The Supreme Court of the State of California recently released an opinion in which they affirmed a lower court’s ruling granting summary judgment to the defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit. The negligence suit was filed by the family members of a boy who died after striking a manhole cover and falling from his skateboard while riding on a roadway that was operated by one of the defendants. The suit alleged that the defendants negligently failed to maintain a safe roadway and should be held accountable for the damages related to the boy’s death. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants, finding that by participating in the inherently dangerous activity of skateboarding, the boy assumed the risk that he would be injured or killed by a condition on the roadway. As a result of the state supreme court’s recent decision, the plaintiffs will be unable to collect compensation for their claim.
A Tragic Accident Results in a Boy’s Death
The plaintiffs in the case of Bertsch v. Mammoth Community Water District were the surviving family members of a boy who died in a skateboarding accident in September 2011. According to the facts as recited in the appellate opinion, the victim and his brother were skateboarding around the hilly Mammoth Lakes area while their family visited a condominium that was owned by a friend. While waiting to meet their father, the boys rode their skateboards around the roads “for fun,” and they repeatedly pushed up and rode down the same hill near the condominium complex. As the victim was descending the hill on one of these occasions, his skateboard wheels became lodged in a small gap between the roadway and a manhole cover, and he was ejected from the board. His head struck the pavement, causing a traumatic brain injury and resulting in the boy’s death.
Judgment Is Affirmed for Defendants in Plaintiffs’ Wrongful Death Lawsuit
After the boy’s death, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed by his family, alleging that the defendants maintained a dangerous condition on the roadway. Before a trial on the issues, the district court ruled that the plaintiff could not recover damages as a matter of law, since the victim had assumed the risk of serious injury or death by skateboarding for leisure on the roadway.