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Quote of the Day - A horse is dangerous at both ends and uncomfortable in the middle. - Ian Fleming
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California Recreational Use Statute Protects Homeowners

Can a dollar make you liable?  In a"slip and fall" case involving a horse and its rider, the answer is both yes and no.  Let me explain why.  In the Rancho Santa Fe area of Northern San Deigo County, there are some forty miles of public horse trails, and portions of those trails cross easements given to private homeowners to build and maintain driveways across those trails to access their homes.

Homeowners Janice and Jeffrey Weitzman resurfaced their driveway, ultimately making it more slippery for horse riders, and after one horse slipped and fell, the RSF Association, as part of its responsibility to maintain the trails, put warning signs up on either side of the homeowners' driveway.  The Weitzmans, apparently not horse riders, claimed they did not know why the Association put up the signs, although it's not a matter of rocket science.

Add into this mix rider Marilyn Miller, who paid dues to her riding club, which in turn paid some of those dues to the Association to help maintain the forty miles of trails.  The Weitzmans were not paid.  In addition to the maintenance fees, Ms Miller's riding club paid $1.00 / year to rent space where the riding club's stables were located.  So, it's not really a dollar at issue, but the maintenance fees as well.

As you've likely figured out by now, Ms. Miller's horse slipped and fell on the Weitzmans' driveway, injuring her.  In turn, she sued both the Association and the Weitzmans.  Section 846 of the California Civil Code provides recreational immunity to homeowners from individuals who access their property for recreational purposes.  Unless the individual pays for the access, the immunity attaches as long as the homeowners did not willfully or maliciously fail to warn the individual about a hazard.

So here, Ms. Miller was not successful in her case against the Weitzmans, but did recover from the Association, despite the warning signs.  As far as the Weitzmans are concerned, the jury's decision makes sense.  Between the Association and Ms. Miller, however, the jury assessed forty percent of the liability to Ms. Miller's own negligence, and sixty percent to the Association.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Sunday, October 23, 2005 at 09:41 Comments Closed (0) |
 
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