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Prokop v. City of Los Angeles

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

May 21, 2007, Filed

B184025

Opinion

 [**356] 

BOLAND, J.

SUMMARY

The City of Los Angeles has absolute immunity under Government Code section 831.4 from liability for injuries suffered by a bicyclist who collided with a chain link fence immediately after exiting a class I bikeway located along the Los Angeles River.

FACTUAL, LEGAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

David Prokop sued the City of Los Angeles, seeking damages for injuries he suffered while bicycling along a bikeway, designed by the city, which runs along the south side of the Los Angeles River between Riverside Drive and Los Feliz Boulevard. He alleged that, while bicycling along the bike path, east of Victory Boulevard in Griffith Park, he sought to exit the path at its end through an opening provided [***2]  for bicyclists. When he attempted to cycle through the opening, ignoring the message painted on the pavement that stated “WALK BIKE,” he collided with a chain link fence, causing a severe laceration to his forehead, loss of consciousness and neck pain. He claimed bicyclists have to curve sharply several times in order to exit the path and avoid the fence, which he asserted is placed too close to the bike path. Prokop alleged that his injuries were the result of a dangerous condition created by the city, about which the city knew or should have known, and that the city was negligent in failing to protect him against the injuries.

The city sought summary judgment asserting, among other defenses, that it is immunized from liability under Government Code section 831.4 (section 831.4). Section 831.4 provides that public entities are not liable for injuries caused by a condition of any unpaved road that provides access to, among other activities, “riding, including animal and all types of vehicular riding,” and of “[a]ny trail used for” those purposes. (Gov. Code, § 831.4, subds. (a) & (b).) Section 831.4 has been interpreted, in a series of [***3]  cases, to apply to bike paths, both paved and unpaved, to trails providing access to recreational activities, and to trails on which the activities take place. (E.g., Carroll v. County of Los Angeles (1997) 60 Cal.App.4th 606, 609–610 [70 Cal. Rptr. 2d 504] (Carroll) [paved bicycle path is a trail under § 831.4, subd. (b); immunity under subd. (b) is not limited to access trails, but extends to a trail whose use is the object of the recreational activity (citing cases)].) In opposition to the motion, Prokop argued the bicycle path was a “Class I bikeway[]” under Streets and Highways Code section 890.4. The city was [*1336]  required to conform to “Chapter 1000 of the California Highway Design Manual, entitled Bikeway Planning and Design which it did not do.” Therefore, the city was not immune from liability.

 [**357] 

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150 Cal. App. 4th 1332 *; 59 Cal. Rptr. 3d 355 **; 2007 Cal. App. LEXIS 782 ***; 2007 Cal. Daily Op. Service 5596

DAVID PROKOP, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. CITY OF LOS ANGELES, Defendant and Respondent.

Subsequent History: Review denied by Prokop (David) v. City of Los Angeles, 2007 Cal. LEXIS 8791 (Cal., Aug. 15, 2007)

Prior History:  [***1] Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. BC 305404, Rolf M. Treu, Judge.

CORE TERMS

trail, bikeway, immunity, public entity, highway, paved, absolute immunity, injuries, provide access, easement, bicycle, street, mandatory duty, bike path, recreational, liability for injury, unimproved property, riding, recreational activity, bicycle path, provisions, vehicular, unpaved, path

Governments, Public Improvements, General Overview, Torts, Public Entity Liability, Immunities, Absolute Immunity, Duty, Affirmative Duty to Act, Liability, Real Property Law, Limited Use Rights, Easements, Public Easements, Bridges & Roads, General Premises Liability, Dangerous Conditions