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Loeb v. County of San Diego

Court of Appeal of California, Fourth Appellate District, Division One

November 19, 2019, Opinion Filed

D074347

Opinion

HALLER, Acting P. J.—Sally Loeb sued the County of San Diego (County) for personal injuries she allegedly sustained when she tripped on an uneven concrete pathway in a County park. The County filed successive motions for summary judgment (an initial motion, and a renewed motion based on new evidence) based on its “trail immunity” defense, which provides absolute immunity to public entities for injuries sustained on public trails that provide [*425]  access to, or are used for, recreational activities. (Gov. Code, § 831.4.)1 The trial court denied the [**2]  County's motions, finding disputed facts existed regarding whether the pathway was used for recreational purposes. But when Loeb conceded during argument over the proposed special verdict forms that the pathway was used, at least in part, for recreational purposes, the trial court granted a nonsuit in the County's favor. Loeb contends the trial court erred procedurally and substantively. We affirm.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The Pleadings

Loeb sued the County alleging that on July 22, 2015, she sustained personal injuries when she tripped on an uneven concrete pathway in the County-owned Guajome Regional Park (the Park). Her operative first amended complaint asserted causes of action for dangerous condition of property (§ 835) and violation of mandatory duties (§ 815.6).2

The County filed an answer asserting trail immunity as an affirmative defense.

The County's Initial Summary Judgment Motion

The County moved for summary judgment based on, among other things, its trail immunity defense. The County submitted evidence showing the pathway is in “a county regional park designated for hiking, fishing, and camping,” and “provides access to the restrooms, the adjacent camp grounds … , and the inner [**3]  areas of the park for hiking, fishing, and other recreational activities.”

Loeb opposed the County's motion, arguing triable issues of fact existed regarding whether the pathway constituted a trail for purposes of immunity. Loeb explained she was injured while using the pathway to walk to the restroom from a barbecue at her daughter's campsite. She cited evidence showing the pathway “is adjacent to a paved roadway” and serves only to connect that roadway (including a handicapped parking stall) to a handicapped-accessible restroom. She also cited County construction plans [*426]  for the Park that identify the pathway as “Accessible Concrete Walks to Restroom.” Loeb thus maintained “the sole purpose of the sidewalk is to provide an accessible concrete walk to th[e] restroom.”

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43 Cal. App. 5th 421 *; 2019 Cal. App. LEXIS 1260 **; 255 Cal. Rptr. 3d 860

SALLY LOEB, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. COUNTY OF SAN DIEGO, Defendant and Respondent.

Subsequent History:  [**1] The Publication Status of this Document has been Changed by the Court from Unpublished to Published December 16, 2019.

Prior History: APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of San Diego County, No. 37-2016-00005735-CU-PO-NC, Ronald F. Frazier, Judge.

Loeb v. County of San Diego, 2019 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 7658 (Cal. App. 4th Dist., Nov. 19, 2019)

Disposition: Affirmed.

CORE TERMS

trail, pathway, immunity, trial court, recreational purposes, recreational, recreational activity, purposes, restroom, sidewalk, italics, paved, verdict form, cases, public entity, injuries, nonsuit, path, summary judgment, camping, walk, summary judgment motion, provide access, nonrecreational, photographs, immunity statute, new evidence, definitions, pedestrian, adjacent

Civil Procedure, Judgments, Relief From Judgments, Altering & Amending Judgments, Torts, Public Entity Liability, Liability, State Tort Claims Acts, State Tort Claims Acts, Exclusions From Liability, Appeals, Standards of Review, Questions of Fact & Law, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Courts, Judicial Precedent, General Premises Liability, Defenses, Recreational Use Statutes