Washington bill to halt out of bounds skiers is just a way to promote more lawsuits

Out of bounds skiers will be easier to arrest, but lawsuits for skier collisions will be easier to sue over. 

Washington Senate Bill 5186 sponsored by Senators Kastama, Delvin, and Eide would allow ski patrollers to collect information to be given to the sheriff to arrest out of bounds skiers. Besides the obvious evidentiary issues with the bill, the bill also has several deceptive parts.

Excerpts from the bill concerning the out of bounds issues are:

(7)(a) Any person skiing outside the confines of trails open for skiing or runs open for skiing within the ski area boundary shall be responsible for any injuries or losses resulting from his or her action.

(b) A person shall not ski on a ski slope, trail, or area that is designated by a ski area operator as closed to the public and that has signs posted indicating the closure. Any person who violates the provisions of this subsection commits a civil infraction and is subject to a monetary penalty of up to one thousand dollars.

(i) A member of the national ski patrol who witnesses a violator present in a closed area may conduct an investigation that includes preparation of an incident report form and collection of evidence or witness statements. Information pertaining to the violation may be remitted within seven days to the sheriff of the county

Don’t get me wrong, idiots who ski into closed areas of ski areas should go to jail. However, most ski resorts on US Forest Service land is required to have a gate so skiers can ski on the Forest Service land. The first issue is the closed area inside the ski area boundary our out? If out, there could be a problem with the sheriff making an arrest on federal land.

However, the deceptive part of the bill is very interesting. Those excerpts are:

(1) In addition to the specific requirements of this section, all skiers shall conduct themselves within the limits of their individual ability and shall not act in a manner that may contribute to the injury of themselves or any other person.
(6) Because of the inherent risks in the sport of skiing all persons using the ski hill shall exercise reasonable care for their own safety. However, the primary duty shall be on the person skiing downhill to avoid any collision with any person or object below him or her.

(8) Any person on foot or on any type of sliding device shall be responsible for any collision whether the collision is with another person or with an object.

These paragraphs would increase litigation significantly in the state. No other state skier statute places such a great burden on skiers, nor does any other statute reference so many ways to create liability for a skier or boarder who collides with another.

The language of the bill will make it easier to start lawsuits over ski injuries.

Ski areas will probably like the bill because it may stop people from ducking rope closures. However, they will soon come to hate the bill when their costs of sending patrollers to testify at trial for the criminal defendants and the skier v. skier collisions goes through the roof. Add to that the lost time and it can be expensive for the resort to be involved in any litigation, even if the resort is not a defendant.

For an article about the bill see Out-of-bounds skiing bill wouldn’t affect backcountry.

To see the bill:

S-0070.1
SENATE BILL 5186
State of Washington 62nd Legislature 2011 Regular Session
By Senators Kastama, Delvin, and Eide
Read first time 01/17/11. Referred to Committee on Natural Resources & Marine Waters.
AN ACT Relating to skiing in areas closed to skiing; amending RCW 79A.45.030; and prescribing penalties.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF WASHINGTON:
Sec. 1. RCW 79A.45.030 and 1989 c 81 s 3 are each amended to read as follows:
(1) In addition to the specific requirements of this section, all skiers shall conduct themselves within the limits of their individual ability and shall not act in a manner that may contribute to the injury of themselves or any other person.
(2) No person shall:
(a) Embark or disembark upon a ski lift except at a designated area;
(b) Throw or expel any object from any tramway, ski lift, commercial skimobile, or other similar device while riding on the device;
(c) Act in any manner while riding on a rope tow, wire rope tow, j- bar, t-bar, ski lift, or similar device that may interfere with the proper or safe operation of the lift or tow;
(d) Willfully engage in any type of conduct which may injure any person, or place any object in the uphill ski track which may cause another to fall, while traveling uphill on a ski lift; or
(e) Cross the uphill track of a j-bar, t-bar, rope tow, wire rope tow, or other similar device except at designated locations.
(3) Every person shall maintain control of his or her speed and course at all times, and shall stay clear of any snowgrooming equipment, any vehicle, any lift tower, and any other equipment on the mountain.
(4) A person shall be the sole judge of his or her ability to negotiate any trail, run, or uphill track and no action shall be maintained against any operator by reason of the condition of the track, trail, or run unless the condition results from the negligence of the operator.
(5) Any person who boards a rope tow, wire rope tow, j-bar, t-bar, ski lift, or other similar device shall be presumed to have sufficient abilities to use the device. No liability shall attach to any operator or attendant for failure to instruct the person on the use of the device, but a person shall follow any written or verbal instructions that are given regarding the use.
(6) Because of the inherent risks in the sport of skiing all persons using the ski hill shall exercise reasonable care for their own safety. However, the primary duty shall be on the person skiing downhill to avoid any collision with any person or object below him or her.
(7)(a) Any person skiing outside the confines of trails open for skiing or runs open for skiing within the ski area boundary shall be responsible for any injuries or losses resulting from his or her action.
(b) A person shall not ski on a ski slope, trail, or area that is designated by a ski area operator as closed to the public and that has signs posted indicating the closure. Any person who violates the provisions of this subsection commits a civil infraction and is subject to a monetary penalty of up to one thousand dollars.
(i) A member of the national ski patrol who witnesses a violator present in a closed area may conduct an investigation that includes preparation of an incident report form and collection of evidence or witness statements. Information pertaining to the violation may be remitted within seven days to the sheriff of the county in which the violation occurred or to the director of fish and wildlife.
(ii) The sheriff of the county in which the violation occurred or a fish and wildlife officer as defined in RCW 77.08.010 may issue a citation to a person who violates this subsection (7)(b).
(8) Any person on foot or on any type of sliding device shall be responsible for any collision whether the collision is with another person or with an object.
(9) A person embarking on a lift or tow without authority shall be considered to be a trespasser.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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