Good record keeping proves defendant ski area did not operate lift improperly

Tone v. Song Mountain Ski Center, et al., 37 Misc. 3d 1217A; 2012 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 5136; 2012 NY Slip Op 52069U

Plaintiff’s case is hard to prove when two other people exit the lift properly from the same chair.

Plaintiff was riding a triple lift at the defendant’s ski area with her nine-year-old son and her ex-husband. She became entangled with her son’s skis and remained on the lift after her son, and ex-husband exited the lift. She then exited the lift before the lift hit the safety gate, falling and injuring herself.

A safety gate is a trip mechanism which stops the lift because a rider still on the lift trips it. It is designed to stop the lift if someone fails to exit the lift.

The plaintiff was an experienced intermediate skier. She owned her own skis, and boots had skied more than fifty times and had ridden the lift twice the day she was injured.

After the accident, the plaintiff completed and signed an “incident report form.” The form indicated she had stayed on the lift to allow her son to get off the lift. When she jumped she jumped 6 feet and landed on her left hip.

Prior to the accident, the lift was inspected by the New York Department of Labor and found to be in good condition. The lift met all standards as developed by ANSI (American National Standards Institute). The standards say a triple (obviously fixed grip) chair lift can travel a maximum of five hundred feet per minute (5 miles per hour). This lift was traveling between 400 and 500 feet per minute at the time.

The lift attendant’s daily log was up to date and indicated that everything was operating correctly on the lift. The lift

…fully checked on that date to ensure that all systems were working properly. The stops switches and safety gate were working, the ramps were snow covered and at a proper grade, the phones were working properly and the counter weight on the lift was clear and within normal limits.

One key point the court pointed out was simple. The plaintiff’s husband and son exited the lift with no problems. If the lift was not operating correctly they should have had problems getting off the lift also.

Summary of the case

The court reviewed the defenses and found that nothing was wrong with the lift. The plaintiff did not have an expert witness or any witness who could testify that the lift failed to operate properly. The court quickly dismissed the plaintiff’s claims that the lift failed to operate properly, and the ski area failed to operate the lift properly.

The claims were not supported by the plaintiff with any evidence.

The court looked at the New York statutes concerning skiing GOL §18-102 and GOL §18-104. The NY statute GOL §18-102 covers the duties of passengers who requires a passenger to familiarize themselves with the safe use of any lift prior to using it. GOL §18-104 states

A ski area operator is relieved from liability for risks inherent in the sport of downhill skiing, including the risks associated with the use of a chair lift when the participant is aware of, appreciates and voluntarily assumes the risk.

The court found that the plaintiff failed to comply with the requirements of the skiing code by disembarking at the appropriate location and therefore, assumed the risk of her accident.

The plaintiff’s final argument was a prior case that had been sent back to the trial court because the lift attendant had failed to stop the lift when a mother and son’s ski equipment became entangled. In that case, the court found the son had been yelling and was excited. The plaintiff’s expert witness testified that there was time for the lift attendant to see the child in distress and stop the lift.

Here the court found that no one had indicated to the lift attendant that there were in distress so therefore the lift attendant had no obligation to stop the lift.

So Now What?

The ski area followed all standards and kept great records concerning the lift. The records proved that nothing was wrong with the lift at the time of the accident.

The ski area could prove, through records that it exceeded the requirements or standards for training lift attendants.

Finally, the plaintiff simply failed to present any evidence that the defendant had breached any duty to it.

Simply put, if you have a requirement to keep records, you better do an excellent job of keeping records. The resort’s records were up to date and covered every claim the plaintiff argued.

 

Plaintiff: Christina J. Tone and Steven Tone

 

Defendant: Song Mountain Ski Center and South Slope Development Corp. and their Agents, Servants and Employees, and Peter Harris, Individually and d/b/a Song Mountain Ski Center, and Individually as a member, officer, share-holder and director of South Slope Development Corp. and Song Mountain Ski Center

 

Plaintiff Claims: defendant failed to operate the lift correctly and the lift did not operate correctly and the lift attendants were not properly trained.

 

Defendant Defenses: Lift operated and was designed correctly and plaintiff assumed the risk.

 

Holding: Summary judgment granted for the defendant.

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