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In New York a skier assumes the risk of a collision with another skier.

Whitman et al., v. Zeidman, 16 A.D.3d 197; 791 N.Y.S.2d 54; 2005 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 2505

A quick decision supporting the idea that you assume the risk when engaging in recreational activities.

In this decision, the New York Appellate court (called the Supreme Court of New York) upheld the summary judgment of the lower court. The case was between the plaintiff and two defendants. The plaintiff was injured by the minor defendant while skiing. The first defendant was a minor who was involved in the collision with the plaintiff. The second defendant was the youth organization that brought the minor to the ski area. It is unclear, but one of the parties in the collision was snowboarding.

Summary of the case

The court stated that when engaging in a sport or recreational activity participants consent to those “commonly appreciated risks, which are inherent in and arise out of the nature of the sport generally and flow from such participation….” The court found that the risk of injury from a collision with another skier was an inherent aspect of the sport as based on the New York Ski Statute.

GENERAL OBLIGATIONS LAW
ARTICLE 18. SAFETY IN SKIING CODE
NY CLS Gen Oblig § 18-101 (2011)
§ 18-101. Legislative purpose
The legislature hereby finds that alpine or downhill skiing is both a major recreational sport and a major industry within the state of New York. The legislature further finds: (1) that downhill skiing, like many other sports, contains inherent risks including, but not limited to, the risks of personal injury or death or property damage, which may be caused by variations in terrain or weather conditions; surface or subsurface snow, ice, bare spots or areas of thin cover, moguls, ruts, bumps; other persons using the facilities; and rocks, forest growth, debris, branches, trees, roots, stumps or other natural objects or man-made objects that are incidental to the provision or maintenance of a ski facility in New York state; (2) that downhill skiing, without established rules of conduct and care, may result in injuries to persons and property; (3) that it is appropriate, as well as in the public interest, to take such steps as are necessary to help reduce the risk of injury to downhill skiers from undue, unnecessary and unreasonable hazards; and (4) that it is also necessary and appropriate that skiers become apprised of, and understand, the risks inherent in the sport of skiing so that they may make an informed decision of whether or not to participate in skiing notwithstanding the risks. Therefore, the purpose and intent of this article is to establish a code of conduct for downhill skiers and ski area operators to minimize the risk of injury to persons engaged in the sport of downhill skiing and to promote safety in the downhill ski industry. [emphasize added]

From the statute the court stated, “The risk of injury caused by another skier is inherent in downhill skiing.” The defendant had also submitted evidence that he was not “engage in instances of reckless, intentional or other risk-enhancing conduct not inherent in snowboarding that might have caused the accident” which the plaintiff did not argue.

The minor defendant won the motion for summary judgment because in New York, a collision is an inherent risk of the sport of skiing. Inherent risks are risks that you must accept when participating in a sport.
The defendant youth organization was dismissed because it exercised reasonable care in supervising the youth. The organization arranged for ski lessons, and once the ski lessons were over, told the youth to stay on the bunny slope.

The court also stated, “Furthermore, the actions of the participants interrupted the causal link between National Council’s alleged negligence and plaintiff’s injury.” I’m not sure what this means. However, it would imply that the plaintiff and or defendant did something that removed the defendant’s actions from the control of the defendant organization. There was an intervening action on the part of the defendant, like leaving the bunny slope that removed the defendant youth group for the chain of liability.

So?

The case is very short and easy to read. As wonderful as that is, it also leaves out a lot of facts. You also don’t know how the court arrived at its decision. However, it reinforces the issue of assuming the risk for your own actions. If you engage in a sport or recreational activity, you assume the risks inherent in the sport. Those risks include the risks defined as inherent by a statute.

Do your guests understand the inherent risks of the activity you are presenting to them? Even though you may win a lawsuit, the cost of explaining those risks, through the litigation process is very expensive. It is better to educate your guests in advance about the risks they are going to encounter.

More importantly, when skiers and boarders realize they cannot sue for collisions it will lower the cost to the ski area. Collisions cost the ski area to pay employees to attend depositions and trials, to gather and distribute documents and evidence and to pay for attorneys to help and attend the legal meetings with clients. On a simple case that goes to trial, that amount can easily add up to $50,000 per collision that the ski area spends.
It also provides information for third parties bringing youth to a ski area. Youth need to be supervised in New York. That does not mean constant supervision, but based on the age of the youth, it requires supervision that is appropriate.

Ski lessons and controlling the range the youths were allowed to ski is important and critical here in releasing the defendant youth group from the claims of the plaintiff.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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