Sometimes government entities such as public universities are protected from lawsuits due to immunity. In Burgueno v. Regents of the Univ. of Cal., a court found that a university was protected by immunity when a student was killed on a bike path that ran through the school. According to the court’s written opinion, the University of California, Santa Cruz student was living in an off-campus apartment and commuted to school on his bike. He was killed in a bicycle accident on the Great Meadow Bikeway, a paved bike path that ran through part of the school’s campus. The student’s family sued the school after his death, alleging that the school was liable because the path was dangerous. There had been a number of bicycle accidents on the path prior to the student’s death, and the family sued based on a dangerous condition of public property and wrongful death.
However, the trial court found that the claim was barred because the school was protected by immunity. A state code precluded governmental liability for injuries caused by the condition of any trail that provided access to recreational or scenic areas. The purpose of the law was to allow public entities to open their property for public recreational use. The idea was that if the public entities could be sued for poor road conditions, most paths would probably close.
The court found that the law applied to the Great Meadow Bikeway path because it was a path that provided access to recreational or scenic areas. It stated that even though the trail may have been used for both recreational and non-recreational purposes, the school was still protected by immunity. In this case, since the school was a public university, it had absolute immunity from any claims arising from injuries due to poor conditions on the path.