FRANKFORT, Ky. — A new state law will provide Kentucky agritourism destinations with limited liability protection when it takes effect on July 11.
The law requires venues such as wineries, orchards, and corn mazes to warn visitors that they are assuming the risk of participating in the activities of the operation. The law, filed as House Bill 440, was passed by the General Assembly and signed into law earlier this year.
“Agritourism operations provide customers the opportunity to have fun on the farm while at the same time educating them about Kentucky’s farm heritage,” Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said. “However, customers need to understand that there are inherent risks in any agritourism activity.
“This law protects agritourism participants and operators. We want people to have fun on Kentucky farms in a safe manner, and we want our farmers to take every precaution to keep their customers safe.”
The law creates a new section of KRS 247.800 to 247.810 requiring agritourism attractions to post an 18-by-24-inch warning sign stating that, in the absence of operator negligence: “You are assuming the risk of participating in this agritourism activity.” The law provides limited liability protection if the injury or death of a participant results from the inherent risks of the agritourism activity and/or in the absence of negligence.
If the agritourism operation chooses not to post a sign, the law requires the operator to show a written warning to participants and have them sign a waiver releasing the farm from liability should an injury or death occur.
“We’re encouraging our agritourism operators to do both,” Kentucky Agritourism Director Ben Shaffar said. “Farm families operating agritourism activities need to know that the new law doesn’t prohibit lawsuits; it just provides a layer of protection in the event of a litigious situation. It’s also in no way a substitute for insurance.
“Liability is the No. 1 inhibitor for farmers looking to diversify into agritourism. We hope this law will be a new catalyst for growth in Kentucky.”
After Indiana passed a similar law last summer, that state received more than 100 applications for new agritourism operations, Shaffar said. Kentucky currently has more than 350 agritourism operations in its Kentucky Farms Are Fun program, which is the official state agritourism marketing program.
Previous attempts to turn the bill into a law failed in 2004 and 2006. North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia passed similar laws to protect their agritourism operators from lawsuits.
“This law has been 11 years in the making,” Commissioner Comer said. “On behalf of our agritourism operators, I want to thank the legislators who sponsored this bipartisan bill, Rep. Mike Denham (D-Maysville) and Sen. Jimmy Higdon (R-Lebanon).”
Agritourism operators may purchase the plastic warning signs from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture at cost for $1.75 each. For more information, contact Shaffar at firstname.lastname@example.org or (502) 564-4983, extension 223.