and reckless conduct. The standard definition for such willful conduct is: an intentional act or failure to act with knowledge (or knowledge of facts that would lead a reasonable person to know) that such conduct not only creates unreasonable risk of bodily harm to another, but also involves a high degree of probability that substantial harm will result.
Massachusetts General Laws (MGL) Chapter 21, Section 17c, which limits a landowner's vulnerability to suits by reducing the duty of care, reads as follows:
17c Public use of land for recreational purposes: Landowner's liability limited: exception
An owner of land who permits the public to use such land for recreational purposes without imposing a charge or fee therefore, or who leases his land for said purposes to the Commonwealth or any political subdivision thereof, shall not be liable to any member of the public who uses said land for the aforesaid purposes for injuries to person or property sustained by him while on said land in the absence of willful, wanton or reckless conduct by such owner, nor shall such permission be deemed to confer upon any person so using said land the status of an invitee or licensee to whom any duty would be owed by said owner. The liability of an owner who imposes a charge or fee for the use of his land by the public for recreational purposed shall not be limited by any provision of this section.