0
tsalnukt

Off Landings and Law Suits.

Recommended Posts

Farmer McNasty is threatening us with law suits for landing in his yard. We don't land there very often and contrary to what he believes, we aren't doing it on purpose. He has horses that get spooked when parachutes land there although no one landing there has every seen the horses out in the field so no one has witnessed the spooking of the horses. On the rare occassion when someone does land there he becomes confrontational and yells at said skydiver and has also been know to video tape the skydiver walking off his property. He is now rounding up lawyers from all over the country (moslty lawyers that own horses or are horse lovers.).

Has anyone ever encountered such a situation in which the individual skydiver or the DZ has been sued because of off landings and what if any was the outcome?

Does he have any legal leg to stand on? Obviously no one tries to land there on purpose but because of our location and lack of outs we don't have much of choice sometimes. Technically it is an "emergency landing".

If anyone has had to deal with something like this before what actions did you take to protect from legal action if there was any?

Any and all serious inputs/comments are more than welcomed.

Thanks

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
In all seriousness, stop landing there. The property right next to our dropzone is a wide open field that would make a nice out, except the guy that lives there calls the cops when people land there.

Everyone who comes to our dropzone is told to treat the area is if it were a pit of vipers. At our dropzone, we have so many other options that if you end up landing in that field, you've made a huge mistake. Educate the skydivers on choosing an out before you are stuck with this one field that you have a problem with.

Sure, technically you have the concept of an emergency landing to fall back on, but in the long run this isn't a valid argument. If you have emergency landings that often then in the eyes of most non-skydivers you are doing something wrong.

I really am not trying to be a jerk, it just comes down to staying off someone else's property. We have a horse farm near us as well and people don't land there specifically cause it scares the horses.

We haven't been sued, but the cops have considered writing trespassing tickets a few times.

Edit to add: Really, for what it's worth, making a point of also informing the property owner of what you're doing to avoid landing in his field will generally help. It's also something that will help you if you do get sued.

"We did this, this and this as of dd/mm/yyyy to try and prevent these types of landings, including educating every jumper that comes to our facility with the following briefing (a nice map on paper showing the issues and better alternatives, or something)."
~D
Where troubles melt like lemon drops Away above the chimney tops That's where you'll find me.
Swooping is taking one last poke at the bear before escaping it's cave - davelepka

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm not a lawyer, but it would seem to me that he would be favored by the courts. It is his private property and we are participating in a completely voluntary sport. Plus, he has provided warnings. Try landing on The White House and using the "it was an emergency landing" line. :) It *might* work once, but repeatedly?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
First, I am not an attorney. But it seems to be that the skydivers do not have a leg to stand on. The land owner has expressed several times he does not want skydivers on his land. Landing there is a trespass and could be either criminal, civil or both. The jumpers who do land on his land are not making an “emergency landing” they are showing to some extent the lack of skills to avoid it.

In any case the “reasons” for landing on his property are not his problem.

Sparky
My idea of a fair fight is clubbing baby seals

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm not a lawyer either, but in a true emergency you can land wherever you need to to ensure your safety. There is no criminal trespass for a forced landing in an emergency situation.

On the other hand, the OP's DZ would be wise to take some of the steps outlined above, and maybe try a little harder to plan jumprun so landing there is less likely.

- Dan G

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Yes, he has a legal leg to stand on. It's called "tresspass" and it doesn't require that you do it intentionally. If you are on someone else's property without permission, it's tresspassing. Period. That part is a slam dunk in this situation.

The good news is that if the tresspass is due to necessity (which you can argue here) then he can only recover actual damages that you cause. He's going yo have to prove that you landing on his property caused him some economic harm. Not just frustration or annoyance--actual harm.

The bad news is that since this is a recurring event (you admit it's happened multiple times, and everyone's definition of "not often" is relative) he might convince a judge/jury that it's the result of recklessness on your part. If he can do that, it'll destroy your necessity defense & he can recover punitive damages.

