September 12, 2013 -- Do California’s cities have a duty to warn visitors to their parks that gang members may be present? And if cities have such a duty, how do they afford park visitors such a warning? These were among the issues that two of the Firm’s litigation team resolved in favor of our client, the City of Carson.
On July 1, 2009 Christopher Munoz attended a City-sponsored softball game at Calas Park. While observing the game, he was assaulted by gang members present in the Park. He sued the City for his injuries on the theory that City owed a “special duty” to warn him that gang members could be present in this park. Ms. Mily C. Huntley and Mr. Brandon D. Ward were successful in persuading the Second Appellate District to affirm the decision of the superior court rejecting these claims.
In Munoz v. City of Carson, Case No. B237951, the Second Appellate District concluded that cities do not owe a duty to warn visitors to their parks of the possible presence of gang members absent the existence of some “special relationship” between the park visitor and the community. Applying the standards for creating a special relationship articulated by the California Supreme Court in the so-called Rolland decision, the court concluded that inviting the general public to visit its parks on the City’s web site, where these visitors were welcomed to observe or participate in “fun, safe, quality recreational programs,” did not create any special relationship giving rise to a duty to warn.
Equally important, the court concluded that imposing on Carson the duty to provide police officers or private security guards at its parks during their hours of operation or during organized recreational events would impose a undue financial burden on the taxpayers. Finally, the court reasoned that requiring Carson to post a warning on its website or post warning signs at its parks would serve little purpose and could unnecessarily discourage the beneficial use of “important public asset[s].”
The national implications of this important case are considered in the January 2014 issue of "Parks & Recreation" (www.nrpa.org) in an article, "Website Invitation to 'Dangerous' Park," at www.parksandrecreation.org/2014/January/Website-Invitation-to-Dangerous-....
For further information regarding this case, please contact Mily Huntley in our Los Angeles office at 310-527-6660.