A ‘Path’ to Anomalous Results: Douglas Winter and Justin Eballar Author Daily Journal Article
The Government Tort Claims Act immunizes public entities from liability for injuries caused by a condition of a trail – as long as that “trail” hosts or provides access to “recreation.” (Gov. Code § 831.4). The immunity was put in place over 50 years ago to spare public entities from the expense of keeping and maintaining natural, undeveloped and primitive regions of the state in safe condition and, at the same time, prevent a floodgate of lawsuits from hikers tripping over rocks while camping at state parks.
Attorneys Douglas Winter and Justin Eballar authored an article in the Daily Journal, titled “A ‘Path’ to Anomalous Results,” discussing the erosion of the legal definition of a “recreational trail” and how the expansion of the immunity is taking “us” down the proverbial slippery slope.
Winter and Eballar write “Contrary to these well-known authorities on the meanings of words, Carroll v. County of Los Angeles, 60 Cal.App.4th 606 (1997) decided that the term ‘trail’ is synonymous with ‘path,’ and ultimately held that a trail is simply a ‘marked or established path or route.’ This definition conveniently, and without explanation, omits the limiting language that is essential to the well-established dictionary definitions. Although never overruled and still commonly cited, Carroll’s holding has been criticized for relying on ‘The Synonym Finder’ as its most authoritative source on the meaning of words.”