Today, Senator Declan O’Scanlon (R-13) and Senator Paul Sarlo (D-36) announced bipartisan legislation that would clearly define private beach owners’ and lessees’ expectations and liability following the fall 2023 beach closures by Jenkinson’s beach in Point Pleasant.
“While it is clear that private beach owners and lessees are required to provide the public with access to the ocean, the law is not clear about their liability,” said O’Scanlon. “We want our world class beaches to continue being enjoyed by New Jerseyans and tourists alike but we also recognize that it’s ultimately necessary to codify the exact understanding of responsibility and provide peace of mind for everyone. Let’s be clear. At some point we all need to be accountable for our actions. If you go on an unguarded beach it’s up to you to keep yourself safe. It’s that simple. I thank Senator Sarlo in joining me as a sponsor of this bill and look forward to working together to get it on the Governor’s desk.”
“We have to be fair to local residents in Shore communities at the same time we respect the rights of others to access beaches through their properties,” said Senator Sarlo, who serves as chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. “This legislation will provide more clarity to the law with reasonable standards about the rights and responsibilities of property owners and visitors alike.”
Specifically, the bill provides that regardless of whether any public warning or notice of potential or actual dangers is provided, a private beach owner or lessee will not be liable to any person for injury or death resulting or caused thereto when such person is accessing the beach premises or the adjacent tidal waters for sport and recreational purposes at any time when the beach premises is unguarded.
S4197 also clarifies that any private beach owner or lessee who allows, or who is required by the State to provide, public access to the beach does not have a duty to keep them safe for use. Further, that they do not have a duty to post or maintain signs/notices warning visitors of an unguarded beach about the dangers of a natural condition of the beach or adjacent tidal waters.