Wrongful Death Lawsuit of Three Women Killed in Encinitas Cliff Collapse

Wrongful Death Lawsuit of Three Women Killed in Encinitas Cliff CollapseFollowing the 2019 Encinitas bluff collapse, the attorney of the family of three women killed in the accident filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Encinitas. Let’s explore the details of the news with Ehline Law and our San Diego wrongful death personal injury attorneys.

Wrongful Death Suit Filed after Cliff Collapses on Family Members Gathered at Grandview Beach

On August 2, 2019, a fatal bluff collapse happened at Grandview Beach, killing three women, Anne Davis Clave, her mother, Julie Davis, and Elizabeth Charles.

The Attorney Representing the Families Filed a Lawsuit in San Diego Superior Court

The attorney representing the families, Deborah Chang, filed a wrongful death lawsuit following the Encinitas bluff collapse in San Diego Superior Court. The suit alleges negligence on behalf of the City of Encinitas and others tied to the condo complex land overlooking Grandview Surf Beach, who failed to manage the increase in urban development safely.

According to the suit, the lifeguard on the day of the Encinitas bluff collapse told the family members to sit where the cliff eventually collapsed. The lawsuit seeks financial damages but has not mentioned a specific amount.

Four Factors Led to the Encinitas Bluff Collapse, Complaint Alleges

According to the complaint, four factors contributed to the weakening of the Encinitas cliff.

  1. The increased urban development caused groundwater seepage into the cliff, affecting its stability.
  2. Authorities failed to remove the irrigation system, accelerating the erosion.
  3. The city allowed the growth of non-native plants, which further affected the stability of the cliff.
  4. Leucadia-Seabluffe Village Community Association used a defective drainage system that caused water accumulation on top of the cliff.

Legislation Passed Requiring Public and Private Entities to Mitigate Coastal Erosion

Following the accident, the state immediately proposed legislation that got passed which requires California Coastal Commission to approve projects providing protection against coastal erosion.

The SB 1090 makes it an obligation for public entities and private owners of seafront properties to mitigate coastal erosion.

Bluff Collapses Occurring Across California, Endangering Lives

The Encinitas bluff collapse isn’t the first of its kind. In 2020, there were cliff erosions in Del Mar near the train tracks causing rockslides and cliff collapses.

In the past 25 years, the region has had three deadly rock falls. Permits to build a seawall in the neighboring Solana Beach landed in court after an intense legal battle.

Local and State Officials Fail to Take Any Preventive Measures Following Fatal Accident

According to the three women’s family members, the local and state officials have not taken any safety measures since the incident, and people continue to visit Grandview Beach.

Clave’s husband, Curtis Clave, stated that the beaches are open for visitors, and many rests against the cliffs during ongoing bluff collapses, putting their lives at risk.

During Wednesday’s news conference announcing the suit, the plaintiffs’ attorneys stated that the city was aware of the risks and potential hazards of the Encinitas cliffs but failed to take action to prevent erosion.

Besides not taking any measures, the local officials failed to mention the hazards to the citizens visiting Grandview Surf Beach.

Judge Refuses to Accept Motion to Dismiss Allowing the Complaint to Proceed

The City of Encinitas filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit stating that the attorney did not file the suit with the correct person. However, the judge denied the motion to dismiss and allowed the claims to proceed.

San Diego Union Tribune and other news stations reached out for comments on the lawsuit, but the California Department of Parks and Recreation, the City of Encinitas, and the other defendants refused to provide any comments.

Elements of Wrongful Death Lawsuit

The plaintiff must prove the following four elements to win a wrongful death lawsuit.

Breach of Duty

To have a valid wrongful death claim, the plaintiff must show that the defendant owed the victim a legal duty of care. For example, motorcyclists have the duty to ride their motorbikes safely and follow all traffic rules.

The plaintiff must prove how the defendant owed the victim a duty of care and how they breached that duty.


In wrongful death suits, the plaintiff must prove that the carelessness or recklessness, in whole or in part, caused the death of their loved one.


Establishing causation is one of the critical elements of a wrongful death suit. The plaintiff must establish a relationship between the defendant’s negligent actions and the victim’s death.


To complete a wrongful death suit, the plaintiff must show damages arising from the victim’s death. These may include medical bills, funeral costs, loss of income, and other compensatory damages relevant to the case.

To prove the four elements of wrongful death in the case of “wrongful death lawsuit of three women killed in Encinitas cliff collapse,” the attorneys of the family of three women, Elizabeth Charles, Julie Davis, and Anne Davis Clave, must provide strong and convincing evidence. These may include medical reports, witness statements, expert testimonies, and more.

When Should Surviving Family Members Bring a Wrongful Death Action?

Losing a loved one can be devastating; in most cases, family members need time to grieve the loss. Although it is completely normal to take time to grieve the loss of a loved one, surviving family members must consider taking a wrongful death action immediately.

The financial burden can slowly set in as medical providers reach out for unpaid bills, and the funeral costs and other expenses start to add up. Fortunately, under California law, surviving family members can bring a wrongful death action to recover compensation for their loss.

However, the law provides victims with only two years to file a lawsuit, and in cases involving government entities, the statute of limitations shortens to six months.

Schedule a Free Consultation with Ehline Law

If you lost a loved one due to another’s negligence, contact us at (833) LETS-SUE for a free consultation with our experienced wrongful death attorneys.

No amount of money can replace the loss of a loved one, but we can ensure you and your family gets the justice and compensation they deserve.


Michael Ehline

Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine and world-famous legal historian. Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of U.S. history’s largest motorcycle accident settlements. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients. We pride ourselves on being available to answer your most pressing and difficult questions 24/7. We are proud sponsors of the Paul Ehline Memorial Motorcycle Ride and a Service Disabled Veteran Operated Business. (SDVOB.) We are ready to fight.

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