SAN FRANCISCO — The California First District Court of Appeal recently upheld the Superior Court of San Mateo County's decision to not award Pacific Gas and Electric Company immunity in the case of a 12-year-old boy who was injured in a camping accident.
In its April 5 decision, the appeals court refused Pacific Gas and Electric's argument that it should keep its immunity under Section 846 of the California Civil Code. The code stipulates that Section 846 generally grants immunity from legal responsibility to those whom they allow to use their property for fun.
According to the appeals court decision, Pacific Gas and Electric asked the court to rule on one of the exceptions to Section 846 in which the code "does not limit the liability which otherwise exists for injury suffered in any case where permission to enter for the above purpose was granted for a consideration other than the consideration, if any, paid to said landowner by the state, or where consideration has been received from others for the same purpose."
According to the appeals court decision, Pacific Gas and Electric argued that it should have immunity because the court should "construe the consideration exception as applicable only when the defendant claiming immunity receives all or some portion of the consideration paid."
The appeals court did not agree with Pacific Gas and Electric and instead ruled that Pacific Gas and Electric had to abide by the exception.
The appeals court wrote in its decision that Zachary Rowe was severely hurt when a 75-foot tree came down over his tent on July 23, 2012. According to the decision, Pacific Gas and Electric has a power line in the park that it takes care of that provides electricity to a bathroom near it in San Mateo County's Memorial Park, where Rowe and his family were camping when the accident happened.
According to the decision, Pacific Gas and Electric owns a license that its utility tariff gave it. Under the license, Pacific Gas and Electric can "inspect and maintain its equipment and the vegetation in the vicinity of its power lines, including near the campsite where Zachary was injured."
The appeals court wrote in its decision that Rowe's family paid San Mateo County $50 for five nights of camping at the park and didn't pay Pacific Gas and Electric.
The appeals court ruled "the payment of consideration in exchange for permission to enter a premises for a recreational purpose abrogates the Section 846 immunity" The appeals court also ruled that the California Civil Code did not provide any reason to accept Pacific Gas and Electric's argument about the exception in question.
The appeals court wrote in its decision that Rowe initially sued Pacific Gas and Electric, San Mateo County, "and others," and argued that Pacific Gas and Electric did not take enough measures to monitor the trees near its power lines and did not alert the family about the situation of the trees near the power lines next to the family's camp.
The appeals court wrote that 'Pacific Gas and Electric moved for summary judgment on the ground that it owed Zachary no duty of care as a matter of law pursuant to section 846."