Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Bertsch v. Mammoth Community Water Dist. (Cal. Ct. App. - June 1, 2016)

"In September 2011, Richard Bertsch and his two sons, Brett and Mitchell, were staying at a friend’s condominium in Mammoth Lakes. The morning of the accident, Brett and Mitchell spent some time “cruising” around the neighborhood on their skateboards “for fun.” After stopping at the condominium to get some water, the two set out again on their boards. From the condominium, they traveled down Sierra Star Parkway, made a left turn onto West Bear Lake Road, and then “pushed [their] way up” an incline in the road so they could turn around and come down the hill. Meanwhile, their father was driving down Sierra Star Parkway; he planned to meet them at the intersection of Sierra Star and West Bear Lake to pick them up to go rock climbing. Bertsch reached the intersection as Brett and Mitchell were coming down the hill. Bertsch estimated their speed to be 'about eight to ten miles an hour.' Mitchell described their speed as 'pretty fast.' Neither Brett nor Mitchell was wearing a helmet. As they reached the intersection, Brett was slightly ahead of Mitchell and was traveling on the wrong side of the street. The front wheels of Brett’s skateboard stopped abruptly when they hit a small gap between the paved road and a cement collar surrounding a manhole cover, ejecting Brett from the board. The right side of Brett’s head struck the pavement as he hit the ground, causing a traumatic brain injury and resulting in his death."

I see people doing similar things a non-trivial number of days in my neighborhood.  Not smart.  Can result, as here, in utter tragedy.

At the very least, wear a helmet.

As for the law, the trial court granted summary judgment to the defendants, and the Court of Appeal affirms.  It might be one thing if you were using your skateboard as transportation.  That might be more like a bicycle, or even a car.  But here, the boys walked up a hill simply to do down it.  That's not transportation.  That's fun.  So the doctrine of primary assumption of the risk applies.  It's akin to a "sport".

So even if the road shouldn't have been in the condition it was, there's no liability.

Again:  Wear a helmet.  Please