California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

1110. Affirmative Defense—Natural Conditions (Gov. Code, § 831.2)

A public entity is not responsible for harm caused by a natural condition of an unimproved public property. If [name of defendant] proves that [name of plaintiff]’s injury was caused by such a condition, then it is not responsible for the injury.

New September 2003

Sources and Authority

  • Government Code section 831.2 provides: “Neither a public entity nor a public employee is liable for an injury caused by a natural condition of any unimproved public property, including but not limited to any natural condition of any lake, stream, bay, river or beach.”
  • Section 831.2 “provides absolute immunity for public entities against claims for injuries caused by natural conditions of unimproved public property. Section 831.2 was enacted to ensure that public entities will not prohibit public access to recreational areas caused by the burden and expense of defending against personal injury suits and of placing such land in a safe condition. Immunity provisions of the tort claims act generally prevail over all sections imposing liability.” (Arroyo v. State of California (1995) 34 Cal.App.4th 755, 761 [40 Cal.Rptr.2d 627].)
  • Section 831.21(a) provides: “Public beaches shall be deemed to be in a natural condition and unimproved notwithstanding the provision or absence of public safety services such as lifeguards, police or sheriff patrols, medical services, fire protection services, beach cleanup services, or signs. The provisions of this section shall apply only to natural conditions of public property and shall not limit any liability or immunity that may otherwise exist pursuant to this division.” This section abrogated Gonzales v. San Diego (1982) 130 Cal.App.3d 882 [182 Cal.Rptr. 73] [provision of lifeguard services held to have created
  • “hybrid” condition]. (Knight v. City of Capitola (1992) 4 Cal.App.4th 918, 929–930 [6 Cal.Rptr.2d 874].)
  • “Given the intent of the Legislature in enacting section 831.2, we hold that wild animals are a natural part of the condition of unimproved public property within the meaning of the statute.” (Arroyo, supra, 34 Cal.App.4th at p. 762.)
  • “Case precedent establishes that at least ‘some form of physical change in the condition of the property at the location of the injury, which justifies the conclusion that the public entity is responsible for reasonable risk management in that area’ is required [to preclude application of the immunity.]” (Keyes v. Santa Clara Valley Water Dist. (1982) 128 Cal.App.3d 882, 888 [180 Cal.Rptr. 586], internal citation omitted.)
  • “[I]mprovement of a portion of a park does not remove the immunity from the unimproved areas.” (Rendak v. State of California (1971) 18 Cal.App.3d 286, 288 [95 Cal.Rptr. 665].)
  • “It is now generally settled that human-altered conditions, especially those that have existed for some years, which merely duplicate models common to nature are still ‘natural conditions’ as a matter of law for the purposes of Government Code section 831.2.” (Tessier v. City of Newport Beach (1990) 219 Cal.App.3d 310, 314 [268 Cal.Rptr. 233]; see also Morin v. County of Los Angeles (1989)
  • 215 Cal.App.3d 184, 188 [263 Cal.Rptr. 479].)
  • “The mere attachment of a rope on defendant’s undeveloped land by an unknown third party did not change the ‘natural condition’ of the land.” (Kuykendall v. State of California (1986) 178 Cal.App.3d 563, 566 [223 Cal.Rptr. 763].)
  • Manmade lakes are covered by the Government Code section 831.2 immunity. (Osgood v. County of Shasta (1975) 50 Cal.App.3d 586, 590 [123 Cal.Rptr. 442]; see also Knight, supra, 4 Cal.App.4th at p. 926 [artificially rebuilt beach].)

Secondary Sources

5 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Torts, §§ 250, 256

2 California Government Tort Liability Practice (Cont.Ed.Bar 4th ed.) §§ 12.82–12.87

5 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 61, Particular Liabilities and Immunities of Public Entities and Public Employees, § 61.03 (Matthew Bender)

40 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 464, Public Entities and Offıcers: California Torts Claim Act, § 464.85 (Matthew Bender)

19A California Points and Authorities, Ch. 196, Public Entities, §§ 196.12, 196.214 (Matthew Bender)