Really, the proper solution is that you & the DZ need to take steps to prevent further tresspasses. Take a hard look at WHY it's occurring. Are you not properly watching the wind? Frequent long spots? Too many people not paying attention because they know they have a convenient out? Whatever. Then take steps to correct the situation. Taking the attitude that he's being a jerk because you guys keep tresspassing on his property, or that you shouldn't be bothered with taking reasonable steps to avoid violating other peoples' rights is only going to cause more problems.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If it were a high-security prison how often would you land there? I've jumped there; it's a tight DZ. Looks like there are more trees on the DZ property than there used to be, too -- does that make a difference?

Wendy P.
There is nothing more dangerous than breaking a basic safety rule and getting away with it. It removes fear of the consequences and builds false confidence. (tbrown)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
What do the other outs there look like? You don't say where you are.

Horses can be a real problem. They are panicky and can easily hurt themselves badly enough that they end up getting put down. Just because you don't see them doesn't mean it isn't happening. I've heard claims that the flapping of the canopy and slider is enough to spook them. I've been to a DZ that specifically says to not land at the horse farm (pointed out very clearly during the briefing) because they had an incident where a horse was spooked, got hurt and had to be put down.
If that was to occur, the jumper probably could be held liable. Especially if you've been told not to land there before. And good quality show, performance, or racing horses aren't cheap.

Once is an emergency. More than once, not so much. Not with the control we have. We aren't jumping rounds
"There are NO situations which do not call for a French Maid outfit." Lucky McSwervy

"~ya don't GET old by being weak & stupid!" - Airtwardo

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote


Sure, technically you have the concept of an emergency landing to fall back on, but in the long run this isn't a valid argument. If you have emergency landings that often then in the eyes of most non-skydivers you are doing something wrong.



How is the emergency landing argument not valid? The OP already said landings on McNasty's property are rare, so by definition it isn't happening "that often". However, even it did happen fairly regularly "in the eyes of non-skydivers", McNasty's perception isn't the one that the law has to evaluate.

If the skydivers take reasonable steps to avoid landing on McNasty's property - like adjusting the exit point and flying patterns to minimize the chance of a forced landing there - they do have a valid argument when it occurs.

In tort law there is a defense called "private necessity" that allows trespassing on private property if it is necessary to protect the accused or other people or property.

Under the private necessity defense the accused is still liable for damages caused during the trespass.

If the jumper lands on McNasty's property because it was the best option or only choice to stay safe and/or avoid property damage, a private necessity defense would be a valid argument. However, if the jumper causes any damage to any of the owner's property, he/she would be liable for it.
Chuck Akers
D-10855
Houston, TX

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote

I'm not a lawyer, but it would seem to me that he would be favored by the courts. It is his private property and we are participating in a completely voluntary sport. Plus, he has provided warnings. Try landing on The White House and using the "it was an emergency landing" line. :) It *might* work once, but repeatedly?



See "private necessity". BTW, the voluntary nature of our activities has nothing to do with it.

http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/private_necessity
Chuck Akers
D-10855
Houston, TX

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
In the local area we have a couple of balloon operations that by neccesity land on private property on a regular basis. They have been sued for endangering horses and also for destroying citrus crops and equipment and it has got to the point where the operators have maps of specific properties they won't land at. It's cost them a good amount in legal fees and money in damage claims. I think that at least attempting to fix the problem is going to help a lot when the time comes when you get sued and if you keep landing on his property I think that time will come sooner or later.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote

First, I am not an attorney. But it seems to be that the skydivers do not have a leg to stand on. The land owner has expressed several times he does not want skydivers on his land. Landing there is a trespass and could be either criminal, civil or both. The jumpers who do land on his land are not making an “emergency landing” they are showing to some extent the lack of skills to avoid it.

In any case the “reasons” for landing on his property are not his problem.

