California’s Second District Court of Appeal upheld a previous decision granting the city of Santa Barbara immunity from a wrongful death lawsuit raised by the mother of Davies Kabogoza, a 30-year-old who drowned while paddleboarding in the Santa Barbara Harbor in 2017.
He was a native of Uganda, a soccer coach and a Westmont College graduate.
His mom, Agnes Nabisere Mubanda, alleged the city failed to warn paddleboarders about the dangers of the activity, was negligent and could not be immune because it collected 10% of rental fees.
The Santa Barbara County Superior Court originally granted the city of Santa Barbara summary judgment based on the Hazardous Recreational Activity Doctrine. The doctrine removes liability to those “who knew or reasonably should have known that the hazardous recreational activity created a substantial risk of injury.”
Blue Water Boating Inc. (which operates as Santa Barbara Sailing Center) and Skip Abed were also named defendants in the original lawsuit.
Mr. Kabogoza rented paddleboards from Santa Barbara Sailing Center with an acquaintance April 29, 2017. On the way to the Harbor, he told her he couldn’t swim.
His initials and signature are on an SBSC form warning of the danger and potential of drowning.
He was offered either a life jacket or an inflatable belt pack with a string to pull for flotation. Mr. Kabogoza chose the belt pack and was instructed how to use it.
When divers recovered his body in approximately 35 feet of water that afternoon, the belt pack was on backward, and the string was not pulled.
The city of Santa Barbara took steps to minimize risk, the ruling says, such as mapping out protected areas of the harbor and posting signs to remind paddleboarders to remain in the “preferred paddling area.” City officials gave rental businesses lanyards and handouts and hosted meetings to discuss safety.
The appeals court filed its opinion earlier this month.