Plaintiff Mary Anselmo attended Los Angeles Pierce College and was a member of the Pierce College Women’s Volleyball team. On March 4, 2016, Plaintiff travelled to Grossmont College to participate in an intercollegiate beach volleyball tournament. Grossmont College and the volleyball courts where the tournament occurred are owned, controlled, and maintained by The District-Cuyamaca Community College District (“The District”). The District did not provide travel arrangements for the Pierce College Women’s Volleyball team.
During one of the tournament games, Plaintiff was injured when she dove into the sand and struck her knee against a rock. Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against The District, arguing that the area where she was injured was a dangerous condition of public property under Government Code §835. The District filed a demurrer to dismiss the case, claiming immunity under the “field trips and excursions immunity” in §55220 of Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations. The trial court sustained The District’s demurrer and Plaintiff appealed.
The appellate court overturned the trial court’s ruling, stating that the “field trips and excursions immunity” in §55220 did not apply. The “field trips and excursions immunity” of § 55220 provides that all persons making a field trip or excursion for an athletic event “have waived all claims against the district or the State of California for injury, accident, illness, or death occurring during or by reason of the field trip or excursion.” The purpose of the “field trips and excursions immunity” is to advance educational goals by reducing a school district’s potential liability for injuries that may arise while on a field trip or excursion.
The appellate court relied on Avila v. Citrus Community College District (2006) 38 Cal.4th 148 and Sanchez v. San Diego County Office of Education (2010) 182 Cal.App.4th 1580.
In Avila, the Supreme Court stated, “[A] district that hosts an interscholastic athletic event owes a general duty to all participating teams—both home and visitor—to avoid acts or omissions that materially increase . . . risks to participants beyond those inherent in the sport.”
The Sanchez case emphasized that the field trips and excursions immunity can only be claimed by those who “conduct or substantially participate in conducting” a field trip or excursion. The term “conduct” essentially means a defendant has to direct or manage a field trip/excursion in order for the immunity to apply.
In this case, the appellate court pointed out that The District did not direct or manage any travel arrangement for the Pierce College Women’s Volleyball team to Grossmont College. Instead, The District merely provided the sports facility for the volleyball tournament. As a result, The District could not claim the field trips and excursions immunity. Consequently, The District had a responsibility to provide a safe premises to its students and visitors—which included Plaintiff.
In order for a school district to claim the field trips and excursions immunity, it must prove that it “conducted or substantially participated in conducting” the means of travel for the plaintiff. The terms “conducted or substantially participated in conducting” refer to “directing and managing” the field trip or excursion.
For a copy of the complete decision, see: Anselmo Case