Marketing is marketing and Risk Management is not marketing

Every business wants to increase its presence in the community and its business. One way members of the outdoor recreation industry do this is through marketing programs called accreditation.

Accreditation is a process where your business or program has met the necessary requirements that the trade association has created. The accreditation process usually incorporates meeting requirements or in many cases, standards created by the association to gauge whether the business or program should be accredited. If the business or program meets accreditation, then they can advertise that fact to the general public.

Accreditation also has come to mean that once you have achieved a level or completed the requirements and advertised that fact to the general public, the public has the right to expect that level of accomplishment from at all times. That is where accreditation can be as dangerous as it may be beneficial.

In Lesser v. Camp Wildwood, 282 F. Supp. 2d 139; 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16170, a camper was injured when the wind blew a branch out of a tree injuring him. The decision is on a motion in liminae. A motion in liminae is a motion where the judge decides what evidence or witnesses will be allowed to testify or in the trial. The plaintiff argues in the motion that the plaintiff will prove the defendant failed to meet the standards of the American Camping Association (ACA). The defendant camp was an accredited member of the ACA.

The accreditation process required the defendant camp to have an emergency plan for severe storms. The plan called for the campers to move as a group to the dining hall. In this case, a storm came up during a firework works display while the campers were at the waterfront. When the campers were told to leave the area and go to their cabins the plaintiff went a different way placing him in a position to be struck by the branch causing his injuries.

The court in the published decision stated that because the defendant camp “repeatedly claimed that they have complied with ACA standards, and that ACA camps are safer, then” other non-ACA camps. It was important for the plaintiff’s expert to prove that the camp had not followed the ACA standards.

The reason why this case is disturbing is because it set a level of care that was much higher than required under New York law. The defendant camp was located in New York, which is also where the suit was filed. Under New York law, the standard of care for camps was:

schools, camps or similar institutions have a duty to exercise the same degree of care as would a reasonably prudent parent under similar circumstances.”

“…camps, like schools, “are not insurers of safety . . . for they cannot reasonably be expected to continuously supervise and control all movements and activities of students.”

“Organizers of recreational events “owe a duty to exercise only reasonable care to protect participants ‘from injuries arising out of unassumed, concealed or unreasonably increased risks”

“…constant supervision is neither feasible nor desirable because one of the benefits of such an institution is to inculcate self-reliance in the campers which an overly protective supervision would destroy”).”

Because the camp was accredited and held itself out to a higher standard, the court was going to allow testimony that the camp had failed to meet that standard of care that it advertised it met. The camp through its marketing program raised the standard it must meet in court from reasonable supervision and control to constant supervision and control. But for accreditation, the camp would not have been in the position in the lawsuit it found itself.

The definition of accreditation by the Council on Accreditation (COA) is a formal evaluation of an organization against accepted criteria or standards. (http://www.coastandards.org/glossary.php) The COA does not define “standard.” Even if the COA did define standard or if the standards written by the trade association defined the term “standard,” the definition will probably not matter in a court.

The standard of care is the level of acting or not acting that determines if a duty was breached to an injured person. If the duty existed, if the duty was then breached, if there were an injury and damages, a direct result of the breach of duty, then negligence has been proven. Violating a standard of care is then the first step the plaintiff must prove to recover damages from the defendant.

The vast majorities of the lawsuits for injuries are torts, which require the proof of negligence. If the defendants through their marketing program help the plaintiffs prove their cases in lawsuits against them is the marketing program of real value in the long run.

Jury instructions define “standard of care” as “a duty to use that degree of care which a person of similar age, experience and intelligence would ordinarily use under the same or similar circumstances.[1] A reasonable person is not an expert or a committee. It is one person in that situation at that time. That allows the defendant to argue and the jury to understand that no one is perfect and that what may be required in that situation is not the same as you would expect if the world was perfect.

Standards that lead to accreditation create unreasonable expectations that cannot be met or exceed what is legally required on the part of defendants. Lesser is a perfect example of that issue.

How does the jury determine the industry standard? It is presented to the jury by both sides of the litigation. Both the plaintiff and the defendant have the opportunity to argue the appropriate level of care or standard for the situation. This is normally accomplished through expert witnesses. Expert witnesses are people who study or work in the industry that can testify to the standard of care. Although this may seem archaic or costly, it gives the defendant a fighting chance. There is the opportunity to prove that the defendant did not act below the standard of care. It is then up to the jury to apply the facts, decide on the standard and determine if the defendant injured the plaintiff.

In Kearns v. Upper Columbia Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists, CV OC 0500538 4th District, Idaho, the plaintiff hired an expert witness who was an ACA Accreditation Visitor. An ACA Accreditation Visitor is hired by the camp to come to the camp and review the camp to see if the camp qualifies for accreditation. The visitor’s expert witness report listed numerous standards created by the ACA that the defendant camp had violated. The standards the defendant camp allegedly violated in several cases had nothing to do with the claims of the plaintiff. Yet the ACA standards were used to prove the defendant camp had acted in a way that was below the standard of care for a camp.[2]

In Kearns, a person trained by the trade association in its standards, and accreditation process was hired to help defeat a member of the trade association. That was done using the standards created by the association to show the defendant camp was negligent.

Accreditation is not bad if it is understood and used the way it was envisioned: to show that educational institutions have met the minimum requirements to be a good college or university. Accreditation for colleges and universities looks at the facilities, the professors and their degrees and the ratio of professors to students. It evaluates whether or not the college will do a good job of educating students. The accreditation process is not created in a way that a college or university can be held liable to a student if the student is injured on camps. Accreditation done properly does not create a standard of care that a person will be held to in a lawsuit.

In July 1998, Adam Dzialo was permanently injured when he suffered a near drowning in the Deerfield River. He was part of a program fun by the Greenfield Community College. The college had recently undergone an accreditation review by the Association of Environmental Education (AEE). One of the issues the review highlighted was the college did not employ enough instructors in its paddlesports programs. This lack of instructors was a major issue in the lawsuit by the plaintiff to argue the college had not met the standard of care to the plaintiff. The suit settled eventually, but not before litigation was dismissed in state court and filed in federal court and the resulting several years of fees, costs and emotion.

To achieve accreditation, the trade associations have written standards that must be met by the program or business. Standards are the lowest allowable level of acting or not acting that a jury will allow a defendant to do or not do. That means if you act below the standard you have breached a duty of care, if you act above a standard, you have not breached a duty of care. Standards are difficult to write because that level of care changes over time, by location, and by the plaintiff. Standards then are written broadly but interpreted narrowly by the courts.

Standards are also written for all circumstances. Nothing is ever the same, even on paper. The standard of care owed by a program to a five-year-old is different from the standard of care owed to a sixteen-year-old.  The standard of care owed when taking someone down a class, I river is different than the standard of care of taking someone down a Class IV river. However, we all know that river ratings are very subjective.

Think about any outdoor recreation trip or program you have participated in. Has it ever gone exactly as planned? Has everyone shown up exactly on time, arrived at the start when planned and carried all the right gear, and not too much gear? Has the weather always been what was forecasted and never been a problem Have all the participants had a great time, no bad days and no injuries. When you can consistently run your trips exactly as planned then you can apply standards to your trips because you know exactly how things are going to work. Nothing will go wrong that may lower the way the trip is run below the standard of care.

Additionally, the standards created by associations for its members tend to be goals rather than the minimum acceptable level of care. Consider the issues when a defendant is held to a goal as the minimal acceptable level of care in a court. There is no way that any defendant can meet a goal, when sometimes they cannot meet the minimal level of care.

Standards also change. Look at the progression of alpine skis over the past ten years. At one time, a ski 215 centimeters long and slightly wider than your foot was the standard found in most ski shops. Today the longest ski that can be found is 196 centimeters, and some look like water skis rather than skis to be used on snow. Skis used to arc with only the tips and tails touching when the basis of the skis are put together. Now the only part so the skis that touch is the area under the binding and the tips separate by inches. If the ski industry wrote standards for how ski areas are to operate, how fast could they react and update standards for skis that change yearly.

And what if the standard is wrong? Will the trade association show up in court and say they made a mistake the standard is incorrect. A standard that is wrong is still a standard. The plaintiff will argue it is correct, and the defendant will be forced to defend against a standard that they could not meet and is incorrect to begin with.

Research on standards means nothing in court. It does not matter if the standards are written with the best intention, and they are or with the best goals for the members of the association. Courtrooms are not places to test ideas or raise expectations of potential guests. Courtrooms are where decisions about the future of your business or program are made. You do not want some third party group of people, five years in the past, making that decision for you.

Standards don’t allow for experimentation or growth. If the standard does not allow you to try something new or exceeds the standard you are stuck in the past. Many standards soon become the Twilight Zone of an industry because they lag behind the new and better.

Why is accreditation being promoted in an industry? Money. Trade associations are paid a substantial amount of money so that their membership can post their seal of approval in their marketing. This income is a substantial part of the budget, and they will be hard-pressed to replace it. A trade association, that has created standards, is than caught in a financial bind. They must support their standards to maintain their current financial situation.

Litigation is emotional draining, very costly and takes years; and that is if you win. Society seems to be heading towards a situation where any injury should be the responsibility of someone else. If you make that easy for someone to sue you or to win the lawsuit, you have lost the battle before you have opened your doors for business.

Standards are written with no intention of being found in courts of law. However, this brief article points to three cases where the standards created by a trade association are used in court against the people the standards were created to help. It does not matter how much research can be found to support the creation of standards when they become the noose around a trade association member’s neck.

If the defendant is faced with a written standard, the plaintiff says they are violating, the expert witness of the defendant has two issues to prove or maybe the defendant must hire more experts. The first is the standards written by the association are not the standard in the industry. The second then is the standard is different.

Proving the trade association did not write standards is difficult. In most cases, it simply becomes an attack on the association showing it is not everything the association says it is. That the association does not represent the majority of people or business in its industry or that the majority of the membership is not accredited. This is an ugly fight.

Marketing is needed by everyone. On top of that we want our business or program to show we are more than good, that we are the best.

It does not matter how great the benefits of accreditation are, if the program is used to prove you negligent in a court of law. Accreditation may bring you more business; however, the cost of that additional business may not be enough to cover the lost time involved in litigation and increased cost of your insurance. Let alone the time and expense you put into meeting the accreditation.

