California Government Code Section 831.2 Immunity

Government Code Section 831.2 provides: "Neither a public entity nor a public employee is liable for an injury caused by a natural condition of any unimproved public property, including but not limited to any natural condition of any lake, stream, bay, river or beach." In Gonzales v. City of San Diego (1982) 130 Cal.App.3d 882, the court held the immunity of section 831.2 was inapplicable because the complaint "describes a hybrid dangerous condition, partially natural and partially artificial in character, the result of a combination of a natural defect within the property and the third party conduct of City. Thus, the dangerous condition here arose from the existence of a natural dangerous riptide condition, plus City's voluntarily providing lifeguard service at Black's beach (a duty with which it impliedly was not burdened under 831.2), and its performing that voluntarily assumed service negligently by failing to warn of the known, hazardous, natural condition." (Gonzales, at pp. 885-886.) In Geffen v. City of Los Angeles (1987) 197 Cal.App.3d 188, the court reviewed Gonzales and concluded that it "represents an unwarranted curtailment of the rule of governmental tort immunity." (Geffen, at p. 192.) Accordingly, the court refused to follow the "hybrid condition" rationale of Gonzales. It also reviewed the legislative history of section 831.2 and concluded the "hybrid condition" rationale "is thus directly inconsistent with the plain meaning of the absolute immunity language embodied in section 831.2." (Geffen, at p. 194.) Finally, it said: "We further note that in enacting new section 831.21 (Stats. 1987, ch. 1209), the Legislature has specifically abrogated Gonzales. Although we do not rely upon this statute for our result since its application is prospective only, its passage is consistent with our conclusion that Gonzales represents an unwarranted restriction of sovereign immunity and should not be followed." (Ibid,.)