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Toeppe v. City of San Diego

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

July 27, 2017, Opinion Filed

D069662

Opinion

 [**609]  HUFFMAN, Acting P. J.—A tree branch fell on Lorin Toeppe while she and her boyfriend were walking through Mission Bay Park. She filed suit against the City of San Diego (City) alleging the existence of a dangerous condition on public property, namely a negligently maintained eucalyptus tree. The City prevailed on summary judgment, arguing that Toeppe was struck by the tree branch while standing on a trail; thus, the City could not be liable under Government Code1 section 831.4 (trail immunity).

CA(1)(1) Toeppe appeals the ensuing final judgment following the City's successful motion for summary judgment. Toeppe's challenge to the judgment is twofold. First, she asserts trail [***2]  immunity does not apply under the facts of this case. To this end, Toeppe emphasizes that her claim of a dangerous condition is based on a negligently maintained eucalyptus tree, not the condition of the trail passing through the park. Second, she contends even if trail immunity does apply, a disputed issue of material fact exists as to where she was located when the branch struck her. We agree with her on both grounds. Toeppe's claim in this case does not give rise to trail immunity. In addition, there was a disputed issue of material fact as to where she was when the branch struck her. Thus, we reverse.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Mission Bay Park is the largest manmade aquatic park in the country. The park offers many recreational activities, including paths for walking and jogging and playgrounds for children. Mission Bay Park is a popular destination to picnic and enjoy the ocean. The trees at Mission Bay Park were either planted when the park was being constructed or are the offspring of the original planted trees.

 [*924] 

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13 Cal. App. 5th 921 *; 220 Cal. Rptr. 3d 608 **; 2017 Cal. App. LEXIS 651 ***; 2017 WL 3187391

LORIN TOEPPE, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. CITY OF SAN DIEGO, Defendant and Respondent.

Subsequent History: Review denied by, Request denied by Toeppe v. City of San Diego, 2017 Cal. LEXIS 7948 (Cal., Oct. 11, 2017)

Prior History:  [***1] APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of San Diego County, No. 37-2014-00004836-CU-PO-CTL, Eddie C. Sturgeon, Judge.

Disposition: Reversed and remanded.

CORE TERMS

trail, immunity, dangerous condition, eucalyptus tree, struck, path, walking, summary judgment, golf course, paved, tree branch, falling, visitor, unrelated, public property, declaration, barriers, injuries, grass, summary judgment motion, golf ball, new trial, highway, instant matter, superior court, material fact, recreational, allegations, handrails, entity

Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Summary Judgment, Entitlement as Matter of Law, Genuine Disputes, Legal Entitlement, Summary Judgment Review, Standards of Review, Torts, Liability, State Tort Claims Acts, Construction & Interpretation, Premises & Property Liability, General Premises Liability, Dangerous Conditions, Public Entity Liability, Immunities