Marketing makes Promises that Risk Management must pay for.

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[1] CJI-Civ. 9:9 (CLE Ed. 2009)

[2] ACA “Standards” are used by Expert for the Plaintiff in a lawsuit against a Camp, www.recreation-law.com


Marketing Makes Promises that Risk Management (or in this case an insurance policy) must pay for.

The release stopped the claims, which were thought out and tried to exploit the “accreditation” and “standards” created by a third party association.

Squires, v. Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center, 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 9249 (10th Cir. 2013)

Plaintiff: Kimberly N. Squires

Defendant: Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center

Plaintiff Claims:

(1) The Release is as an invalid exculpatory agreement;

(2) Plaintiff’s decision to sign the Release was not voluntary and informed, as required by Colorado Revised Statute Section 13-22-107;

(3) Release was voidable because it was procured through fraud

Defendant Defenses: Release

Holding: for the defendant, the release was upheld

 

This case has been working its way through the courts for five years. The plaintiff was a legally blind child with cerebral palsy and cognitive delays. Her mother signed the necessary documentation to take a trip west with Camp Fire USA. Camp Fire USA contracted with the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC) to provide five days of skiing, a rope’s course and snow tubing.

The plaintiff was in a bi-ski which has an instructor holding tethers behind the skier. The BOEC instructor and the plaintiff were on their second run of the day. A third party skier lost control and skied into the tethers causing the BOEC instructor to lose the tethers. The plaintiff went down the hill unrestrained into a group of trees sustaining her injuries.

The plaintiff sued in Federal District Court located in Denver. A magistrate based upon a motion filed by the defendant dismissed the plaintiff’s negligence claim based on a release signed by the Plaintiff and her mother. The defendant’s motion also argued there was no evidence to support a gross negligence claim, which the magistrate did not deny.

The case proceeded to trial on the gross negligence claim. The jury returned a verdict for the defendant. The plaintiff then appealed the dismissal of the negligence claim based upon the release.

A magistrate is a quasi-judge. Magistrates in the Federal Court System are not appointed by the President and approved by the Senate, as all federal court judges are; but are appointed by the Chief Judge of the Federal District Court. The magistrate’s powers come from specific powers given to the magistrate by the judge who assigns a case to a magistrate or from an overall order from the Chief Judge of the court. Normally, a judge appoints a magistrate to handle all pre-trial matters. This frees up the judge to handle trials and those issues that may be appealed from the magistrate.

Summary of the case

The plaintiff appealed three issues concerning the validity of the release:

(1) the Release is as an invalid exculpatory agreement;

(2) [Plaintiff’s mother’s] decision to sign the Release was not voluntary and informed, as required by Colorado Revised Statute Section 13-22-107; [statute allowing a parent to sign away a child’s right to sue] and

(3) to the extent the Release is otherwise enforceable; it is, nevertheless, voidable because it was procured through fraud.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals went through a fairly in-depth analysis of release law in Colorado in making its decision. The court first looked into the requirements for a release to be valid under Colorado law. Releases are disfavored under Colorado law; however, they are not void. To be valid a Colorado Court must consider four factors:

(1) the existence of a duty to the public;

(2) the nature of the service performed;

(3) whether the contract was fairly entered into; and

(4) whether the intention of the parties is expressed in clear and unambiguous language

It was the fourth factor, whether the intent of the parties is set forth in clear and unambiguous language that is usually at issue. That means the language is clear and understandable so that the plaintiff when reading the document knew he or she was giving up their right to sue or recover for their injuries. The factor does not require the specific use of the word negligence and/or breach of warranty under Colorado law. However, the language of the release must express that the “intent of the parties was to extinguish liability and whether this intent was clearly and unambiguously expressed.”

Colorado courts look at the actual language of the release for “legal jargon” length, complication any likelihood of confusion or failure of the plaintiff to recognize the full extent of the release provisions. The court found that BOEC’s release met all of the requirements and was valid.

The plaintiff argued that the release failed to tell them that the plaintiff would be using a bi-ski and failed to disclose specific risks of this type of adaptive skiing. The court found that Colorado law did not require releases to refer to the specific activity that injured the plaintiff. Rather a release bars a claim if the release “clearly reflects the parties’ intent to extinguish liability for that type of claim.”

Note: the relaxed language allowed under Colorado law is not the same in other courts.

The plaintiff also developed a novel argument, which I have touched on before.

Plaintiff additionally argues the Release is ambiguous because it does not specifically release claims resulting from the negligence of third parties, such as the skier who collided with Plaintiff, and because it inconsistently allocates risks between herself and Defendant.

Many times a third party or even another participant is the reason for the plaintiff’s injury. I write about injured parties suing other guests or third parties, such as skier v. skier collisions. Although the complaint does not name the outdoor recreation provider, specifically as a defendant, it does bring them in tangentially to a lawsuit. Here, the plaintiff argued the release failed because it did not notice the plaintiff of the risks brought to skiing by third parties.

However, the argument was not properly preserved or argued in the lower court so this court did not look at the argument. Appellate courts only will hear arguments that have been heard or argued in the lower court. Brand new arguments are ignored on appeal. It is important to argue everything you can in the lower court, to preserve all issues for appeal. This works both for claims of the plaintiff or defenses of the defendant.

The next argument, was there was not enough information in the release to satisfy the requirements of the statute which allows a parent to sign away a minor’s right to sue (C.R.S. 13-22-107). The plaintiff argued that because the risks of skiing in a bi-ski were not understood by the mother then the release should fail.

The court looked at two prior cases in Colorado that had looked at this issue: Wycoff v. Grace Cmty. Church of the Assemblies of God, 251 P.3d 1260, 1264 (Colo. App. 2010) and Hamill v. Cheley Colo. Camps, Inc., 262 P.3d 945, 952 (Colo. App. 2011) which I discuss in Releases are legal documents and need to be written by an attorney that understands the law and the risks of your program/business/activity and your guests/members/clientele and Release stops suit for falling off horse at Colorado summer Camp.

Because the release did not state the risks of the activity, the court had to decide if it could look at extrinsic (other) evidence. The court in Hamel, allowed the defendant to show that prior experience of the parent in sending her daughter to camp and knowledge of other people who had been injured horseback riding was enough to show the mother knew the risks.

The court then allowed the knowledge of the mother and the letter sent with the release by BOEC to show the mother knew the general risks of skiing.

The final issue was the Fraudulent Inducement claim. The letter said the following:

(1) “All of [Defendant’s] activities are conducted in a manner consistent with the highest standards, as defined by the Association for Experiential Education (AEE)”; (2) “The BOEC is accredited by AEE”; and (3) AEE “independently reviews the policies, practices and educational components of applicant organizations and accredits those that meet their high standards.

The mother made the following statements concerning what she believed based upon the letter.

Rather, she [plaintiff] relies on her mother’s statements that she “believed that BOEC was an accredited program,” and “that they had an [sic] accredited certified instructors that would manage a safe program.”

(“[T]hey were, you know, accredited and certified and they’d been doing it for a number of years.”), 356 (“That she would be with certified accredited people in a safe program that they could supervise appropriately.”).)

Although BOEC may or may not have been accredited by the AEE, the issue was the AEE did not have standards for skiing or adaptive skiing. The plaintiff argued that the letter, on one side of the release contradicted the release which was on the other side of the paper.

Add to the issue that BOEC admitted that it did not have what it advertised.

BOEC representative and Ski Program Director Paul Gamber testified that on the day of the Accident, BOEC did not have any written ski lesson policies and procedures for the adaptive ski program. Ski Program Director, Jeffrey Inouye, testified that the AEE accreditation related to programs other than the adaptive  [*30] ski program that Ms. Squires attended.

Marketing makes promises that Risk Management has to pay for.

The plaintiff argued that there was fraud in the inducement and because BOEC had advertised standards, BOEC did not have. On top of that the plaintiff argued that because BOEC did not have standards as they advertised BOEC was also misleading the plaintiff.

Ms. Squires argues that based upon the lack of written safety standards, “it is not a stretch to conclude that the adaptive skiing program was not conducted in a manner consistent with the highest standards of the AEE, contrary to the representations made by BOEC in its Greetings Letter.”

The letter and marketing of BOEC were enough to establish a fraud claim.

To establish fraud, a plaintiff has to prove that (1) a fraudulent misrepresentation of material fact was made by the defendant; (2) at the time the representation was made, the defendant knew the representation was false or was aware that he did not know whether the representation was true or false; (3) the plaintiff relied on the misrepresentation; (4) the plaintiff had the right to rely on, or was justified in relying on, the misrepresentation; and (5) the reliance resulted in damages.

The release was presented to the plaintiff’s mother along with a “LETTER TO STUDENTS, PARENTS AND GUARDIANS.” The letter made several statements which the plaintiff brought to the attention of the court, which created legal issues that in many courts in other states, would have found for the plaintiff. Some of the parts of the letter were:

All of our activities are conducted in a manner consistent with the highest standards, as defined by the Association for Experiential Education (AEE). The BOEC is accredited by AEE, who independently reviews the policies, practices and educational components of applicant organizations and accredits those that meet their high standards.

Your ski lesson or course will involve risk, which may be greater than most people encounter in their daily lives. Providing high quality programs in a risk-managed environment is a priority at the BOEC. It is, however, impossible to eliminate all risks.

While the BOEC maintains rigorous standards, it is in everyone’s best interest that risks are disclosed, understood, and assumed prior to participation.

The plaintiff could not prove that she had relied on the misstatements of BOEC. On top of the necessary requirement that there be reliance, the fraud or action of BOEC must be intentional.

Ms. Squires has not produced any evidence that BOEC made the alleged misrepresentations with the intent to deceive. For failure to demonstrate this element, Ms. Squires’ argument that the Release is voidable based on material misrepresentation and fraud in the inducement must fail.

Because the fourth element could not be provided the fraud claim was dismissed.

The final argument made by the plaintiff was the actions of BOEC were willful and wanton. The statute Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-22-107(4) specifically prohibited releases signed by parents based to stop willful and wanton conduct.

Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit a parent acting on behalf of his or her child to waive the child’s prospective claim against a person or entity for a willful and wanton act or omission, a reckless act or omission, or a grossly negligent act or omission.

Court defined willful and wanton conduct by relating the conduct to gross negligence.

“Gross negligence is willful and wanton conduct; that is, action committed recklessly, with conscious disregard for the safety of others.” “Willful and wanton conduct is purposeful conduct committed recklessly that exhibits an intent consciously to disregard the safety of others. Such conduct extends beyond mere unreasonableness.” (“Conduct is willful and wanton if it is a dangerous course of action that is consciously chosen with knowledge of facts, which to a reasonable mind creates a strong probability that injury to others will result.”)

However, here again the plaintiff failed to show conduct that was purposeful or reckless. The court found the record was “devoid of sufficient evidence to raise a factual issue” at trial. Finding that the court held that claim was not met by the plaintiff.

So Now What?

The release in this case met the requirements of Colorado law. However, most other states, the release would not have been sufficient to stop the claims of the plaintiff. Besides, few states allow a parent to sign away a minor’s right to sue. See States that allow a parent to sign away a minor’s right to sue.

BOEC does great work and does a good job. This like most facts giving rise to litigation are rare, even very rare. However, your release needs to be written to cover everything you possibly can. You can include a prohibition against injuries or claims caused by third parties. Would the outcome of this case been different if the third party who skied into the tethers been another BOEC student or instructor?

Releases can also be used to educate. If you do a good job of describing the risks in the release, then parents cannot make valid decisions, on whether or not they want to risk your kid with them. The defendant should have done a better job of explaining the risks of all activities within the program.

It is risky to rely upon outside information to prove knowledge of a release, unless you can prove the person saw and knew the information and have that proof in the release. This creates a 2-step process. 1.) You must prove you educated the customer or guest and 2.) You must prove the guest or customer was educated. The easiest way is to place this information on your website and then have your release reference the information.

Marketing makes promises that Risk Management must pay for. The advertising and statements made by the defendant in this case in many other jurisdictions would have gone the other way. Seriously, to make statements about awards, accreditation, or standards that do not exist are a great way to void a release and in many states increase the damages you may pay.

Other Cases: Squires v. Goodwin, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 129234 (Dist Colo 2011)

Other articles where standards played a part in the decision in a negative way.

ACA Standards are used by Expert for the Plaintiff in a lawsuit against a Camp

Expert Witness Report: ACA “Standards” are used by Expert for the Plaintiff in a lawsuit against a Camp

Plaintiff uses standards of ACCT to cost defendant $4.7 million

Trade Association Standards sink a Summer Camp when plaintiff uses them to prove Camp was negligent

 

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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Copyright 2013 Recreation Law (720) Edit Law

Email: Rec-law@recreation-law.com

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Twitter: RecreationLaw

Facebook: Rec.Law.Now

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Squires v. Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center, 715 F.3d 867; 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 9249 (Co Dist 2013)

Squires v. Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center, 715 F.3d 867; 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 9249 (Co Dist 2013)

KIMBERLY N. SQUIRES, Plaintiff – Appellant, v. BRECKENRIDGE OUTDOOR EDUCATION CENTER, Defendant – Appellee.

No. 12-1199

UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE TENTH CIRCUIT

715 F.3d 867; 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 9249

May 7, 2013, Filed

PRIOR HISTORY: [**1]
APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLORADO. (D.C. No.1:10-CV-00309-CBS-BNB).
Squires v. Goodwin, 829 F. Supp. 2d 1062, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 129234 (D. Colo., 2011)

COUNSEL: Michael A. Sink of Perkins Coie LLP, Denver, Colorado (Robert N. Miller and Stephanie E. Dunn of Perkins Coie LLP, Denver, Colorado; Gregory A. Gold of The Gold Law Firm, LLC, Greenwood Village, Colorado; and T. Thomas Metier of Metier Law Firm, LLC, Fort Collins, Colorado, with him on the brief), for Plaintiff – Appellant.
David Werber (John W. Grund, Deana R. Dagner, and Joan S. Allgaier on the brief) of Grund ” Dagner, P.C., Denver, Colorado, for Defendant – Appellee.
JUDGES: Before HARTZ, McKAY, and O’BRIEN, Circuit Judges.
OPINION BY: McKAY
OPINION

[*869] McKAY, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff Kimberly Squires filed this diversity action against Defendant Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center asserting claims for negligence and gross negligence following a ski accident in which she was injured. The magistrate judge granted Defendant’s motion for summary judgment in part, concluding Plaintiff’s mother, Sara Squires, had validly released any claim for negligence against Defendant by signing an acknowledgment of risk and release of liability. Plaintiff now appeals, arguing summary judgment was inappropriate because the Release [**2] is unenforceable for three reasons: (1) the Release is as an invalid exculpatory agreement; (2) Mrs. Squires’s decision to sign the Release was not voluntary and informed, as required by [*870] Colorado Revised Statute Section 13-22-107; and (3) to the extent the Release is otherwise enforceable, it is nevertheless voidable because it was procured through fraud.

Background

In 2008, Plaintiff, a legally blind child with cerebral palsy and cognitive delays, was severely injured while skiing at Breckenridge Ski Resort in Colorado. Plaintiff was in Breckenridge on a ski trip with the group Camp Fire USA, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing children, including children with disabilities, with opportunities and experiences for growth. Camp Fire USA had contracted with Defendant for a five-day wilderness program that included skiing, a ropes course, and snow tubing.

Before the trip, Defendant sent documents regarding the trip to Camp Fire USA, which in turn circulated them to the participants’ parents, including Mrs. Squires. The documents included a “Letter to Students, Parents and Guardians” (App. at 209 (capitalization omitted)) with an accompanying “Acknowledg[]ment of Risk & Release [**3] of Liability” (App. at 210 (capitalization omitted)).1 The Letter states, in pertinent part:

LETTER TO STUDENTS, PARENTS AND GUARDIANS

Greetings from Breckenridge! The BOEC staff looks forward to having you, your child or your family member join us on a course and would like to share the following information about who we are, what we do and the risks involved.

The Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC), a non-profit organization in operation since 1976, provides outdoor adventure programs for people of all abilities. We offer programs for groups and individuals. All courses are tailored to the specific goals and abilities of our students.

. . . .

All of our activities are conducted in a manner consistent with the highest standards, as defined by the Association for Experiential Education (AEE). The BOEC is accredited by AEE, who independently reviews the policies, practices and educational components of applicant organizations and accredits those that meet their high standards. All activities offered are designed to pose appropriate challenges for students. These challenges provide a medium for adventure, learning and personal growth. Your ski lesson or course will involve risk, [**4] which may be greater than most people encounter in their daily lives. Providing high quality programs in a risk-managed environment is a priority at the BOEC. It is, however, impossible to eliminate all [*871] risks. It is very important that you follow all directions given by staff and that you ask questions whenever a procedure or activity is unclear to you.

While the BOEC maintains rigorous standards, it is in everyone’s best interest that risks are disclosed, understood, and assumed prior to participation. After you have reviewed the acknowledg[]ment of risk and waiver of liability on the reverse side of this letter and if you understand and agree with its contents, please sign in the appropriate places. If you are the parent or legal guardian of a student, please read both sides of this document to the student, and if you both agree and understand their content, place YOUR signature in the three appropriate places.

If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact us. We welcome your suggestions and feedback.

(App. at 209.)

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – Footnotes – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

1 It is somewhat unclear whether the Release signed by Mrs. Squires was presented to her as a separate document from the Letter or as a single document [**5] with the Letter printed on one side and the Release printed on the reverse. The Letter itself refers to the Release “on the reverse side of this letter.” (App. at 209.) Plaintiff likewise initially represented the Release appeared on the reverse of the Letter. (Appellant’s Opening Br. at 6 (“On the back of the form cover letter, is a standardized “Acknowledg[]ment of Risk & Release of Liability” . . . .).) However, during oral argument, Plaintiff’s counsel maintained this was a disputed issue. (Oral Argument at 4:03-18 (“Some copies of the Release are standalone copies, and one copy happens to have a bleed-over language from the cover letter. It’s not clear . . . that that’s how that actually occurred when the Release was given to [Mrs. Squires] for signature.”) It is undisputed, however, that the Release the director of Camp Fire USA sent to the participants “included the cover letter that explained the waiver” (App. at 207), and that the two documents were sent as a single attachment (App. at 404, 407, 408).

– – – – – – – – – – – – End Footnotes- – – – – – – – – – – – – –

The accompanying Release provides:

ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF RISK AND RELEASE OF LIABILITY (REQUIRED)

In consideration of being allowed to participate in any way in Breckenridge Outdoor [**6] Education Center (BOEC) programs, and related events and activities . . . I, and/or the minor student, . . . the undersigned:

1. Understand that although the BOEC has taken precautions to provide proper organization, supervision, instruction and equipment for each course, it is impossible for the BOEC to guarantee absolute safety. Also, I understand that I share the responsibility for safety during all activities, and I assume that responsibility. I will make my instructors aware to the best of my ability of any questions or concerns regarding my understanding of safety standards, guidelines, procedures and my ability to participate at any point during any activity.

2. Understand that risks during outdoor programs include but are not limited to loss or damage to personal property, injury, permanent disability, fatality, exposure to inclement weather, slipping, falling, insect or animal bites, being struck by falling objects, immersion in cold water, hypothermia (cold exposure), hyperthermia (heat exposure), and severe social or economic losses that may result from any such incident. I also understand that such accidents or illnesses may occur in remote areas without easy access to medical [**7] facilities or while traveling to and from the activity sites. Further, there may be other risks not known to me or not reasonably foreseeable at this time.
3. Agree that prior to participation, I will inspect, to the best of my ability, the facilities and equipment to be used. If I believe anything is unsafe, I will immediately advise the BOEC staff present of such condition and refuse to participate.
4. Assume all the foregoing risks and accept personal responsibility for the damages due to such injury, permanent disability or death resulting from participating in any BOEC activity.

I hereby release the BOEC, its successors, representatives, assigns, and employees from any and all claims, demands, and causes of action, whether resulting from negligence or otherwise, of every nature and in conjunction with a BOEC activity.

(App. at 210.)

