Recently, I discussed some of the legal issues that might apply when one is injured while hiking on a public trail in Los Angeles.
As a Los Angeles accident lawyer, I explained in that post that the recreational immunity statute shields the government from liability in most cases.
Last week, the California Court of Appeal ruled on a related important issue, this one involving “hazardous recreational activities.”
The case, County of San Diego v. Superior Court of San Diego County involved an accident that occurred in Damon Lane County Park in San Diego County.
Benjamin Casteen, a high-school student and experienced “rope swinger”, visited the park in 2012. He noticed a rope tied to a tree, and the tree was located above a ravine. He decided to give it a swing, no pun intended.
Unfortunately, as he swung on the rope, it snapped, sending him plummeting into the ravine, where he was injured by fallen trees and other tree debris.
He sued the County of San Diego asserting that the rope was not properly maintained, and the debris in the ravine constituted a dangerous condition of public property, requiring the County to warn park patrons of its existence.
The Civil Code provides immunity to public entities for injuries members of the public might suffer while engaging in “hazardous” recreational activities.
In this case, the Court of Appeal undertook a lengthy analysis of the relevant Civil Code section which defines the terms “hazardous recreational activities.” Unfortunately for Mr. Casteen, tree-rope swinging is specifically listed as a form of hazardous activity against which the government is immune.
As to Mr. Casteen’s other claims that the County failed to properly warn park-goers that dangerous tree debris rested in the ravine, the Court noted that “Casteen’s act of swinging from a rope at least 10 feet off the ground is not using the park with due care. Rather, such activity is, as a matter of law, hazardous.”
As such, the County had no duty to warn patrons of the tree-debris since Casteen’s hazardous activity of tree-rope swinging was not considered “due care.”
The takeaway is that park-goers should always be careful while engaging in hazardous recreational activities! In most cases, the government will be immune from these types of lawsuits.
However, each case is different, and you should consult with an attorney about your particular case.
For questions about your case, the Rabbi Lawyer is just one phone call away.