NJ court holds ski statute stops suit by snowboarding expert for hitting a post

Neustadter v. Mountain Creek Resort, Inc., 2008 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 1584

You hit a post as an expert and expect the resort to be at fault

In this New Jersey decision, the plaintiff sued Mountain Creek Resort for the injuries he sustained when he snowboarded into a piece of PVC pipe holding orange netting. The netting was used to separate two runs, one for experts and one for beginners.

The plaintiff stated he swerved to avoid a cluster of skiers hitting the post. Under New Jersey law a manmade object should be removed as soon as possible, unless necessary for the normal operation of the resort. N.J.S.A. 5:13-3(a)(3)
 
The plaintiff claimed the defendant “plaintiff claimed defendant “negligently, carelessly, and/or recklessly designed, constructed, supervised, operated and/or maintained the premises so as to create and/or allow a dangerous and hazardous condition to exist.” The judge at the trial court level dismissed the plaintiff’s case in the middle of the trial because the plaintiff had failed to prove his case.

The judge had also limited the testimony of the plaintiff’s expert witness because the expert witness had only visited the site once and his opinion included information and photographs that were not relevant to the facts of the case. The plaintiff’s expert did not have experience in running a ski operation so a large part of his opinion on the operation of the resort was also excluded.

After the dismissal the plaintiff appealed where the NJ Appellate court reached this decision finding for the defendant.

Analysis

The analysis of this case is very different. Normally you look at what the defendant did wrong, but what the plaintiff failed to do.

First the plaintiff hired an expert who either was asked or on his own went beyond the parameters of his area of expertise. An expert witness can only testify about what they have expertise either through experience, education or skill has specialized knowledge or expertise in an area. However that area is strictly defined. When an expert offers opinions beyond the area of expertise the court is required to eliminate or restrict the testimony.

Second, to go forward with a case and to ultimately win a decision at the trial court level the plaintiff has to prove all of the points necessary to prove negligence or to prove the statute was violated. Here, when the plaintiff lost the expert witnesses testimony he did not have enough proof to sustain his case.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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