Plaintiff and her mother signed the Release on January 13, 2008. On that date, Mrs. Squires was admittedly aware that her daughter’s trip to Breckenridge and participation in Defendant’s program [*872] would include skiing, although she claims she was unaware of the precise equipment and methods her daughter would be using. Once in Breckenridge, Plaintiff was [**8] paired with a BOEC instructor and equipped with a bi-ski. On the second run of the first day of skiing, Plaintiff was injured when another, unrelated, skier lost control and skied into the tethers connecting Plaintiff and her instructor. The force of the collision caused the instructor to lose control of the tethers, and Plaintiff continued unrestrained down the trail and into a group of trees. She was injured when her bi-ski collided with a tree.

Following the accident, Plaintiff filed this action claiming Defendant’s negligence and gross negligence caused her injuries. Defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing the Release barred Plaintiff’s negligence claim and there was no evidence to support her gross negligence claim. The magistrate judge granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant on Plaintiff’s negligence claim, concluding Plaintiff’s mother had executed an enforceable exculpatory agreement that clearly and unambiguously expressed the parties’ intent to extinguish Defendant’s liability, and her decision to do so was voluntary and informed. The magistrate judge, however, denied Defendant’s motion on Plaintiff’s gross negligence claim. This claim proceeded to a jury, which [**9] found Defendant not liable. Plaintiff now appeals the grant of summary judgment on her negligence claim.

Discussion

HN1Go to this Headnote in the case.“We review a district court’s decision to grant summary judgment de novo, applying the same standard as the district court.” Lundstrom v. Romero, 616 F.3d 1108, 1118 (10th Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted). Summary judgment is appropriate if “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Colorado law applies in this diversity case.

I. Enforceability of the Release

Plaintiff argues the Release is unenforceable and, therefore, does not bar her negligence claim. She reasons that the Release is invalid under the four-part test articulated in Jones v. Dressel, 623 P.2d 370 (Colo. 1981), and that her mother did not make an informed decision, as required by Colorado Revised Statute Section 13-22-107.

A. Validity Under Jones

HN2Go to this Headnote in the case.In Colorado, “[a]greements attempting to exculpate a party from that party’s own negligence have long been disfavored.” Heil Valley Ranch, Inc. v. Simkin, 784 P.2d 781, 783 (Colo. 1989). However, “[e]xculpatory agreements are not necessarily void.” Id. at 784. In [**10] determining whether an exculpatory agreement is valid, Colorado courts consider four factors: “(1) the existence of a duty to the public; (2) the nature of the service performed; (3) whether the contract was fairly entered into; and (4) whether the intention of the parties is expressed in clear and unambiguous language.” Jones, 623 P.2d at 376. Plaintiff challenges only the magistrate judge’s conclusion on the fourth factor.

Under the fourth factor, “use of the specific terms ‘negligence’ and ‘breach of warranty’ are not invariably required for an exculpatory agreement to shield a party from claims based on negligence and breach of warranty.” Heil Valley, 784 P.2d at 785. Rather, “[t]he inquiry should be whether the intent of the parties was to extinguish liability and whether this intent was clearly and unambiguously expressed.” Id. In making this determination, [*873] Colorado courts examine “the actual language of the agreement for legal jargon, length and complication, and any likelihood of confusion or failure of a party to recognize the full extent of the release provisions.” Chadwick v. Colt Ross Outfitters, Inc., 100 P.3d 465, 467 (Colo. 2004).

The Release signed by Plaintiff and her [**11] mother clearly and unambiguously waives any negligence claims Plaintiff might have brought against Defendant. The Release begins by indicating it is signed “[i]n consideration of being allowed to participate in any way in Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC) programs, and related events and activities.” (App. at 104.) It then warns that “it is impossible for the BOEC to guarantee absolute safety,” and identifies the potential risk of “loss or damage to personal property, injury, permanent disability, [and] fatality.” (Id.) The Release concludes, after only five short paragraphs, by stating in plain terms that the signor “hereby release[s] the BOEC, its successors, representatives, assigns, and employees from any and all claims, demands and causes of action, whether resulting from negligence or otherwise, of every nature and in conjunction with a BOEC activity.” (Id. (emphasis added).) We perceive no ambiguity in this language. See Mincin v. Vail Holdings, Inc., 308 F.3d 1105, 1113 (10th Cir. 2002) (“The agreement covers ‘any and all claims I might state . . . including those claims based on negligence or breach of warranty.’ . . . There is nothing ambiguous about this portion [**12] of the agreement.” (first alteration in original)).

Plaintiff, however, contends the Release does not satisfy the fourth Jones factor because it failed to include that Plaintiff would be skiing using a bi-ski and failed to disclose specific risks associated with this form of adaptive skiing. She argues that Colorado law requires the Release to identify the specific activity being engaged in and describe specific associated risks. In support of this position, Plaintiff quotes from several other releases that have been upheld and claims it was their adequate detailing of risks that led the courts to conclude they were valid under the fourth Jones factor. However, even though the releases quoted by Plaintiff contain more detailed descriptions of the associated risks, their validity did not turn on this fact. Notably, none of the cases Plaintiff relies on evaluated the sufficiency of the description of the risks.

Contrary to Plaintiff’s argument, HN3Go to this Headnote in the case.Colorado law does not require that exculpatory agreements refer to the specific activity in which the plaintiff participated and was injured. See Forman v. Brown, 944 P.2d 559, 563-64 (Colo. App. 1996) (concluding a release that did not mention [**13] the specific activity in which the plaintiff was injured was nevertheless valid because it “unambiguously released defendants from liability for injuries occurring during associated scheduled or unscheduled activities”); Brooks v. Timberline Tours, Inc., 127 F.3d 1273, 1274-75 (10th Cir. 1997) (concluding a release that did not include the specific activity and referred only to “the activity I am about to voluntarily engage in” was valid under Jones). Nor does it require “that an exculpatory agreement describe in detail each specific risk that the signor might encounter. Rather, an exculpatory agreement bars a claim if the agreement clearly reflects the parties’ intent to extinguish liability for that type of claim.” Lahey v. Covington, 964 F. Supp. 1440, 1445 (D. Colo. 1996), aff’d sub nom. Lahey v. Twin Lakes Expeditions, Inc., No. 96-1438, 1997 U.S. App. LEXIS 11807, 1997 WL 265093 (10th Cir. May 20, 1997) (unpublished) (citation omitted). The Release clearly reflects precisely such an intent—Plaintiff and her mother agreed, “[i]n consideration of being [*874] allowed to participate in . . . [Defendant’s] programs, and related events and activities” to “release [Defendant] from any and all claims . . . and causes [**14] of action, whether resulting from negligence or otherwise, of every nature and in conjunction with a [BOEC] activity.” (App. at 104.)

Plaintiff additionally argues the Release is ambiguous because it does not specifically release claims resulting from the negligence of third parties, such as the skier who collided with Plaintiff, and because it inconsistently allocates risks between herself and Defendant. Plaintiff raises her first theory of ambiguity for the first time on appeal. Because this argument was not properly preserved, we do not consider it. Lyons v. Jefferson Bank & Trust, 994 F.2d 716, 721 (10th Cir. 1993) (HN4Go to this Headnote in the case.“[A] party may not lose in the district court on one theory of the case, and then prevail on appeal on a different theory.”). Turning then to Plaintiff’s second theory of ambiguity, we agree with the magistrate judge’s conclusion that the Release is not reasonably susceptible to her interpretation, which strains logic. Plaintiff specifically argues the portion of the Release that releases Defendant from liability is rendered ambiguous by the following sentence: “I [**15] understand that I share the responsibility for safety during all activities, and I assume that responsibility.” (App. at 104.) She contends that by “discussing two alternate allocations of risk in the same document, the Release does not clearly and unambiguously express the intent of the parties, and thus, is unenforceable.” (Appellant’s Opening Br. at 23.) However, these two provisions create no such ambiguity. The sentence on which Plaintiff relies clearly expresses the participant’s agreement to share in the responsibility of participating in a safe manner, whereas the release provision clearly expresses the participant’s intent to release Defendant from liability. As the magistrate judge concluded, the two are not mutually exclusive, and the first provision makes it no less clear that Plaintiff’s mother intended to release Defendant from liability for any negligence claim.

Because the Release contains clear and unambiguous language demonstrating Plaintiff’s mother intended to release any negligence claims Plaintiff might have against Defendant, it is valid and enforceable under Jones.

B. Informed Decision Under Colorado Revised Statute Section 13-22-107

We turn then to whether Mrs. [**16] Squires’s consent to the Release was voluntary and informed, as required by Section 13-22-107. Plaintiff argues it was not because her mother did not understand the risks involved with adaptive skiing and, specifically, the use of bi-skis.

In 2002, the Colorado Supreme Court held “that Colorado’s public policy disallows a parent or guardian to execute exculpatory provisions on behalf of his minor child for a prospective claim based on negligence.” Cooper v. Aspen Skiing Co., 48 P.3d 1229, 1237 (Colo. 2002), superseded by statute, Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-22-107(3). The following year, the General Assembly superseded Cooper through enactment of Section 13-22-107(3). Under this section,HN5Go to this Headnote in the case. “[a] parent of a child may, on behalf of the child, release or waive the child’s prospective claim for negligence.” Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-22-107(3). The statute “declare[s] that parents have a fundamental right to make decisions on behalf of their children, including deciding whether the children should participate in risky activities.” Wycoff v. Grace Cmty. Church of the Assemblies of God, 251 P.3d 1260, 1264 (Colo. App. 2010). “So long as the decision is voluntary and informed, the decision should be given [**17] the same dignity as decisions [*875] regarding schooling, medical treatment, and religious education . . . .” Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-22-107(1)(a)(V).

The Colorado Court of Appeals has “assume[d] that the General Assembly was aware of the Jones test when it enacted section 13-22-107(1)(a)(V), but required something more for the waiver of a minor’s prospective negligence claims.” Hamill v. Cheley Colo. Camps, Inc., 262 P.3d 945, 952 (Colo. App. 2011) (citation omitted). In addition to the Jones factors, “[t]he General Assembly required that the consent to waiver by a parent be ‘voluntary and informed.'” Id. “A parent’s decision is informed when the parent has sufficient [*876] information to assess the potential degree of risks involved, and the extent of possible injury.” Id.

