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Scuba diving is declared hazardous activity in California, limiting government liability in case of accidents

A diver swims in the kelp tank at the California Science Center.

A new law that will take effect Jan. 1 declares scuba diving a hazardous activity in California.

AB 634, signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this month, adds the sport to the list of recreational activities considered hazardous and releases state and local governments from liability in lawsuits associated with it, reports the Dana Point Times. Other sports currently on the "hazardous" list include  surfing, water-skiing, windsurfing, kayaking and white-water rafting.

"Fear of frivolous lawsuits has hampered efforts to expand recreational activities in many communities,"  the bill's author, Assemblywoman Diane L. Harkey (R-Dana Point), said in a statement. "I am pleased that Gov.  Schwarzenegger signed into law our legislation reducing liability for local and state governments while allowing for more recreational activities such as scuba diving, aiding coastal economies, the environment and the state of California."

The legislation, backed by California Ships to Reefs, was created with sunken-ship-based scuba diving in mind, because "diving in and near sunken ships can be hazardous, requiring special training and equipment beyond that for normal scuba diving," Harkey said.

Harkey added that because the government will no longer be held liable in lawsuits in which a scuba diver is injured or killed while diving, coastal communities may be more likely to create artificial reefs -- a benefit to both the marine environment and to divers interested in exploring them.

"Today, California has removed a major impediment to artificial reefing," said Joel Geldin, chairman and CEO of California Ships to Reefs, a nonprofit organization that hopes to establish a regional system of reefed ships along the California coast. "We are enthusiastic about the new unlimited opportunities ahead to create a network of artificial reefs on the state’s coastline, improving ocean life and enhancing our recreational diving and fishing industries."

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: A diver swims in the kelp tank at the California Science Center. Credit: Leroy Hamilton / California Science Center

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Comments (7)

These sorts of liability issues are shameful exploitations of the letter of the law and not the spirit, which means we need to make sure the letter of the law accurately and effectively prevents such abuses. Yet even now in Washington there is talk of relaxing the standards for bringing a claim like this to trial (Senate Bill 1504 - The Notice Pleading Recreation Act). We need to make sure that bills like this are opposed, and that California continues to move forward, not backward.

I just wondering limiting government liability for accident.

"A new law that will take effect Jan. 1 declares scuba diving a hazardous activity in California.


Photo: A diver swims in the kelp tank at the California Science Center."

I admire the hubris of the journalist.

This is what our state does. It's economically in the dumper. No budget in place and it's costing the taxpayers $52 million as a result. And our half-wit governor signs legislation that acknowledges that the sky is blue. We are ruled by idiots.

California has been subjected to a multitude of frivolous lawsuits regarding a multitude of activities on State Property and in State Waters. At this time, liability issues have been worked out for most types of activities.

All activities, including lying on your couch at home, subject us to risks of injury or death. Many if not most mishaps occur as a direct result of the victim's own actions. In those cases the burden of liability is clear.

During some activities such as scuba diving there are many forces beyond the control of the participant. In the case of a jelly fish sting, a shark attack, a sea lion bite, or who knows what, an injury can occur that is not the victim's fault. When these incidents occur in State Waters, the State must be free of liability. Otherwise, the State will be on the hook for so many injuries that all State Waters will be closed to recreational activities.

I'm surprised governments ever faced liability for SCUBA in the past. Silly. It harkens back to the day when governments only faced liability for things listed directly in statute.

Geez, why do they not add: skydiving, hang-gliding, hiking, camping, RV-ing, or simply walking along the PUBLIC beaches?


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Outposts' primary contributor is Kelly Burgess.