It is unlikely that the Minnesota Legislature envisioned a case of a son suing his father when it passed a bill years ago to encourage landowners to open their land to the public for hunting.
To make it attractive for the landowners, the Legislature provided immunity to them if something should happen to the public while hunting.
But there’s a requirement to get that immunity from liability lawsuits: You have to actually let the public hunt on the land, and the Legislature never defined what it means to offer the land to the public for hunting, or what qualifies as “the public.”
Corey Ouradnik’s father, Robert, of Forest Lake didn’t want the public on his land, and so now he’s got no shield against the lawsuit against him, which I first wrote about a year ago.
On Wednesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court ordered the case to trial, upholding a Minnesota Court of Appeals decision that had reinstated the son’s lawsuit against dad, initiated three years after Corey broke both legs falling from a deer stand that dad had built with wooden slats nailed to a tree.
Writing for the majority in the ruling, Justice Anne McKeig said, “Father took steps to limit the use of his land. He posted at least one ‘No Trespassing’ sign to exclude the general public. Further, he excluded his extended family and his sons’ friends from using his land. There is no evidence in the record that Father “tolerated” anyone other than his wife and sons using his land.”
Which raises the question: Can your son be “the public”?
No, the court said, siding with the Court of Appeals.
“The plain meaning of ‘the public’ means more than a landowner and his or her immediate family,” the Supreme Court said.
Here’s the full opinion.