Sparky




IIRC the dropzone in Ramona, CA. was shut down over this exact reason back in the mid-80's.

There was horsey ranch close to the area the less skilled & student jumpers landed which was about the only open LZ on or about the airport.

The rancher person said and could prove that the livestock was so spooked by the jumpers landing close to them that were were hurting themselves running into stuff in panicked fright.

We moved the LZ to the Barona Indian Reservation and took off from the Ramona airport, that was quite a hassle so we knocked out a dirt strip on the reservation...that worked until the Casino lawyers got involved and fearing we'd crash a plane into the Craps table thus limiting their income and raising liability ~ they too gave us the boot. . .or moccasin as the case may be.










~ If you choke a Smurf, what color does it turn? ~

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I agree that "it was an 'emergency' landing!" won't be a valid defense.

I equate it to declaring an emergency when you are pilot in command of an aircraft: the FAA makes it clear that if you declare an emergency that you will be afforded every resource necessary and available to mitigate that emergency. It is one of the things I think the FAA gets right, and it is summed up in three words spoken by ATC: "Say your intentions." Love it. BUT, it does not mean you won't be responsible for your actions. If the emergency was caused by a screw-up of your own, plan on seeing what the inside of the frying pan looks like.

Same thing here: if skydivers have been warned and still make conscious decisions to get out of the aircraft in a situation that puts them out over that private property, they need to be prepared to face the consequences. Sure, there may be no other outs at that time, and landing in his field sure beats being treed or dead. But, walking away with a tresspassing ticket is better than being driven out in an ambulance or a hearse as well.

How many of us would support a hypothetical "government action" that allowed random people we didn't know to walk all over OUR property without our permission?

Do what you can to appease him, don't try to find ways to piss him off further.

Elvisio " not worth the fight" Rodriguez

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I suspect that the "emergency landing" claim would be more meaningful if you reserved it for times when the aircraft had an emergency which dictated immediate exit, OR those times when landing under a reserve canopy.
The choices we make have consequences, for us & for others!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote

In all seriousness, stop landing there.



This. Focusing on the legalities misses the real point, which is: what's the best practice to follow?

FWIW - legally, it varies a bit from state to state, but very much from judge to judge. Generically, I'd predict that, nation-wide, probably 7 out of 10 judges would rule that a trespass, and 3 out of 10 judges would buy the "emergency landing" argument. Maybe you'd get a bit more sympathy if it's an emergency exit from the plane, or landing under a reserve, but who wants to bank on that?

What I've learned in my life and career is that people who spend a lot of energy figuring out how to fight and win tend to be in more disputes than those who make the effort to avoid disputes in the first place. So just do your best to stay the hell away from his land.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Interesting subject you raise.
Given that lawyers regularly lurk DZ.com when an incident occurs and comments from this website have a tendency to appear in legal briefs and memos, you should take everything here with a grain of salt.
Regulars to DZ.com who see an empty profile such as yours might get their a-hole senses tingling and might be tempted to post inflammatory/wrong/misleading information on purpose. Especially when the question is written with correct grammar, without cursing, in a format reminiscent of a BarBri textbook. (Use of jargon eg. "Farmer McNasty" is invalidated by correct capitalization)
The result can be that a simple and innocent question such as you posed can get opinions that vary wildly.
These wild opinions might then be used by some enterprising attorney to help or screw the entire skydiving population. Sometimes both.
The simple fact is that serious questions should be dealt with in a serious manner. DZ.com has a very limited ability to entertain serious discussions on the best of days.

In order to combat this spewing of nonsense from people like me, you should consult the people who are serious about skydiving. The USPA can be reached at (540) 604-9740, fax (540) 604-9741 uspa@uspa.org
The board of directors can be reached individually and they consist of DZOs, pilots, aircraft owners and experienced skydivers.
USPA BOD

Or if you prefer a non USPA opinion: (209) 369-1128. Skydive Lodi

The short answer to your original question: When lawyers get involved, everybody loses. No exceptions.
There are no dangerous dives
Only dangerous divers

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote

Quote


Sure, technically you have the concept of an emergency landing to fall back on, but in the long run this isn't a valid argument. If you have emergency landings that often then in the eyes of most non-skydivers you are doing something wrong.



