Legal duty to prevent personal injury on government land

man walking in park
The Government is immune for recreational use of their property.

What’s legal for the government?  

A person is injured when a tree falls on him while he is walking on a paved path.  He is injured on an “improved portion” of public property owned by the County of Yolo in California.  He sues for personal injury.  The case is dismissed by a judge.  The Plaintiff appeals.

The appellate court finds that under Government Code § 831.2 the County of Yolo is immune from liability because the injury is caused by a feature of unimproved property, ie., the tree.

Yolo County
Yolo County

The appellate court cites Government Code §831.2, which extends a statutory immunity to injuries caused by a natural condition of any unimproved public property. The court also cites Rendak v. State of California (1971) 18 Cal.App.3d 286, 288, 95 Cal. Rptr. 665, saying “further improvement of a portion of a park area does not remove the immunity for the unimproved areas.“

The appellate court finds that the County does not owe a legal duty of care to a person to prevent injury by unimproved land. Plaintiff’s injuries were caused by decaying natural trees located on unimproved property. So, a government entity is not liable for injuries resulting from a natural hazard even when it attacks someone on improved property.  (See Arroyo v. State of California (1995) 34 Cal.App.4th 755, 762- 764, 40 Cal.Rptr.2d 627.


Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at or contact us through e-mail: