A bid to respond to a February ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court and give landowners new protection against liability lawsuits has failed in the Iowa Senate.
A 1967 Iowa law grants liability protection to private property owners who allow recreation, like hunting and fishing, on their property. The Iowa Supreme Court ruled in February that liability protection does not extend to a farmer who was giving a farm tour to kids from Oelwein when one of the chaperones was injured by a fall out of the hay loft.
Senator Ken Rozenboom, a Republican from Oskaloosa, is a farmer.
“It isn’t much of a stretch to understand why landowners would be nervous with that decision,” Rozenboom said. “And the reason they’re nervous is because the trust has been breached.”
Senator Tim Kapucian, a Republican, farms near Keystone, Iowa.
“If we don’t do something to address this issue, life in Iowa will change,” Kapucian said. “Iowans will have less access to huntable ground, less access for mushroom hunting, deer hunting, pheasant hunting.”
Senator Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids is a lawyer.
“Don’t buy into the hysteria about this decision,” Hogg said.
According to Hogg, the kind of “absolute immunity” from lawsuits outlined in the proposal was “nonsense.”
“We do not have to immunize anything any farmer, any landowner anywhere in the state ever does,” Hogg said.
The Senate voted 26 to 21 against providing new legal liability protection for landowners. The vote came during debate of a bill that addresses a wide range of spending and policy issues. Legislative leaders have the authority to introduce bills at any time and they are discussing how to craft a more scaled-back response to the controversial Iowa Supreme Court ruling.