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 www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.