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UPDATE: Hearing held in wrongful death lawsuit of three women killed in Encinitas cliff collapse

ENCINITAS, Calif. – A lawsuit filed against the city of Encinitas, the state and a local homeowners’ association following a deadly 2019 bluff collapse will move ahead after a recent motion to dismiss the case was denied.

The fatal bluff collapse killed three people: Encinitas residents Julie Davis, 65; her 35-year-old daughter, Anne Clave; and Davis’ 62-year-old sister, Elizabeth Charles of San Francisco. Family members announced the lawsuit last fall while also calling on legislators to support a bill aimed at preventing future coastal bluff collapses.

A judge recently sided with the family after a motion was filed to dismiss the case on the grounds of “natural condition immunity.”

“The natural condition immunity says that if a city or a state only opens up access to a public space they’re not going to be subject to suit,” said Bibi Fell, one of the attorneys for the Davis family. “The difference here is that the city and the state didn’t just open up a natural space.”

Fell argues the city changed, developed and built on the land, decisions she says made the area less safe.

“My biggest fear is that this is going to happen to someone else’s family,” said Pat Davis, whose wife, youngest daughter, and sister-in-law died in the Aug. 2, 2019 collapse.

The family said the lawsuit’s goal is to have the city and state make permanent changes to the area to increase safety — and then continue to monitor those changes.

If the lawsuit is successful, any monetary damages awarded would be determined by a jury.

“I’d love to see this tragedy that happened to my family stimulate some positive change to make the beaches safer so that no one else has to go through this,” Davis said.

Several steps remain before the case officially goes to trial with another court date set for March.

Attorneys for the state and city commented they extend their deepest sympathy to the families involved.