How is the emergency landing argument not valid? The OP already said landings on McNasty's property are rare, so by definition it isn't happening "that often". However, even it did happen fairly regularly "in the eyes of non-skydivers", McNasty's perception isn't the one that the law has to evaluate.

If the skydivers take reasonable steps to avoid landing on McNasty's property - like adjusting the exit point and flying patterns to minimize the chance of a forced landing there - they do have a valid argument when it occurs.

In tort law there is a defense called "private necessity" that allows trespassing on private property if it is necessary to protect the accused or other people or property.

Under the private necessity defense the accused is still liable for damages caused during the trespass.

If the jumper lands on McNasty's property because it was the best option or only choice to stay safe and/or avoid property damage, a private necessity defense would be a valid argument. However, if the jumper causes any damage to any of the owner's property, he/she would be liable for it.




The problem is, Trying to get back from a long spot and running out of altitude is not an emergency. And lets be honest, if this is happening on even a semi regular basis, that is whats happening.

Someone else has the answer. Put up an overhead pic that is marked with land here as a last resort and be done with it. Probably wouldn't be a bad idea to go talk to the guy and tell him that is what you are telling everyone and if it happens it is an emergency. I'm betting he has had his fill of lip from jumpers.

Like someone else said, If it were a prison how often would you land there? How about a prison with those high voltage fences?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote



The problem is, Trying to get back from a long spot and running out of altitude is not an emergency. And lets be honest, if this is happening on even a semi regular basis, that is whats happening.

Someone else has the answer. Put up an overhead pic that is marked with land here as a last resort and be done with it. Probably wouldn't be a bad idea to go talk to the guy and tell him that is what you are telling everyone and if it happens it is an emergency. I'm betting he has had his fill of lip from jumpers.

Like someone else said, If it were a prison how often would you land there? How about a prison with those high voltage fences?



Nothing in that defense requires an emergency, only a necessity. That's subjective, of course, which is why we have courts.
Chuck Akers
D-10855
Houston, TX

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote

Quote



The problem is, Trying to get back from a long spot and running out of altitude is not an emergency. And lets be honest, if this is happening on even a semi regular basis, that is whats happening.

Someone else has the answer. Put up an overhead pic that is marked with land here as a last resort and be done with it. Probably wouldn't be a bad idea to go talk to the guy and tell him that is what you are telling everyone and if it happens it is an emergency. I'm betting he has had his fill of lip from jumpers.

Like someone else said, If it were a prison how often would you land there? How about a prison with those high voltage fences?



Nothing in that defense requires an emergency, only a necessity. That's subjective, of course, which is why we have courts.



Better for the sport and DZ to avoid the courts.:)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote

Generically, I'd predict that, nation-wide, probably 7 out of 10 judges would rule that a trespass, and 3 out of 10 judges would buy the "emergency landing" argument.



As I read it, an "emergency" as defined by aviation or any other standards is not required under the "private necessity" defense.

"Necessity" is a very broad term.
Chuck Akers
D-10855
Houston, TX

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote

Quote

Quote



The problem is, Trying to get back from a long spot and running out of altitude is not an emergency. And lets be honest, if this is happening on even a semi regular basis, that is whats happening.

Someone else has the answer. Put up an overhead pic that is marked with land here as a last resort and be done with it. Probably wouldn't be a bad idea to go talk to the guy and tell him that is what you are telling everyone and if it happens it is an emergency. I'm betting he has had his fill of lip from jumpers.

Like someone else said, If it were a prison how often would you land there? How about a prison with those high voltage fences?



