Lost to Lawsuits: Fun at the Beach

Recently, we’ve asked what Californians have lost to lawsuits. While we heard many answers from our supporters, one thing we didn’t hear was having fun at the beach.

Well, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors took a step toward adding that to the list when it added a few amendments to its beach ordinance at the end of December. In revising the 37-page ordinance, the Board sought to clarify acceptable beach-going activities and the responsibilities of law enforcement and other public agencies. Whatever the Supervisors’ intentions, I think they created a firestorm of confusion.

Just to give you a sampling, it is against the law to “cast, toss, throw, kick or roll” any “ball, tube or light object” over 10 inches anywhere during the summer months unless prior approval is granted by a lifeguard. Some of the activities that could get you a hefty fine or time in the slammer include:

  • Digging a hole deeper than 18 inches in the sand
  • Disturbing any rock on a beach
  • Producing any boisterous or unusual noise
  • Cussing
  • Operating a model airplane
  • Getting naked or “disrobing”

On top of this, the Board increased the punishment for violating these rules. Violators face fines starting at $1,000 (doubled from $500) and could even face up to six months in jail. So during the summer months it appears the days of throwing a frisbee or football at the beach are gone in Los Angeles County, unless you get the approval from a lifeguard.

What do you think is the cause for all of this? Is Los Angeles County vying to be next in line to receive a “nanny” award or could it be the fear of litigation? I think it is the latter. The fear of litigation drives this kind of absurd public policy. It is too bad that the enjoyment for thousands of beachgoers will be ruined because of the LA County's fear of being sued. Sad but true.

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