Horvitz & Levy obtained review of an adverse Court of Appeal opinion and persuaded the California Supreme Court to reverse on the merits and adopt our interpretation of the express invitation exception to California’s recreational use immunity statute.
Under California’s recreational use immunity statute, property owners generally enjoy immunity from tort claims arising from recreational injuries. There is an exception for recreational users who are expressly invited onto the property “by the landowner.” Here, a teenage boy invited a friend to his parents’ property without the parents’ knowledge or permission. The boy and his friend were injured while riding motorcycles on a motocross track on the property. The friend sued the boy and his family members. The jury returned a defense verdict based in part on a recreational use immunity defense.
Horvitz & Levy represented the defendants on appeal. In the Court of Appeal, we prevailed in part, persuading the court to affirm the defense judgment on some of plaintiff’s claims. However, the Court of Appeal reversed for a new trial on one claim on which defendants had prevailed based on recreational use immunity. The Court of Appeal held that the boy’s invitation to plaintiff qualified as an express invitation “by the landowner”—thereby eliminating his parents’ recreational use immunity—even though the parents were unaware of the invitation. Under the Court of Appeal’s theory, children living at home with their parents implicitly act as their parents’ agents when they invite friends to the family property.
Horvitz & Levy successfully petitioned for review in the California Supreme Court. The California Supreme Court reversed, holding that the express invitation exception applies based on an agency relationship only if the plaintiff shows the invitation was “made by a landowner’s authorized agent who issued the invitation on the landowner’s behalf” and rejecting the Court of Appeal’s theory of implied agency. The Supreme Court held that plaintiff failed to meet her burden here, and it remanded to the Court of Appeal for resolution of other issues not presented for review.