Since the enactment of Section 13-22-107, the Colorado Supreme Court has not addressed whether a release satisfies the voluntary and informed requirement of Section 13-22-107(1)(a)(V). We must therefore attempt to predict how Colorado’s highest court would interpret this Section. See FDIC v. Schuchmann, 235 F.3d 1217, 1225 (10th Cir. 2000). In doing so, we “consider . . . cases from the Colorado Court of Appeals only as they may [**18] aid our ability to predict how the Colorado Supreme Court might decide.” Browning v. Am. Family Mut. Ins. Co., 396 F. App’x 496, 502 n.14 (10th Cir. 2010).

The Colorado Court of Appeals has twice considered whether a parent’s consent to release prospective negligence claims on behalf of a minor child was voluntary and informed, as required by Section 13-22-107(1)(a)(V). On the first occasion, the Colorado Court of Appeals determined it “need not set forth . . . precisely how much information is required for a parental release to satisfy the statute” because “[t]here is no information in [the] one-page registration form describing the event activities, much less their associated risks.” Wycoff, 251 P.3d at 1264. There, the plaintiff was injured while being towed in an innertube behind an ATV on a frozen lake as part of her participation in a three-day event called “Winterama 2005.” Id. at 1263. Before attending the event, the plaintiff’s mother signed a one-page registration and information form, which contained a purported release in the following paragraph:

I give permission for my child to participate in . . . Winterama 2005 and all activities associated with it. I further give consent [**19] for any medical treatment necessary to be given to my child in case of injury or sickness. I will not hold Grace Community Church or it’s [sic] participants responsible for any liability which may result from participation. I also agree to come and pick up my child should they not obey camp rules.

Id. (emphasis and correction in original). Although the plaintiff knew the Winterama activities would include riding on an ATV-towed innertube, her mother did not. The court concluded that the mother’s waiver was not informed because the registration and information form did “not indicate what the activities would involve and certainly d[id] not suggest they would include ATV-towed inner-tube excursions around a frozen lake.” Id. at 1264. As a result, there was no information from which the plaintiff’s parents could “assess the degree of risk and the extent of possible injuries” from her participation in Winterama. Id. at 1265.

Shortly after the Wycoff decision, the Colorado Court of Appeals again addressed whether a parent’s consent to release prospective negligence claims on behalf of her child was informed. Borrowing from the language used in Wycoff, the court began by stating, HN6Go to this Headnote in the case.“A parent’s [**20] decision is informed when the parent has sufficient information to assess the potential degree of risks involved, and the extent of possible injury.” Hamill, 262 P.3d at 952 (citing Wycoff, 251 P.3d at 1265). In addressing the degree of risk, the court concluded the plaintiff’s mother was sufficiently informed about the risks involved in horseback riding, the activity in which the plaintiff was injured, because she “knew her daughter would be riding horses and she was advised that there were risks, known and unknown, associated with the activity.” Id. at 953. In reaching this conclusion, the court first relied on the undisputed fact that the plaintiff’s mother “knew the activities [the camp] offered,” because her daughter “had attended [the camp] and ridden the camp horses for two years before the accident.” Id. at 952. In addition, “[t]he agreement clearly indicated that horseback riding was an activity available to campers.” Id. The agreement further identified some of the “risks associated with participation in any camping activities,” and emphasized that “a complete listing of inherent and other risks is not possible” and there are even “risks which cannot be anticipated.” Id. at 949 [**21] (emphasis omitted). The court finally considered the fact that the plaintiff’s mother “never contacted [the camp] to discuss the release form, and had no questions about the language of the release form when she signed it.” Id. at 953. In light of all of this evidence, the court concluded the plaintiff’s mother was adequately informed of the risks involved with horseback riding. The fact that she “may not have contemplated the precise mechanics of her daughter’s fall d[id] not invalidate the release and d[id] not create a genuine issue of material fact.” Id. The relevant inquiry was whether the plaintiff’s mother was aware the plaintiff would be riding horses and was advised there were risks associated with that activity, which she was.

The court then turned to whether the plaintiff’s mother was provided with sufficient information “to assess the extent of possible injuries to [her daughter].” Id. In making this determination, the court again considered both the language of the release and the plaintiff’s mother’s independent knowledge and experience. The release contained broad language waiving “any claims of liability, for any injury, even death.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). [**22] The plaintiff’s mother was further aware that Christopher Reeve, whom she knew personally, had been injured falling off a horse, and was therefore “aware that there were significant risks associated with horseback riding.” Id. The court thus concluded that the agreement adequately disclosed the extent of potential injuries; it “did not need to include an exhaustive list of particularized injury scenarios to be effective.” Id.

Before turning to whether Plaintiff’s mother’s consent to release prospective negligence claims against Defendant was informed, we must first address the scope of the evidence we may consider in making this determination. The Colorado courts have yet to specifically address this issue. In Wycoff, the court “assume[d] for purposes of th[e] case that a facially deficient exculpatory contract could be cured by extrinsic evidence.” 251 P.3d at 1264. Relying on this statement, Plaintiff contends our evaluation under Section 13-22-107(1)(a)(V) must be limited to the four corners of the Release unless we first determine that the Release itself is facially deficient, in which case the Release would be invalid under Jones. Defendant, on the other hand, maintains we may [**23] properly consider the Letter that accompanied the Release as well as Mrs. Squires’s actual knowledge on the day she signed the Release.

[*877] We predict the Colorado Supreme Court would likely follow the approach advocated by Defendant and adopted by the Colorado Court of Appeals in Hamill—in determining whether a parent’s consent to release prospective negligence claims is voluntary and informed, the parent’s actual knowledge and the information provided in connection with the release should be considered in addition to the language of the release itself. Unlike the fourth factor of the common-law Jones test, which focuses on whether the agreement itself expressed the parties’ intention in clear and unambiguous terms, the focus of the voluntary and informed requirement of Section 13-22-107(1)(a)(V) is on the parent’s decision. If we were to limit our review to the language of the Release itself, we would not be in a position to adequately evaluate whether the parent’s decision was informed. HN7Go to this Headnote in the case.To “give[] effect to the General Assembly’s intent in enacting” Section 13-22-107, Carlson v. Ferris, 85 P.3d 504, 508 (Colo. 2003)—that a parent’s decision to release his or her child’s prospective negligence [**24] claims be honored “[s]o long as the decision is voluntary and informed,” Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-22-107(1)(a)(V)—we must be able to consider the relevant information the parent had and was provided in order to make that decision. Indeed, were we to limit our review to the language of the Release itself, it would put the General Assembly’s enactment of § 13-22-107 at odds with Jones. Providers of recreational activities would be required to incorporate all relevant information they supplied to parents within the release itself while simultaneously ensuring the release is not “inordinately long or complicated,” Heil Valley, 784 P.2d at 785. To avoid such a result and give the fullest effect to the General Assembly’s intent, we consider not only the language of the Release, but also the information Defendant provided to Plaintiff and Mrs. Squires in connection with the Release as well as Mrs. Squire’s actual knowledge on the date she signed the Release.

Considering this evidence, we conclude Mrs. Squires’s decision to release Plaintiff’s prospective negligence claims against Defendant was informed. Mrs. Squires had sufficient information from which to evaluate the degree of risk Plaintiff [**25] faced. She admittedly knew “when she signed the document . . . that her daughter was going on a ski trip.” (App. at 139.) The Letter addressed to the students and their parents specifically referred to “[y]our ski lesson” (App. at 209), and the accompanying participant application identified “Sit-Down” and “Bi-ski” as among the “Adaptive Ski Method[s]” (App. at 410) offered by Defendant. The Letter further informed Mrs. Squires that Plaintiff’s “ski lesson . . . will involve risk, which may be greater than most people encounter in their daily lives.” (App. at 209.) The Release reaffirmed that “it is impossible for BOEC to guarantee absolute safety,” and warned that in addition to the “risks during outdoor programs,” including “falling,” “there may be other risks not known . . . or not reasonable foreseeable at this time.” (App. at 210.) After receiving this information, Mrs. Squires did not contact Defendant to discuss the Release and did not inquire as to the risks that were going to be involved with the ski trip. Although Mrs. Squires “may not have contemplated the precise mechanics of her daughter’s fall,” including the precise mechanics of skiing with a bi-ski, this fact “does [**26] not invalidate the release.” Hamill, 262 P.3d at 953. Like the mother in Hamill, Mrs. Squires “knew her daughter would be [skiing] and she was advised that there were risks, known and unknown, associated with the activity.” Id.

Mrs. Squires likewise had sufficient information from which to assess the extent [*878] of possible injuries to Plaintiff. The Release contained broad language releasing “any and all claims,” “of every nature,” “whether resulting from negligence or otherwise.” (App. at 210.) The Release additionally specifically warned of the possibility of “injury, permanent disability, fatality . . . and severe social or economic losses that may result from any such incident.” (Id.) Contrary to Plaintiff’s argument, the Release “did not need to include an exhaustive list of particularized injury scenarios,” such as the possibility of colliding with a tree after the instructor lost control of the tethers, “to be effective.” Hamill, 262 P.3d at 953.

We conclude the Release satisfies both the Jones test and the voluntary and informed requirement of Section 13-22-107 and is, therefore, enforceable.

II. Fraudulent Inducement

Plaintiff argues in the alternative that even if the Release is [**27] enforceable, it should nevertheless be set aside because it was procured through fraud.2 HN8Go to this Headnote in the case.“A release is an agreement to which the general contract rules of interpretation and construction apply. Like any contract, a release procured through fraud can be set aside.” Chase v. Dow Chem. Co., 875 F.2d 278, 281 (10th Cir. 1989) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). To establish fraud, a plaintiff must prove

(1) a fraudulent misrepresentation of material fact was made by the defendant; (2) at the time the representation was made, the defendant knew the representation was false or was aware that he did not know whether the representation was true or false; (3) the plaintiff relied on the misrepresentation; (4) the plaintiff had the right to rely on, or was justified in relying on, the misrepresentation; and (5) the reliance resulted in damages.

