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Astenius v. State of California

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

February 2, 2005, Filed



GILBERT, P. J.—Plaintiffs are children of a woman who died in an accident on a trail within a recreational area owned and operated by the State of California. We conclude the state is immune from liability under Government Code section 831.4. 1  [**879]  We affirm the judgment entered following the trial court's sustaining of the state's demurrer.


Tammy Geary died from injuries received while driving an off-highway vehicle (OHV) in [***2]  the Hungry Valley State Vehicular Recreation Area (Hungry Valley). Hungry Valley is owned and operated by the California Department of Parks and Recreation. Guardians ad litem for two sets of Geary's children by prior marriages filed separate wrongful death suits against the state. The substantive allegations of the complaints are identical. The actions were consolidated.

The complaints allege as follows:

Prior to 1980, Hungry Valley was unimproved and not regulated or maintained by the state. Nevertheless, it was well known and widely used for OHV recreation. Beginning in the early 1980's, the state developed Hungry Valley by planning, grading, mapping, marking, inspecting and rating trails. The state also developed campgrounds, a ranger station and visitor's center. The state charged an entrance fee and provided a guide book showing trails and areas of Hungry Valley. The guide book contained a trail rating system. The book stated the trail ratings are intended to make trail use easier and safer. The book also stated that some areas contain hazards, such as erosion gullies, ditches and drop-offs, but that the hazards have been marked.

On July 13, 2002, Geary drove her OHV to Hungry [***3]  Valley, paid the entrance fee and was given a guide book. She was an experienced driver who had participated in competitions. She was riding on the top of an area known as Rattler Hill. At the bottom of the hill are two major trails. Geary decided to descend the hill on a trail that “appeared to be well used” and was located within a mile of a campground. Before descending the trail Geary stopped, evaluated the trail and looked for barriers and warning signs. There were no indications that the trail was hazardous.

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126 Cal. App. 4th 472 *; 23 Cal. Rptr. 3d 877 **; 2005 Cal. App. LEXIS 172 ***; 2005 Cal. Daily Op. Service 1061; 2005 Daily Journal DAR 1433

STACY MARIE ASTENIUS, a Minor, etc., et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, Defendant and Respondent. SAMANTHA BETH GEARY, a Minor, etc., et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, Defendant and Respondent.

Prior History:  [***1]  Superior Court of Ventura County, Nos. CV220019, CV220022, Frederick Bysshe, Judge.

Disposition: Judgment affirmed.


trail, immunity, riding, Recreation

Civil Procedure, Responses, Defenses, Demurrers & Objections, Defects of Form, Demurrers, Real Property Law, Limited Use Rights, Easements, Public Easements, Torts, Public Entity Liability, Immunities, General Overview, Public Contracts Law, Governmental Immunities, Sovereign Immunity, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, General Premises Liability, Dangerous Conditions, Natural Conditions, State & Territorial Governments, Property, Pleadings, Amendment of Pleadings