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Arizona Court of Appeals: A $270 Fee Charged to Recreational Users Was Deemed “Nominal” And Does Not Bar Recreational Immunity.

Author: Adam Carpinelli

Guest Editor: Alla Policastro

August 12, 2020 11:00am

In the case, Allen v. Town of Prescott Valley, two outfield lights were not functioning, when an outfield softball player was injured by a fly ball. Allen v. Town of Prescott Valley, 244 Ariz. 288, 289, 418 P.3d 1061, 1062 (Ct. App. 2018). The player sued the Town of Prescott Valley (Town) for negligence. The trial court granted Town’s motion for summary judgment based on recreational immunity even though the teams were charged a $270 fee per season.

Relevant Statutory Authority

Arizona Revised Statute § 33-1551 offers limited immunity to a property owner sued by a “recreational user.”

(C)(5) A “recreational user” [is defined as] “a person to whom permission has been granted or implied without the payment of an admission fee or any other consideration to … enter premises to … engage in … outdoor recreational pursuits…. A nominal fee that is charged by a public entity or a nonprofit corporation to offset the cost of providing the educational or recreational premises and associated services does not constitute an admission fee or any other consideration as prescribed by this section.” [Emphasis added.]

Background

Town charged softball teams $270 each to play in an eight-game league at Mountain Valley Park. The fee partially offset costs the Town incurred in running the league, including field maintenance, lighting, and umpires.

Plaintiff argued the fee was too high to be nominal and it was charged to the team and not him personally. Town responded the fee was nominal because its purpose was to offset costs for a total of eight games throughout the season. Town argued they could have charged each individual play per each individual game and that would have been a total of about $2.81 per player per game.

The Ruling

The Arizona Court of Appeals agreed with Town that the fee was “nominal” and affirmed the lower court’s ruling on that issue.

Conclusion

Even though recreational immunity can be barred when seemingly expensive fees are charged to patrons, this case shows that creative lawyering can sometimes be used to argue that the fee is nominal and not as expensive as it seems.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adam Carpinelli, Esq. is an associate at Tyson & Mendes LLP. He specializes in personal injury and high net worth insurance issues. Contact Adam at 213.745.8600 or acarpinelli@tysonmendes.com.

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