Jim Porter: School immune from liability during field trip injury?
Field trips and excursions are an important part of school life. As such our Legislature has passed laws giving immunity to school districts for injuries or accidents that occur during elementary or school district field trips per Education Code section 35330 (college level immunity per section 55220 of the Code of Regulations). Having volunteered for many a field trip, I like these immunities.
VOLLEYBALL TOURNAMENT INJURY
Plaintiff Mary Anselmo attended Pierce College in Los Angeles, a public community college. She traveled to Grossmont College as a member of the Pierce College women’s volleyball team to participate in an intercollegiate beach volleyball tournament. Anselmo claimed she was injured during a tournament game when she dove into the sand and her knee struck a rock.
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Government Code section 835 makes public entities “… liable for injuries caused by dangerous conditions of its property … [through] a negligent or wrongful act or omission of an employee of the public entity … if the public entity had actual and constructive notice of the dangerous condition …” In short, public agencies and entities generally are responsible for their negligence.
However, there are exemptions and exceptions from Section 835 governmental liability.
FIELD TRIP IMMUNITY
Section 55220 provides one such immunity exception: “All persons making [a] field trip or excursion shall be deemed to have waived all claims against the district or the State of California for injury, accident, illness, or death occurring during or by reason of the field trip or excursion.”
The Legislature granted this immunity for field trips “to enhance and enrich the educational goals of schools, by reducing costs caused by the exposure to additional liabilities which may accrue.”
The narrow question for the Fourth District Court of Appeal was whether the field trip immunity extends to an injury sustained during a game caused by the negligence of the home team – allowing a rock in the sand court. Is Grossmont immune from liability as the injury occurred during a field trip?
IS VOLLEYBALL TOURNAMENT A FIELD TRIP?
The trial court ruled in favor of Grossmont College, the home team, but the Court of Appeal ruled otherwise, concluding: “Field trip immunity under section 55220 does not extend to Grossmont as the host of an interscholastic athletic competition for injuries suffered by a player on a visiting team merely because her team traveled to the site of the competition.”
Grossmont did not conduct a field trip so the field trip immunity does not let the school off the hook for its alleged negligence allowing a rock in the sand court – yet to be proven at trial.
Makes sense to me.
Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee and Tahoe City, California, and Reno, Nevada. Jim’s practice areas include: real estate, development, construction, business, HOA’s, contracts, personal injury, accidents, mediation and other transactional matters. He may be reached at email@example.com or http://www.portersimon.com.
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