I recently presented at the Williamsburg Area Beekeepers Association meeting on Virginia's limitation on liability for beekeepers. You can read the actual law here, and the related Best Management Practices (BMP) here. The limitation code states "A person who operates an apiary in a reasonable manner, in compliance with local zoning restrictions, and in conformance with the written best management practices as provided by regulation of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services shall not be liable for any personal injury or property damage that occurs in connection with his keeping and maintaining of bees, bee equipment, queen breeding equipment, apiaries, or appliances." I was curious as to how this functioned in practice. Was the state going to do inspections? Was an apiary going to be required to self-certify? To find an answer I reached out the the state and received the following:
"The Best Management Practices, BMP, regarding limited liability for beekeepers is a voluntary program. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services does not include verification of the BMP’s in normal apiary inspection. We anticipate verification in BMP compliance will only be needed in regard to pending liability litigation. Beekeepers should retain records for purposes of verifying specific practices, i.e. queen purchases."
By my understanding, the state will only verify compliance if someone sues a beekeeper. And, based on this response, it is the beekeeper's responsibility to document his or her actions following the BMPs in order to gain the protection of this limitation of liability. Do note, I'm not a lawyer - seek your own legal advice on this matter!
With this in mind I have developed a basic self-verification and record keeping checklist of the BMPs that a beekeeper can utilize on a regular basis to document compliance. I have made this checklist available for download for all beekeepers in the Commonwealth. If you do download the form, you agree to the following: User understands and accepts that no warranty of any kind is made to the use of the form for any legal or regulatory reasons; user assumes all risk and responsibility.