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Arvizu v. City of Pasadena

Court of Appeal of California, Second Appellate District, Division Three

February 27, 2018, Opinion Filed



 [**120]  CURREY, J.3


Plaintiff and appellant Jonathan Arvizu sued the City of Pasadena (City) after he fell over a retaining wall located beside a recreational trail in the [*762]  City's Arroyo Seco Natural Park (Park), resulting in devastating personal  [**121]  injuries. Arvizu had entered the Park in the dark, predawn hours, while it was closed, in order to go “ghost hunting” with a group of friends. While taking a shortcut to reach the trail, he lost his footing, careened across the trail, and fell over the wall.

He appeals the trial court's grant of summary judgment. The trial court held that “trail immunity” under Government Code section 831.4, subdivision (b)4—which provides that a public entity “is not liable for an injury caused by a condition [***2]  of” any trail used for recreational purposes—barred Arvizu's section 835 claim for dangerous condition of public property. The trial court also held that Arvizu failed to raise a triable issue concerning whether the retaining wall was substantially dangerous when used with due care. It therefore granted summary judgment on the additional ground that the embankment was not a dangerous condition of public property per sections 830, subdivision (a) and 835.5

The Legislature provided for trail immunity to encourage government entities to keep trails and parkland open to the public. “[E]nsuring immunity for dangerous conditions on recreational trails of all kinds ‘encourage[s] public entities to open their property for public recreational use.’ [Citation.] ‘The actual cost of … litigation [over injuries suffered by … recreational users of … paths], or even the specter of it, might well cause cities or counties to reconsider allowing the operation of a … path, which, after all, produces no revenue.’ [Citation.] ‘“No doubt it is cheaper to build fences and keep the public out than to litigate and pay three, four, five or more judgments each year in perpetuity. But that would deprive the public of access to recreational opportunities. If [***3]  public entities cannot rely on the immunity for recreational trails, they will close down existing trails and perhaps entire parks where those trails can be found.”’” (Montenegro v. City of Bradbury (2013) 215 Cal.App.4th 924, 932 [155 Cal. Rptr. 3d 732] (Montenegro).)

The Legislature first enacted the trail immunity statute more than 50 years ago.6 Its goal of preserving the public's access to trails and open space recalls iconic California conservationist John Muir's teachings that we all need access to wildlands and open space, “where [n]ature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.”7 Now, with California's population [*763]  approaching 40 million, and especially in Los Angeles County, where more than a quarter of the state's residents reside,8 the need to preserve access to public open space is even more pressing due to the relative scarcity of public parkland.9

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21 Cal. App. 5th 760 *; 232 Cal. Rptr. 3d 120 **; 2018 Cal. App. LEXIS 242 ***

JONATHAN ARVIZU, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. CITY OF PASADENA, Defendant and Respondent.

Subsequent History:  [***1] The Publication Status of this Document has been Changed by the Court from Unpublished to Published March 23, 2018.

Prior History: APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. BC550929, Michelle Williams Court, Judge.

Arvizu v. City of Pasadena, 2018 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 1264 (Cal. App. 2d Dist., Feb. 27, 2018)

Disposition: Affirmed.


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Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Torts, Public Entity Liability, Immunities, Civil Procedure, Judgments, Summary Judgment, Entitlement as Matter of Law, Appeals, Summary Judgment Review, Standards of Review, Burdens of Proof, Movant Persuasion & Proof, Nonmovant Persuasion & Proof