Barfield v. Hall Realty, Inc., 232 P.3d 286, 290 (Colo. App. 2010). Furthermore, “[t]he misrepresentation must be made with the intent to deceive.” Club Valencia Homeowners Ass’n, Inc. v. Valencia Assocs., 712 P.2d 1024, 1026 (Colo. App. 1985).

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – Footnotes – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

2 Plaintiff first alluded to this argument in the hearing on Defendant’s motion for summary judgment. [**28] The magistrate judge then allowed supplemental briefing on the issue. In its response to Plaintiff’s supplemental brief, Defendant argued Plaintiff’s late reliance on the fraud defense “is neither proper nor excusable.” (App. at 378.) In its order, the magistrate judge considered Plaintiff’s fraud defense without discussing its timeliness or procedural propriety. Defendant has not argued on appeal that the magistrate judge erred in considering Plaintiff’s argument. We therefore have no occasion to address whether Plaintiff’s belated fraud defense was properly considered in the first instance.

– – – – – – – – – – – – End Footnotes- – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Plaintiff contends the Letter, which accompanied the Release, contained three fraudulent misrepresentations: (1) “All of [Defendant’s] activities are conducted in a manner consistent with the highest standards, as defined by the Association for Experiential Education (AEE)”; (2) “The BOEC is accredited by AEE”; and (3) AEE “independently reviews the policies, practices and educational components of applicant organizations and accredits those that meet their high standards.” (App. at 209.) However, Plaintiff has offered no evidence that statements two and three were false; that is, Plaintiff has [**29] pointed to no evidence that Defendant, generally, was not accredited by AEE or that AEE does not perform the functions described in statement three. Plaintiff’s argument then, hinges on the allegedly fraudulent misrepresentation in the first statement.

Plaintiff maintains the first statement constitutes a fraudulent misrepresentation because AEE does not have standards for [*879] adaptive skiing, and Defendant’s adaptive ski program is therefore at least one activity that is not “conducted in a manner consistent with the highest standards, as defined by [AEE].” (Id.) Accepting, without deciding, that this statement constitutes a fraudulent material misrepresentation, Plaintiff has failed to provide any evidence that Mrs. Squires relied on this misrepresentation in deciding to sign the Release. Plaintiff points to no evidence that Mrs. Squires relied on the representation that Defendant’s adaptive ski program was conducted in a manner consistent with AEE standards. Rather, she relies on her mother’s statements that she “believed that BOEC was an accredited program” (App. at 354), and “that they had an [sic] accredited certified instructors that would manage a safe program” (App. at 357). (See [**30] also App. at 353 (“[T]hey were, you know, accredited and certified and they’d been doing it for a number of years.”), 356 (“That she would be with certified accredited people in a safe program that they could supervise appropriately.”).) These statements, even when viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, do not support her position that Mrs. Squires relied on the representation that Defendant’s adaptive ski program was conducted in a manner consistent with AEE’s standards.3 Notably, Mrs. Squires made no mention of AEE or its standards when discussing her beliefs about Defendant’s program. Because Plaintiff has failed to provide any evidence that Mrs. Squires relied on a material misrepresentation made by Defendant in the Letter, the magistrate judge properly concluded Plaintiff failed to establish Mrs. Squires was fraudulently induced to sign the Release.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – Footnotes – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

3 While Mrs. Squires’s testimony may suggest she believed that Defendant’s adaptive ski program was accredited by AEE, the Letter made no such representation. Rather, this purported representation was inferred by Mrs. Squires from the three statements listed above in connection with the representation that “all courses are [**31] tailored to the specific goals and abilities of [the] students, all activities offered are designed to pose appropriate challenges for students, and the BOEC maintains rigorous standards.” (Appellant’s Opening Br. at 31 (internal quotation marks and brackets omitted).) Mrs. Squires’s misunderstanding of Defendant’s Letter does not excuse her from the consequences of signing the Release. See Shoels v. Klebold, 375 F.3d 1054, 1070 (10th Cir. 2004) (“Misunderstanding, not misrepresentation, was the basis for Appellants’ acceptance, and so they cannot evade the normal limitations on relief from the consequences of their mistake.”).

– – – – – – – – – – – – End Footnotes- – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Conclusion

For the foregoing reasons, we AFFIRM the magistrate judge’s order granting summary judgment to Defendant on Plaintiff’s negligence claim.

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Tough fight on a case, release used to stop all but one claim for a CO ski accident

Squires v. Goodwin, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 129234

But for an outrageous expert opinion, the release would have ended this lawsuit.

This case is a lawsuit against Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC) and two of its employees by a disabled skier. Also sued was the manufacturer of the bi-ski, a device that allows people with no mobility to experience skiing. BOEC is a non-profit that provides tons of great services for people, most of whom are disabled. In this case, the plaintiff was a “legally blind, cognitively delayed, and physically limited by cerebral palsy” minor.

The plaintiff went to BOEC with a group people from Kansas, the Adventure Fitness Program at Camp Fire USA. Before going on the trip the plaintiff’s mother signed the necessary documents, including a release and reviewed the marketing and other information provided to her. Upon arrival, the plaintiff was taken to Breckenridge Ski Area with two BOEC employees. She was skiing in a bi-ski with the two defendant skiers. One was a lookout or later termed blocker in the case and one held tethers, which controlled the bi-ski.

On the second run, the three were skiing down a blue or intermediate ski run. A third party not part of the suit lost control and skied between the defendant employee and the bi-ski into the tethers. This separated the BOEC employee from the bi-ski. The bi-ski proceeded down the ski slope, out of control hitting a tree. The injuries to the plaintiff were not described.

The plaintiff through her mother sued the bi-ski manufacture, BOEC and the two BOEC employees. The plaintiff claimed four counts of negligence per se because of violations of the Colorado Skier Safety Act against the defendant employee who was holding the tethers. (To see a definition of Negligence Per Se under Colorado law see Instructional Colorado decision Negligence, Negligence Per Se and Premises Liability.) The plaintiff argued another claim sounding in “negligence, willful and wanton, reckless, and/or gross negligence” against BOEC. The remaining claims were against the manufacturer of the bi-ski which was dismissed in another action not the subject of this opinion.

This motion was a motion for Summary Judgment filed by BOEC to eliminate the fifth claim, the negligence, willful and wanton, reckless, and/or gross negligence of BOEC.

Validity of a Release for a minor signed by a parent under the CO Statute

The court first looked at the requirements for a release signed by a parent to be upheld under Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-22-107, generally that the parent’s signature must be voluntary and informed. Prior to this decision, the only case that has taken a look at this issue was Wycoff v. Grace Community Church of the Assemblies of God, 251 P.3d 1260, 1277 (Colo. App. 2010) which I reviewed in Releases are legal documents and need to be written by an attorney that understands the law and the risks of your program/business/activity and your guests/members/clientele.

In Wycoff, the release signed by the mother for the child was not upheld. The Wycoff release only had one sentence referring to releasing any claims. Here, the BOEC release had a minimum of six paragraphs informing the plaintiff’s mother that she was waiving her daughter and her legal rights.

Colorado law does not require the specific use of the word negligence in a release. However, all Supreme Court decisions to date had some language referencing waiving personal injury claims based on the activity the release covered.

The court concluded that the plaintiff’s mother signed a document that was clearly identified as a release, and thus she signed it voluntarily.

The court then looked at the release to see if it informed the plaintiff’s mother of the risks of the activity. The release had one full page that explained in detail the degree of risk involved in the BOEC programs. On top of that, the plaintiff’s mother had called and talked to the staff at BOEC as well as the staff of Adventure Fitness Program at Camp Fire USA that was taking her daughter on the trip.

After all of this, the plaintiff’s mother the court concluded was informed of the risks of the trip and the activity.

Validity of the Release

The court started by reviewing the Colorado requirements on how a release will be reviewed under Colorado law. This is fairly standard in all legal decisions.

Exculpatory agreements are construed strictly against the party seeking to limit its liability.” Hamill v. Cheley Colorado Camps, Inc.,     P. 3d    , 2011 Colo. App. LEXIS 495, 2011 WL 1168006, (Colo. App. March 31, 2011) (Reviewed here in Release stops suit for falling off horse at Colorado summer Camp.)

The determination of the sufficiency and validity of an exculpatory agreement is a question of law for the court to determine. B & B Livery, Inc. v. Riehl, 960 P.2d 134, 136 (Colo. 1998)

Although an exculpatory agreement that attempts to insulate a party from liability for his own simple negligence” is disfavored, “it is not necessarily void as against public policy . . . as long as one party is not at such obvious disadvantage in bargaining power that the effect of the contract is to put him at the mercy of the other’s negligence. Chadwick v. Colt Ross Outfitters, Inc., 100 P.3d 465, 467 (Colo. 2004)

To be effective, the release must meet four criteria: (i) there must not have been an obvious disparity in bargaining power between the releasor and releasee; (ii) the agreement must set forth the parties’ intentions in clear and unambiguous language; (iii) the circumstances and the nature of the service must indicate that the agreement was fairly entered into; and (iv) the agreement may not violate public policy. Robinette, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34873, 2009 WL 1108093

BOEC bears the burden of proving each of these elements

The court then went through each of the four steps to make sure this release met the requirements.

(i) there must not have been an obvious disparity in bargaining power between the releasor and releasee;

(ii) the agreement must set forth the parties’ intentions in clear and unambiguous language;

(iii) the circumstances and the nature of the service must indicate that the agreement was fairly entered into; and

(iv) the agreement may not violate public policy

Other courts had found that recreation services are not essential services and there is no unfair bargaining advantage in these types of services. Those recreational services in Colorado where courts had made this decision included mountain biking, bicycle rental, skydiving, handicapped downhill ski racing, and rental of ski equipment.

The issue of whether the party’s intentions are clear and unambiguous requires a review of the document. To do that the court looked at the requirements for a contract in general. (A release is a contract, an agreement between two parties with consideration flowing between the parties.) “Interpretation of a written contract and the determination of whether a provision in the contract is ambiguous are questions of law.“

In determining whether a provision in a contract is ambiguous, the instrument’s language must be examined and construed in harmony with the plain and generally accepted meanings of the words used, and reference must be made to all the agreement’s provisions.

