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Sanchez v. San Diego County Office of Education

March 23, 2010

OCTAVIO SANCHEZ ET AL., PLAINTIFFS AND APPELLANTS,
v.
SAN DIEGO COUNTY OFFICE OF EDUCATION ET AL., DEFENDANTS AND RESPONDENTS.



APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of San Diego County, Judith F. Hayes, Judge. Affirmed. (Super. Ct. No. GIC880054).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: McDONALD, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

Education Code section 35330 (§ 35330) provides a school district immunity from liability for school district student injuries occurring during a field trip conducted by the school district. In this action, we decide whether section 35330 provides a school district immunity from liability for student injuries occurring during a field trip on property owned and operated by a school district, which was not the school district in which the student attended school. The trial court found the school district was entitled to the immunity afforded by section 35330, and this appeal followed.

I. FACTUAL AND PRODECURAL BACKGROUND

A. The Facts

San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) is a school district within the meaning of that term in section 35330. It owns and operates a facility known as Camp Fox, an outdoor school facility located at the base of Palomar Mountain. All of the employees of Camp Fox are employed by SDCOE. Camp Fox provides science-related programs to student attendees.

In February 2006, Virginia Sanchez was a sixth grade student attending McCabe Elementary School, a school within the McCabe Union School District. During the week of February 13, 2006, Virginia (along with classmates and teachers from McCabe Elementary) attended Camp Fox for a five-day field trip, commonly known as "sixth grade camp." Attendance at sixth grade camp is voluntary.

On February 16, 2006, while at Camp Fox, Virginia suffered an asthma coronary attack. Camp counselors gave Virginia her asthma inhaler, and performed CPR until paramedics arrived. However, by the time paramedics were able to airlift Virginia to Children's Hospital, she had died from natural causes.

B. The Lawsuit and Judgment

As a result of Virginia's death, her parents (Parents) filed this action for damages against SDCOE alleging it (1) was negligent in not providing adequate medical staffing at Camp Fox, and (2) negligently misrepresented the level of medical staffing that would be provided at Camp Fox.

SDCOE moved for summary judgment, asserting the facts were undisputed and the only disputed issue was whether the immunity provided by section 35330 applied to SDCOE on the facts of this case. Parents did not identify any disputed facts,*fn1 but instead asserted that SDCOE was not protected by the immunity conferred by section 35330. The trial court entered judgment in favor of SDCOE. This appeal followed.

II. ANALYSIS

The sole issue is the proper interpretation of section 35330.*fn2 The parties agree that our review is de novo. (See, e.g., People ex. rel. Lockyer v. Shamrock Foods Co. (2000) 24 Cal.4th 415.)

Section 35330 provides: "(a) The governing board of a school district or the county superintendent of schools of a county may: [¶] (1) Conduct field trips or excursions in connection with courses of instruction or school-related social, educational, cultural, athletic, or school band activities to and from places in the state...." To further that end, that district may provide equipment and supplies for the field trip or excursion and engage instructors and other personnel to contribute their services (§ 35330, subd. (a)(2)); may use district equipment or contract for equipment to provide transportation (subd. (a)(3)); and may provide supervision of pupils involved in field trips or excursions by certificated employees of the district (subd. (a)(4)). Students may not be excluded from ...


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