Nothing in that defense requires an emergency, only a necessity. That's subjective, of course, which is why we have courts.



Better for the sport and DZ to avoid the courts.:)


Agreed.
Chuck Akers
D-10855
Houston, TX

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote

In all seriousness, stop landing there. The property right next to our dropzone is a wide open field that would make a nice out, except the guy that lives there calls the cops when people land there.

Everyone who comes to our dropzone is told to treat the area is if it were a pit of vipers. At our dropzone, we have so many other options that if you end up landing in that field, you've made a huge mistake. Educate the skydivers on choosing an out before you are stuck with this one field that you have a problem with.

Sure, technically you have the concept of an emergency landing to fall back on, but in the long run this isn't a valid argument. If you have emergency landings that often then in the eyes of most non-skydivers you are doing something wrong.

I really am not trying to be a jerk, it just comes down to staying off someone else's property. We have a horse farm near us as well and people don't land there specifically cause it scares the horses.

We haven't been sued, but the cops have considered writing trespassing tickets a few times.

Edit to add: Really, for what it's worth, making a point of also informing the property owner of what you're doing to avoid landing in his field will generally help. It's also something that will help you if you do get sued.

"We did this, this and this as of dd/mm/yyyy to try and prevent these types of landings, including educating every jumper that comes to our facility with the following briefing (a nice map on paper showing the issues and better alternatives, or something)."



+1

Really, in all seriousness. everyone should stop whining about the legal issues related thereto and turning this into a complicated problem when all it is, when you get right down to it, is another beer line.

Land in Mr. Horseowner's field, pay up, just like you would for landing inside the beer line.

As Fast said, be sure Mr. Horseowner knows the steps being taken, to include the advisories issued to all resident and transient jumpers, and the penalty for landing in his field -- and ask him what his penalty fee preference is: Green bottles, cash, first-born child, whatever.

This starts a dialogue and minimizes conflict in a traditional way. That's what beer lines and related penalties are all about; minimizing conflict and administering justice without getting all "official" about it.

Mr. Horseowner just wants some respect, for his property -- and for his horses, which are also his property... and his responsibility.

I grew up with horses and still ride. If I was Mr. Horseowner and had yahoos landing in my field, I'd be P.O.ed too; I've seen way too many horses get torn up running into fences and stepping in holes because some moron couldn't -- or wouldn't -- control his dog... or his parachute.

We are always whimpering about how people don't understand us, and cause us problems because of it.

Well, this whole thread exhibits zero understanding of horses and horse culture. I mean, somebody ridiculed the report that he was talking to horse lawyers all over the country -- well, guess what? He probably has been because horse people are a tribe precisely like skydivers are a tribe.

And tribes respond to tradition and respect and understanding. In this situation, I'd start with a case of beer or wine for each of the most recent transgressions, and go from there.

And buy a big ol' bag of OATS too so the horses get their "beer" too. That'll make him laugh and then it'll all be good.

44
B|
SCR-6933 / SCS-3463 / D-5533 / BASE 44 / CCS-37 / 82d Airborne (Ret.)

"The beginning of wisdom is to first call things by their right names."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It seems you are right. I stand corrected.

Sparky


Private necessity is the use of another's property for private reasons. Well established doctrines in common law prevent a property owner from using force against an individual in a situation where the privilege of necessity would apply. While an individual may have a private necessity to use the land or property of another, that individual must compensate the owner for any damages caused. For example:

A strong wind blows a parachuting skydiver off course from his intended landing zone. He must land in a nearby farmer's field. The skydiver tramples on the farmer's prized roses, and the farmer hits the skydiver on the head with a pitchfork. The skydiver can invoke the privilege of private necessity for trespassing in the farmer's fields but will have to pay for the damage caused to the roses. The farmer will be liable for battery because the use of force in defense of property is not privileged against an individual who successfully claims private necessity.



My idea of a fair fight is clubbing baby seals

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account. It's free!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
0