The meaning and effect of a contract is to be determined from a review of the entire instrument, not merely from isolated clauses or phrases.

Here, the release was written in simple and clear terms that were free from legal jargon, not inordinately long and/or complicated. Finally, the fact that the plaintiff’s mother indicated she understood the release satisfied this requirement.

The third requirement requires that the contract be fairly entered into. That means that one party is not so obviously disadvantaged that they are at the mercy of the other party. Because recreational activities are not essential services, and those services can be found through other parties who offer them this requirement is always met in the recreational setting. Essential services are those necessary for life. Examples are public transportation, utilities or food.

The last requirement is that the release does not violate public policy. This means that the release does not waive a duty of BOEC’s which cannot be waived. Again, recreational services do not make up a public policy or violate a public policy. In fact, under Colorado law, the public policy is to support recreational activities and thus have parent’s sign releases.

The expressed public policy in Colorado is “to encourage the affordability and availability of youth activities in this state by permitting a parent of a child to release a prospective negligence claim of the child against certain persons and entities involved in providing the opportunity to participate in the activities. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-22-107(1)(a)(VI)

Was there a Material Misrepresentation or Fraud in the Inducement in the relationship between the plaintiff and her mother and the defendant BOEC.

or

Marketing makes promises that Risk Management must pay for.

A release is voidable if it was secured based on a material misrepresentation or fraud in the inducement. Here, the plaintiff argued that BOEC claimed it met the highest standards of the Association of Experiential Education (AEE), which it did not. The plaintiff claimed that BOEC claimed that it was accredited by AEE when it was not, and it met the standards of AEE for adaptive ski programs when there was not any standard for that program.

BOEC stated that at the time of the accident, BOEC did not have any written ski lesson policies and procedures for the adaptive ski program. BOEC also admitted that at the time of the accident the accreditation was for other programs of BOEC, and that AEE did not accredit adaptive ski programs.

Based on these two representations, the plaintiff then argued that BOEC misrepresented itself to the plaintiff.

To establish fraud, a plaintiff has to prove that

(1) a fraudulent misrepresentation of material fact was made by the defendant;

(2) at the time the representation was made, the defendant knew the representation was false or was aware that he did not know whether the representation was true or false;

(3) the plaintiff relied on the misrepresentation;

(4) the plaintiff had the right to rely on, or was justified in relying on, the misrepresentation; and

(5) the reliance resulted in damages.

Here, the plaintiff could not prove that it relied on the misrepresentations of the BOEC and that the reliance was justified. The court did not find that BOEC had not misrepresented itself or its credentials. The court found the plaintiff had not proven reliance the final step needed to prove fraud.

The court also found that BOEC had not misrepresented the facts to the extent needed to be an intentional fraudulent misrepresentation.

At the time, BOEC followed the adaptive ski standards of the Professional Ski Instructors of America, (PSIA). BOEC was accredited by AEE for its other programs. The letter which had the critical information in it about standards, and accreditation was a letter used for all BOEC programs.

Was the conduct of the parties Willful and Wanton rising to the level of Gross Negligence?

This is always an issue when a release is signed because if the actions of the defendant rise to this level than the release cannot be used to stop claims for gross negligence or intentional acts.

“Gross negligence is willful and wanton conduct; that is, action committed recklessly, with conscious disregard for the safety of others.”  

The court then reviewed the opinion of the plaintiff’s expert witness. His report labeled the BOEC program as inherently unsafe and went on from there. (See Come on! Expert’s will say anything sometimes.)

Based on the expert witness report, the court did not dismiss the last claim of the plaintiffs for gross negligence. The opinion of the expert raised enough facts to create an issue that could not be decided by the court.

All but this final claim was dismissed by the court.

A well-written  release in this case almost won the day; it definitely took a lot of fight out of the plaintiff’s case. The only issue the release could not beat was an outrageous opinion by the plaintiff’s expert witness.

So Now What?

1.       Don’t make the court look for a clause to support your release. Put in the release the magic word negligence and that the signor is giving up their legal rights for any injury or claims based on your negligence. Here, the court was able to find six paragraphs that did the same thing. You can eliminate a few paragraphs if you are up front and honest. You are giving up your right to sue me for any claim or loss based on my negligence.

2.      Identify your document as a release. The court based its decision upholding the release based on the language in the release, and because it was labeled a release.

3.      If you communicate with a client in advance of the activity about the risks or the release, make a note of it. This again was important to the court in proving the mother was not misled and knew what she was signing.

4.      Besides specifically informing the signor of the fact they are giving up their right to sue, your release needs to point out the risks of your activity. Here, the court points out the page long list of risks as important in upholding the release. Too many releases do not include the risks.

5.       Make it easy for your guests to contact you and ask questions about your release, your activity and the risks. Again, the court pointed this out as a specific issue that was important in the court finding for the defendant in this case.

6.      The burden on proving that the release meets the requirements needed in a specific state is on the defendant. Consequently, it behooves the defendant recreation provider to place those requirements in the release so the plaintiff, upon signing, helps prove the document is valid.

7.       Marketing sinks more ships in the outdoor recreation industry than injuries. Make sure your marketing matches who you are and what you do, and that you are not misrepresenting who you are and what you can do. In this case, BOEC escaped a disaster with its marketing of standards and accreditation that either did not exist, or that it did not have.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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Squires v. Goodwin, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 129234

Squires v. Goodwin, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 129234

Kimberly N. Squires, by and through her Guardian and Natural Parent, LYLE K. Squires, Plaintiff, v. James Michael Goodwin, an individual, Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center, a Colorado corporation, and Mountain Man, Inc., a Montana corporation, Defendants.

Civil Action No. 10-cv-00309-CBS-BNB

United States District Court For The District Of Colorado

2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 129234

November 8, 2011, Decided

November 8, 2011, Filed

Prior History: Squires v. Goodwin, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 128565 (D. Colo., Nov. 7, 2011)

CORE TERMS: ski, bi-ski, skiing, misrepresentation, willful, reckless, citations omitted, exculpatory, deposition, wanton, trip, instructor, adaptive, omission, outdoor, summary judgment, wilderness, public policy, bargaining, mountain, knot, recreational, disability, recklessly, daughter’s, sit-down, entity, lesson, negligence claim, precautions

COUNSEL: [*1] For Kimberly N. Squires, by and through her guardian and natural parent, Lyle K. Squires other, Lyle K. Squires, Plaintiff: Colleen M. Parsley, LEAD ATTORNEY, Gregory A. Gold, Gold Law Firm, L.L.C, Greenwood Village, CO; Richard Waldron Bryans, Jr., Bryans Law Office, Denver, CO.

For James Michael Goodwin, an individual, Defendant: Gary L. Palumbo, Bayer & Carey, P.C., Denver, CO.

For Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center, a Colorado corporation, Defendant: Deana R. Dagner, Joan S. Allgaier, John W. Grund, Grund Dagner, P.C., Denver, CO.

JUDGES: Craig B. Shaffer, United States Magistrate Judge.

OPINION BY: Craig B. Shaffer

OPINION

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This civil action comes before the court on Defendant Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center’s (BOEC’s) Motion for Summary Judgment (filed December 3, 2010) (Doc. # 52). On September 16, 2010, the above-captioned case was referred to Magistrate Judge Craig B. Shaffer to handle all dispositive matters including trial and entry of a final judgment in accordance with 28 U.S.C. 636(c), Fed. R. Civ. P. 73, and D.C. COLO. LCivR 72.2. (See Doc. # 42). The court has reviewed the Motion, Ms. Squires’ Response (filed January 6, 2011) (Doc. # 56), BOEC’s Reply (filed January [*2] 24, 2011) (Doc. # 61), BOEC’s Notice of Supplemental Authority (filed April 18, 2011) (Doc. # 76), Ms. Squires’ Response to BOEC’s Notice of Supplemental Authority (filed May 12, 2011) (Doc. # 81), Ms. Squires’ Reply Memorandum Brief Regarding Misrepresentation (filed May 30, 2011) (Doc. # 84), BOEC’s Surreply Brief regarding Misrepresentation (filed June 6, 20110) (Doc. # 89), the affidavit, the exhibits, the arguments presented at the hearing held on July 20, 2011, and the entire case file and is sufficiently advised in the premises.

I. Statement of the Case

Ms. Squires’ claim against BOEC arises out of a ski accident (“the Accident”) that occurred at Breckenridge Ski Resort, Colorado on February 13, 2008. BOEC is a nonprofit Colorado corporation that provides outdoor experiences for people with disabilities. (See SAC (Doc. # 13) at 2-3, ¶ 6; Scheduling Order (“SO”) (Doc. # 40) at 7 of 15 (Undisputed Facts)). At all relevant times, Ms. Squires was 17 years old, legally blind, cognitively delayed, and physically limited by cerebral palsy. (See SAC at 1-2, ¶ 2).

BOEC employed Jennifer Phillips as a para-ski instructor at the time of the Accident. (See SO at 7 of 15). On the morning of [*3] the Accident, Ms. Squires was paired with Ms. Phillips and placed in a bi-ski. (See id.). The bi-ski was manufactured by Defendant Mountain Man. (See id.). Ms. Phillips and Ms. Squires went to Peak 9 at Breckenridge Ski Resort. (See id.). Ms. Phillips utilized tethers as a means to control the bi-ski. (See SAC at 5 of 13, ¶ 16). On their second run, Ms. Squires and Ms. Phillips skied down Cashier trail. (See SO at 7 of 15). Defendant Goodwin was also skiing down Cashier trail. (See id.). Defendant Goodwin lost control and skied into the tethers between Ms. Squires and Ms. Phillips. (See Goodwin Deposition, Exhibit B to Motion (Doc. # 52-2), at 2, 3 of 3). Due to the force of the collision with Defendant Goodwin, Ms. Phillips lost control of the tethers and the bi-ski containing Ms. Squires continued down Cashier trail unrestrained until it collided with a tree. (See SAC at 5 of 13, ¶ 19; BOEC’s Answer to SAC (Doc. # 27) at 2-3 of 8, ¶ 12). Ms. Squires was injured when the bi-ski collided with a tree. (See SO at 7 of 15).

