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Paralyzed Swimmer Seeks Damages From County

April 06, 1986|NANCY GRAHAM | Times Staff Writer

A 27-year-old San Fernando Valley man is asking the county to pay damages for injuries he suffered in 1980 when he dived into the surf at Santa Monica Beach.

David Geffen, who was paralyzed from the neck down, is charging in a damage suit being heard in Santa Monica Superior Court that the beach was dangerous the day he was injured and that lifeguards did not warn him of the danger, either by posting signs or by voice.

Geffen testified that if he had seen a sign warning of danger he would not have dived into the surf.

Larry R. Feldman, Geffen's attorney, said that on the day of the accident there were riptides and heavy surf at the beach, conditions which cause sand bars and holes in the sand. In a pretrial statement, Feldman said that Geffen was either standing in a hole and hit the ocean bottom when he dived or he dived into a sand bar.

Attorney David B. Casselman, representing the county, said the beach was not and never has been dangerous. Further, Casselman, said, Santa Monica and not the county lifeguards is required to post and maintain signs on the beach.

Casselman said that Geffen was in shallow water when he dived and that he is responsible for his own injuries.

He called Geffen's injuries "a tragic error . . . but not the error of the county." Casselman said he will present experts who will show that Geffen's injuries could have been caused by a "snap roll" or a somersault in the surf. The city of Santa Monica and the state have paid Geffen a total of $150,000 in a negotiated settlement of a damage suit.

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