The New York Court found the injuries received by the Plaintiff, there was an inference that the collision was violent.Posted: November 6, 2017
Snowboarder standing at the base of the hill talking was injured when a skier struck here when he could not stop.
State: New York; Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, First Department
Plaintiff: Keri Horowitz
Defendant: Ethan Chen
Plaintiff Claims: Negligence
Defendant Defenses: Inherent Risk
Holding: For the Plaintiff
The entire case resolves around two issues. The inherent risks of skiing do not include standing at the bottom of the hill and getting hit when just talking and the plaintiff’s injuries were so bad; she was obviously hit by the defendant at a high rate of speed.
The facts are best described by the court.
Plaintiff snowboarder was injured when, while standing at the base of a beginner ski slope and speaking with a friend, defendant struck her while skiing at approximately 20 to 30 kilometers per hour. Although there are inherent risks in the sports of skiing and snowboarding, “participants do not consent to conduct that is reckless, intentional or so negligent as to create an unreasonably in-creased risk
Analysis: making sense of the law based on these facts.
A very simple case. When a skier is skiing out of control at a high rate of speed in the beginner area and knows he has limited ability to stop, is he liable if he hits someone standing in the beginner area. This court said yes.
Collisions are an inherent risk of skiing in New York. However, as here, the collision could not be expected. The plaintiff was not skiing, was barely “on the slope” and was still hit by a skier.
Here, the record presents triable issues as to whether defendant had engaged in reckless conduct as he skied into a crowded area at the base of a beginner’s slope, which was at or near a marked safety zone, and that he did so despite his awareness of his limited abilities to safely handle such speed under the snow surface conditions presented.
The court found that those factors possibly gave rise to reckless conduct. Reckless conduct is not an inherent risk of skiing.
The supporting statement the court made about reckless conduct is interesting. The court found the injuries the plaintiff received could also infer the plaintiff was skiing recklessly.
Furthermore, in view of the significant injuries sustained by plaintiff, reasonable inferences may be drawn that she endured a violent collision, which raises an issue as to whether the speed at which defendant was skiing was reckless under the circumstances.
Rarely are the injuries to the plaintiff ruled as indicative of something other than the injuries the plaintiff received unless an expert opines that the injuries could only have occurred by something specific happening. Meaning an expert witness is required to say that an injury that bad meant the defendant was traveling so fast.
So Now What?
It’s really hard to argue with this decision. When you get to the bottom of the hill, you should be slowing down and under control. Here the defendant was not doing either and hit the plaintiff. No one skiing could expect to be hit when standing at the bottom of the ski area. Consequently, a collision like that is not an inherent risk of skiing.
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