Wednesday, July 28, 2010

California Declares SCUBA a "Hazardous Activity"

The law, which takes effect January 1, 2011 and was authored by Assemblywoman Diane Harkey of Dana Point, was written to limit government liability and curtail frivolous lawsuits.

The law, AB 634 was signed Tuesday by Governor Schwarzenegger and releases the state and local governments from liability in lawsuits associated with SCUBA diving. The bill passed in the Legislature without a “no” vote.

Under existing law, public entities and public employees are generally not liable when a member of the public participates in various “hazardous” recreational activities, including kayaking, surfing, waterskiing, white water rafting, and windsurfing. The bill officially adds SCUBA diving to the list of activities defined as hazardous.

“Fear of frivolous lawsuits has hampered efforts to expand recreational activities in many communities,” Harkey said in a statement. “I am pleased that Governor 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."

AB 634 was created with shipwreck SCUBA diving in mind, specifically because diving on shipwrecks can be “hazardous, requiring special training and equipment beyond that for normal SCUBA diving,” according Harkey’s announcement. Because the government will no longer be held liable in lawsuits where a SCUBA diver was injured or killed while diving, coastal communities will be more likely to create more artificial reefs that benefit both adventurous SCUBA divers and the environment. Currently, California only has three ship-based artificial reefs.

Hosam Elshenawi, manager of Beach Cities SCUBA shop in Dana Point was pleased with the legislation.

"I think [it's unnecessary] to hold people liable and find people to blame for what happens during a SCUBA dive," said Elshenawi, who explained all divers sign an "assumption of risk" and other liability release documents before being certified.

"No one wants to blame themselves," he said.

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