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August 4, 2011
Statement from Glenn Normandeau Regarding Tree Stand Injury Lawsuit
First of all, it's important for everyone to know that N.H. Fish and Game is very concerned about the lawsuit filed against Charles Corliss and the chilling affect this case could have on private landowner access. I have spoken to the Timberland Owners Association, the N.H. Farm Bureau, and many individuals about this. Furthermore, I have asked Chuck Miner, Fish and Game's Landowner Relations Coordinator, to personally attend the court proceedings and keep me directly informed about what is happening.
That being said, there are a few things that need to be understood by the public as they relate to this matter. I have met with Mr. Corliss and his son. We met in my office, along with Assistant Attorney General Peter Roth. I found Mr. Corliss to be both sincere and credible. However, I am not a judge. The version of events as described by the plaintiff in the suit are very different from those described by Mr. Corliss. It will be up to a judge to decide if the suit is frivolous or if it should go forward to trial.
It has been emphatically pointed out to me that it is inappropriate and most likely illegal for an executive branch agency such as Fish and Game to insert itself (never mind actually take a side) in a civil suit being adjudicated by the judiciary branch. Once the facts are out there and it seems appropriate, I can assure you we will ask the Attorney General's office to offer a "Friend of the Court" brief on the issue of "Duty of Care" (RSA 212:34), the statute that holds landowners harmless for recreational use of open property.
I fully understand everyone's frustration and concern over this case and, as I mentioned earlier, I share that frustration. However, sportsmen and women must understand that Fish and Game, while substantially funded by sportsmen's dollars, is still a state agency, not an independent private organization, and therefore our ability to intercede in this case or advocate for a particular outcome is limited.
Thank you for your time and patience with this difficult problem.
N.H. Fish and Game Department