Picking out a Christmas tree seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? You go to one of those farms, and you pick your tree, cut it down, tie it to the roof, and then say several no-no words as you try to untangle the strings of lights.
Naturally, the law has regulated the sale of pick-your-own Christmas Trees. Christmas Tree farms, for legislative purposes, are lumped in with all pick-your-own Agricultural Products, like apple orchards and pumpkin patches. The legislature, you should be glad to know, is happy with Christmas Tree Farms. “The General Assembly … finds that the state and its citizens derive numerous economic and personal benefits from such activity.” O.C.G.A. 2-14-150. The only reason why they are legislating the area is that, so they feel compelled to say in the law, “this article is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, and safety. It is, therefore, the intent of the General Assembly to encourage the direct sale of agricultural products from farmers to the general public my limiting the civil liability of farmers involved in such activity.” Id.
In a nutshell, this collection of laws (not nearly as long as the collection of laws dealing with “Pacific White Shrimp Aquaculture Development” which follow these laws in the code book) protects the farmers operating the pick-your-own-farms from liability from “injury, loss, damage, or death of the participant resulting from any of the inherent risks of harvesting agricultural products.” O.C.G.A. 2-14-152. In other words, if you are cutting down a tree, and the tree falls on your head, the farmer isn’t liable, because an inherent risk of cutting down a tree is that it is going to fall on your head. However, if the farmer doesn’t like your attitude and pushes the tree into you and knocks you down, that would be an intentional act, and the farmer would be liable. Likewise if he ‘accidentally’ leaves a bear trap underneath the duff* between the rows of trees, and it snaps your leg, he’d be liable. This would be “willful and wanton disregard” for the safety of the participant.
Somewhere on the pick-your-own farm there has to be a notice that says, “Under Georgia law, an owner or operator of a pick-your-own farm location is not liable for an injury to or the death of a participant from the inherent risks of harvesting agricultural products, pursuant to Article 7 of Chapter 14 of Title 2 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated.” O.C.G.A. 2-14-153(b). However, just because the owner doesn’t have the sign up doesn’t mean he is liable. O.C.G.A. 2-14-153(c).
So, go ahead and have a family adventure and pick your tree directly from the source. Just beware – just make sure you have your insurance premiums paid up.
*this is a real word meaning the leaves and pine needles and sticks and other accumulated nature stuff that you find on a forest floor.
Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice. It is being offered for informational purposes only. No lawyer can advise you on your case without hearing the particular details of your situation.