Osgood v. County of Shasta

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtPARAS; FRIEDMAN, Acting P.J., and JANES
Citation50 Cal.App.3d 586,123 Cal.Rptr. 442
PartiesPamela Ann OSGOOD et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. The COUNTY OF SHASTA et al., Defendants and Respondents. Civ. 14927.
Decision Date11 August 1975

Ralph E. McCarthy, Redding, for plaintiffs-appellants.

Barrett, Newlan & Minoletti, Redding, by David B. Johnson, Sacramento, for defendant-respondent Shasta County.

Evelle J. Younger, Atty. Gen., by James Wernicke, Deputy Atty. Gen., Sacramento, for defendant-respondent State.

PARAS, Associate Justice.

This wrongful death action arises out of an accident in which the decedent was struck and killed by a motorboat while water-skiing on Shasta Lake on July 29, 1973.

Plaintiffs appeal from a judgment dismissing the complaint as to Shasta County, after a demurrer thereto was sustained without leave to amend. 1

Plaintiffs' complaint, insofar as here pertinent, is summarized as follows:

At all times relevant, Shasta Lake was a public waterway within the County of Shasta, State of California. The defendants 'actively encouraged and solicited members of the public, by financial expenditure and advertising, to use said lake for all recreational purposes,' including waterskiing and boating; the defendants leased concessions and maintained facilities on the shoreline of the lake and otherwise regulated the use thereof by the public. Pursuant to the advertising of concessionaires and lessees of the defendants and with the actual financial assistance and encouragement of the defendants, Shasta Lake became known throughout the world as a recreational facility for use by members of the public for motorboating and waterskiing, as well as related activity. As a result of the program of the defendants, thousands of members of the public have used and continue to use Shasta Lake for aquatic recreational purposes. Defendants knew that the lake was being used by hundreds of water-skiers from all over the world and therefore was in an extremely dangerous and hazardous condition, 'due to the physical configuration of the lake, hundreds of coves, inlets, arms and legs which would limit visibility of motor boat operators and water skiers throughout over 365 miles of shoreline of said lake' and 'by reason of the use of said lake surface by large numbers of the public for motor boating and water skiing purposes.' The defendants had direct knowledge of many fatalities and accidents occurring to members of the public, 'resulting from the large numbers of members of the public using the facilities and the configuration of the lake, . . .' The defendants 'failed to warn members of the public of said condition, but continued to actively encourage members of the public to use said facility while knowing of the dangers and defective condition of said lake as alleged.' On or about said July 29, 1973, the deceased, Randall Oscar Osgood, while lawfully water-skiing on Shasta Lake, was struck and killed by a motorboat being lawfully operated upon said lake by Michael Vidauri and others. At said time and place defendants, by reason of the dangerous and defective condition, and their negligent control and failure to control, caused the said motorboat being operated by the Vidauris, to collide with said Randall Oscar Osgood, causing his death.

Section 831.2 of the Government Code 2 provides as follows: '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.' (Emphasis added.)

The trial court sustained the county's demurrer on the ground that it was immune from suit under section 831.2 in that the lake 'is unimproved public property.' Citing Rendak v. State of California (1971) 18 Cal.App.3d 286, 95 Cal.Rptr. 665, the trial court said: 'The plaintiff's contention here apparently is that the entire lake is dangerous and is exempted from Government Code Section 831.4 (sic) because it is a manmade lake. This Court rejects this contention as unmeritorious. The code section provides for immunity to, 'any natural condition of any lake,' not to any natural condition of any natural lake. The alleged defect is the configuration of the lake with its coves and so on and impaired visibility are natural conditions of the lake.'

Plaintiffs contend on appeal, as they did in the trial court, that the immunity of section 831.2 extends only to natural lakes, and that since Shasta Lake is man-made and is not natural, the immunity does not apply. Resolution of the issue requires us to interpret the statute and ascertain the Legislature's intent in enacting section 831.2, and an important aid in this regard is the legislative history of the statute. (Jolicoeur v. Mihaly (1971) 5 Cal.3d 565, 572, 96 Cal.Rptr. 697, 488 P.2d 1; 5 Witkin, Summary of Cal.Law (8th ed. 1974) Constitutional Law, § 70, p. 3309; 45 Cal.Jur.2d, Statutes, § 173.)

When on January 10, 1963, section 831.2 was introduced to the California Legislature as a part of SB 42, it did not read as it does now. The original version was in the precise form recommended by the California Law Revision Commission and read in principal part as follows: '(a) Neither a public entity nor a public employee is liable for an injury caused by a natural condition of any Natural lake, stream, river or beach, if at the time of the injury the person who suffered the injury was not using the property for a purpose for which the public entity intended the property to be used.' (Emphasis added.)

The comment of the Law Revision Commission which accompanied...

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29 cases
  • Troth v. State
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • 20 Noviembre 1989
    ...of which recovery was denied to the injured party. Ante at 521. One decision not discussed by the majority, Osgood v. County of Shasta, 50 Cal.App. 3d 586, 590-91, 123 Cal.Rptr. 442, 444-45 (1975), holds that the shoreline of a man-made lake is a natural condition that immunized the defenda......
  • Morin v. County of Los Angeles, B039011
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 1 Noviembre 1989
    ...using the property for a purpose for which the public entity intended the property to be used.' " (Osgood v. County of Shasta (1975) 50 Cal.App.3d 586, 589, 123 Cal.Rptr. 442.) Following several amendments, the bill was enacted in its present form, which immunizes "any natural condition of ......
  • Knight v. City of Capitola, H007558
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 17 Marzo 1992
    ...bay, river or beach." (Emphasis added.) The meaning of this clause was placed directly in issue in Osgood v. County of Shasta (1975) 50 Cal.App.3d 586, 123 Cal.Rptr. 442, in which the plaintiff's decedent was killed in an accident on Shasta Lake, an artificially created lake. As a matter of......
  • People v. Tanner, Cr. 15777
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 2 Mayo 1977
    ...Appeals Bd. (1973) 10 Cal.3d 222, 230, 110 Cal.Rptr. 144, 514 P.2d 1224; Osgood v. County of Shasta Page 173 [562 P.2d 173] (1975) 50 Cal.App.3d 586, 589, 123 Cal.Rptr. 442; Alford v. Pierno (1972) 27 Cal.App.3d 682, 688, 104 Cal.Rptr. 110; Estate of Jacobs (1943) 61 Cal.App.2d 152, 155, 14......
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