Court Determines College Is Not Immune from Lawsuit Under California Field Trip Exception

In a recent case before a California appeals court, the court considered whether a public college hosting a volleyball tournament could be held liable in a California premises liability claim for an injury suffered by a visiting athlete.

The Facts

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff attended Los Angeles Pierce College, a public community college, and traveled to another public college, Grossmont College, for a volleyball tournament, as a member of the college’s volleyball team. The plaintiff was allegedly injured during a volleyball game when she dove into the sand and her knee hit a rock in the sand.

The plaintiff filed a complaint against Grossmont College, alleging negligence, gross negligence, and dangerous condition of public property. The plaintiff claimed she was injured because of a dangerous condition at the college’s beach volleyball facility. The college argued that it was protected by immunity because the plaintiff’s case fell under California’s field trips and excursions immunity.

Field Trip and Excursions Immunity

A public entity is generally liable for injuries caused as a result of a dangerous condition on its property. Under section 835 of the Government Code, a public entity is liable for injuries caused by a dangerous condition of its property if a plaintiff can establish shows that “the property was in a dangerous condition at the time of the injury, that the injury was proximately caused by the dangerous condition, that the dangerous condition created a reasonably foreseeable risk of the kind of injury which was incurred.” It also requires a showing that either “[a] negligent or wrongful act or omission of an employee of the public entity within the scope of his employment created the dangerous condition” or “[t]he public entity had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition.”

However, under section 55220 of title 5 of the California Code of Regulations, a community college that conducts field trips or excursions is immune from suit for claims “for injury, accident, illness, or death occurring during or by reason of the field trip or excursion.” The exception is meant to increase the educational experiences at schools by reducing the schools’ liability exposure.

The Court’s Decision

First, the court explained that Grossmont clearly was not immune from suit for injuries its own students incurred during the game. However, Grossmont argued that because Pierce College’s students were participating in a “field trip or excursion,” it was not liable for injuries of Pierce College’s students.

The court of appeals disagreed, explaining that Grossmont College did not conduct the field trip for students of Pierce College, but rather hosted the facility for an intercollegiate athletic competition. Grossmont, thus, had the responsibility to provide reasonably safe premises by providing a safe facility and court. The court explained that the college has a duty to protect all participants in an intercollegiate event, not only members of its own team. Therefore, the court held that the immunity does not apply to injuries suffered by a member of a visiting team during an intercollegiate athletic event. The court reversed the decision of the trial court, allowing the case to proceed.

Contact a Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer

California property owners have a duty to keep their property reasonably safe. If you have been injured on someone else’s premises due to an unsafe condition, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries through a California premises liability lawsuit. At the Sharifi Firm, PNC, our experienced trial attorneys can provide you with knowledgeable legal counsel and aggressive representation. We represent residents of Temecula, Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino, Glendale, Riverside, and other Southern California cities. Contact us at 1-866-422-7222 or through our online form to schedule a free consultation.

See Related Posts:

California Plaintiffs Sue Breast Implant Manufacturers, California Injury Lawyer Blog, October 24, 2018.

California Court Dismisses Appeal Against Ski Resort for Snowboarding Accident, California Injury Lawyer Blog, November 29, 2018.

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