County of San Diego v. Super. Ct.Annotate this Case
Damon Lane County Park in El Cajon, owned and controlled by the County of San Diego, is a 29-acre open space park with trails for hiking, walking and equestrian use. The park has information kiosks, but does not have any structures such as restrooms or a parking lot. Benjamin Casteen, then a high school student, used a rope swing tied to a tree at the park. The tree was located above a ravine. The rope broke, causing Casteen to fall into the ravine and onto debris located in the ravine. The debris in the ravine included cut down tree limbs and other brush left by the County's maintenance crews. Casteen suffered injuries to his head and face. Although Casteen did not remember the incident, his custom and practice before using a tree rope swing was to visually check the rope and branch it was hanging from, give the rope a big tug or yank to check for strength and then take a tentative short swing on the rope. The County had no policy requiring maintenance personnel to remove rope swings in the park. Casteen sued the County, asserting three causes of action all sounding in negligence on the part of the County for failing to warn about the rope swing, or to remove it completely. The County defended on immunity grounds, but was denied. The Court of Appeal reversed, concluding the trial court improperly denied the County summary judgment motion because the undisputed material facts show the public entity was immune from liability under section Government Code section 831.7 for injuries suffered by Casteen while tree rope swinging and none of the exceptions in section 831.7 applied.