Immunity for Accidents Caused Due to Natural Conditions of Wild and Unimproved Public Property
In Lupash v. City of Seal Beach, 75 Cal. App. 4th 1428, 89 Cal.Rptr.2d 920 (Cal. Ct. App. 1999), a 13-year-old boy was rendered a quadriplegic when he fell after stepping into a depression in the ocean floor during a junior lifeguard competition, and an adverse final summary judgment that was entered against him in an action against the City was upheld. See id. at 922.
However, Lupash and other similar California cases have little persuasive impact in the current Florida context because the California jurisprudence concerning the duty of public entities with regard to swimming areas is informed by the California Tort Claims Act, which specifically provides absolute immunity for public entities against claims for injuries caused by the natural condition of unimproved public property, including, but not limited to, any natural condition of any lake, stream, bay, river, or beach. See id. at 925 n.3 (stating that the statutory immunities "buttress" the court's conclusion regarding duty);
See also Arroyo v. State, 34 Cal. App. 4th 755, 40 Cal.Rptr.2d 627 (Cal. Ct. App. 1995) (holding that statutory immunity created an exception to the general duty to warn of known dangerous conditions such as mountain lions in hiking areas even where the State had distributed brochures indicating the area was free from significant dangers and posted warning signs concerning the existence of snakes and ticks).
The California courts have interpreted the absolute immunity with regard to wild and unimproved public property very broadly, and have determined that such immunity applies notwithstanding the presence or absence of lifeguards, warning signs, or other public safety services, see City of Santa Cruz v. Superior Court, 198 Cal. App. 3d 999, 244 Cal.Rptr. 105 (Cal. Ct. App. 1988), or the placement of such amenities as restrooms, lifeguard towers, fire circles, food concessions, promenades, parking lots and piers. See Geffen v. Los Angeles, 197 Cal. App. 3d 188, 242 Cal.Rptr. 492 (Cal. Ct. App. 1987).
Florida law does not and has not contained a similar provision granting absolute immunity for natural conditions of wild and unimproved public property, and certainly not with regard to the operation of areas involved in for-profit activities.