Ms. Squires filed her initial Complaint on February 12, 2010, alleging five claims for relief against Defendants Goodwin and BOEC based on diversity of citizenship [*4] jurisdiction. (See Doc. # 1). She filed her First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) on April 15, 2010, alleging nine claims for relief against Defendants Goodwin, BOEC, and Mountain Man, Inc. (“Mountain Man”). (See Doc. # 5). Ms. Squires refiled her First Amended Complaint on April 19, 2010 pursuant to a request from the Clerk of the Court. (See Doc. # 11). Ms. Squires filed her Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”), the current operative pleading, on June 2, 2011, alleging nine claims against Defendants Goodwin, BOEC, and Mountain Man. (See Doc. # 13). Ms. Squires’ First, Second, Third, and Fourth Claims for Relief allege negligence per se under the Ski Safety Act, Colo. Rev. Stat. § 33-44-109(2) and common law negligence against Defendant Goodwin. (See Doc. # 13 at 6-7 of 13). Ms. Squires’ Fifth Claim for Relief alleges negligence, willful and wanton, reckless, and/or gross negligence against Defendant BOEC. (See id. at 8-9 of 13). The court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant Mountain Man on Ms. Squires’ Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Claims for Relief for strict products liability, breach of implied warranty of fitness and/or merchantability, common law negligence, and breach [*5] of express warranty. (See id. at 9-12 of 13; “Order on Pending Motions” (Doc. # 119)).

Defendant BOEC moves for summary judgment on the Fifth Claim for Relief in the SAC on the grounds that Ms. Squires is prevented from bringing the claim by a valid release of liability.

II. Standard of Review

“Pursuant to Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the court may grant summary judgment where the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the . . . moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Montgomery v. Board of County Commissioners of Douglas County, Colorado, 637 F. Supp. 2d 934, 939 (D. Colo. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). “When applying this standard, the court must view the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment.” Id. “All doubts must be resolved in favor of the existence of triable issues of fact.” Id. However, if a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party’s assertion [*6] of fact, “the court may . . . grant summary judgment if the motions and supporting materials — including the facts considered undisputed — show that the moving party is entitled to it.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e).

III. Analysis

A. Release of Negligence Claim under Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-22-107

Prior to the Accident, on January 13, 2008, Ms. Squires and her mother, Mrs. Squires, signed an “Acknowledgement [sic] of Risk and Release of Liability” (“Release”). In Colorado, the parent of a child may, on behalf of the child, release or waive the child’s prospective claim for negligence. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-22-107. The statute requires that such a decision be “voluntary and informed.” Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-22-107(1)(a)(V).

(1)(a) The general assembly hereby finds, determines, and declares it is the public policy of this state that:

(I) Children of this state should have the maximum opportunity to participate in sporting, recreational, educational, and other activities where certain risks may exist;

(II) Public, private, and non-profit entities providing these essential activities to children in Colorado need a measure of protection against lawsuits, and without the measure of protection these entities [*7] may be unwilling or unable to provide the activities;

(III) Parents have a fundamental right and responsibility to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children. The law has long presumed that parents act in the best interest of their children.

(IV) Parents make conscious choices every day on behalf of their children concerning the risks and benefits of participation in activities that may involve risk;

(V) These are proper parental choices on behalf of children that should not be ignored. So long as the decision is voluntary and informed, the decision should be given the same dignity as decisions regarding schooling, medical treatment, and religious education; and

(VI) It is the intent of the general assembly to encourage the affordability and availability of youth activities in this state by permitting a parent of a child to release a prospective negligence claim of the child against certain persons and entities involved in providing the opportunity to participate in the activities.

. . .

(3) A parent of a child may, on behalf of the child, release or waive the child’s prospective claim for negligence.

(4) Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit [*8] a parent acting on behalf of his or her child to waive the child’s prospective claim against a person or entity for a willful and wanton act or omission, a reckless act or omission, or a grossly negligent act or omission.

Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-22-107.

“Because waiver is an affirmative defense, the Defendant has the burden to prove waiver.” Wycoff v. Grace Community Church of the Assemblies of God, 251 P.3d 1260, 1277 (Colo. App. 2010) (Furman, J, dissenting) (citing C.R.C.P. 8(c)). Ms. Squires argues that BOEC is not entitled to summary judgment on the Fifth Claim for Relief based on the Release because her mother’s decision to sign the Release was not informed.1 Relying on Wycoff, 251 P.3d at 1260, Ms. Squires argues that the decision was not informed because the Release did not inform Mrs. Squires of the risks associated with BOEC’s winter program, failing to “mention skiing, skis, ski slopes, ski lifts, or anything at all specific to skiing.” (See Response (Doc. # 56) at 9 of 19).

1 Ms. Squires concedes that Mrs. Squires signed the Release voluntarily. (See, e.g., Doc. # 84-4 at 6 of 7).

In Wycoff, a 17-year old minor attending a church-sponsored event was injured when she was riding [*9] on an inner-tube towed by an ATV on a frozen lake. Wycoff, 251 P.3d at 1263. The minor and her mother had signed the registration and information form that contained a release. Id. While the minor was aware that riding on an inner-tube towed by an ATV on a frozen lake would be an activity at the event, her mother was not. Wycoff, 251 P.3d at 1263. The court in Wycoff interpreted § 13-22-107(3) to require that a parent’s decision to release a child’s prospective claims be “voluntary and informed.” Id. Although the court noted the standard for informed consent to a medical procedure, it did not adopt that standard for a parental release of claim. Wycoff, 251 P.3d at 1264. Without setting forth precisely how much information is required for a parental release to be “voluntary and informed,” the court held that a one-page “registration and information” form, which happened to contain one sentence in the last paragraph stating, “I will not hold Grace Community Church or it’s [sic] participants responsible for any liability which may result from participation,” was legally insufficient to release a child’s negligence claim. Id. at 1265. The court agreed that “[a] release need not contain [*10] any magic words to be valid,” but recognized that “in every Colorado Supreme Court case upholding an exculpatory clause, the clause contained some reference to waiving personal injury claims based on the activity being engaged in.” Wycoff, 251 P.3d at 1265. The “registration and information” form held inadequate in Wycoff made no reference to the subject activity or to waiving personal injury claims, nor did it provide parents with information allowing them to assess the degree of risk and the extent of possible injuries from any activity. Id.

The Release here provides in pertinent part:

In consideration of being allowed to participate in any way in Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC) programs, and related events and activities. . . I, and/or the minor student, and/or the person for which I am legal guardian, the undersigned:

1. Understand that although the BOEC has taken precautions to provide proper organization, supervision, instruction and equipment for each course, it is impossible for the BOEC to guarantee absolute safety. Also, I understand that I share the responsibility for safety during all activities, and I assume that

2. Understand that risks during outdoor programs [*11] include but are not limited to loss or damage to personal property, injury, permanent disability, fatality, exposure to inclement weather, slipping, falling, insect or animal bites, being struck by falling objects, immersion in cold water, hypothermia (cold exposure), hyperthermia (heat exposure), and severe social or economic losses that may result from any such incident. I also understand that such accidents or illnesses may occur in remote areas without easy access to medical facilities or while traveling to and form the activity sites. Further, there may be other risks not known to me or not reasonably foreseeable at this time.

3. Agree that prior to participation, I will inspect, to the best of my ability, the facilities and equipment to be used. If I believe anything is unsafe, I will immediately advise the BOEC staff present of such condition and refuse to participate.

4. Assume all the foregoing risks and accept personal responsibility for the damages due to such injury, permanent disability or death resulting from participating in any BOEC activity.

I hereby release the BOEC, its successors, representatives, assigns, and employees from any and all claims, demands, and causes [*12] of action, whether resulting from negligence or otherwise, of every nature and in conjunction with a BOEC activity.

(See Exhibit A to Motion (Doc. # 52-1)). On the other side of the Release was a letter of explanation (“Greetings Letter”) that the court may consider as evidence of whether the decision to sign the Release was informed. (See id. at 4 of 5; Deposition of Sara Squires, Appendix 4 to Ms. Squires’ Reply (Doc. # 84-4) at 3 of 7). See Wycoff, 251 P.3d at 1264 (“We will assume for purposes of this case that a facially deficient exculpatory contract could be cured by extrinsic evidence.”); Glover v. Innis, 252 P.3d 1204, 1209 (Colo. App. 2011) (extrinsic evidence permitted not to contradict or vary terms of an agreement, but to show waiver of a provision of the agreement). The Greetings Letter stated in pertinent part:

Your ski lesson or course will involve risk, which may be greater than most people encounter in their daily lives. Providing high quality programs in a risk-managed environment is a priority at the BOEC. It is, however, impossible to eliminate all risks. It is very important that you follow all directions given by staff and that you ask questions whenever a procedure [*13] or activity is unclear to you.

While the BOEC maintains rigorous standards, it is in everyone’s best interest that risks are disclosed, understood, and assumed prior to participation. After you have reviewed the acknowledgement of risk and waiver of liability on the reverse side of this letter and if you understand and agree with its contents, please sign in the appropriate places. If you are the parent or legal guardian of a student, please read both sides of this document to the student, and if you both agree and understand their content, place YOUR signature in the three appropriate places[.]

(See Doc. # 61-1 at 4 of 5).

A finding that Mrs. Squires’ decision to sign the Release was informed is not inconsistent with the analysis in Wycoff, 251 P.3d at 1260. First, the release in Wycoff was one sentence that “state[d] only that plaintiff will not hold Grace ‘responsible for any liability which may result from participation,'” surrounded by sentences addressing different topics. Here, the Release was clearly entitled at the top “Acknowledgement [sic] of Risk and Release of Liability,” in large, italicized letters. (See Doc. # 52-1). The first sentence again states, “ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF [*14] RISK AND RELEASE OF LIABILITY (REQUIRED)” in capital letters and underlined. Id. The Release signed by Ms. Squires was clearly identified as a waiver and release of liability.

Second, the Release includes one full page that explains in detail the degree of risk involved with BOEC outdoor programs, events, activities, and/or courses; the extent of possible injuries from any activity, including injury, permanent disability, fatality, and other risks not known or not reasonably foreseeable; participation in activities and the use of equipment; and the release of BOEC from any all and claims, whether resulting from negligence or otherwise. (See Doc. # 52-1). Ms. Squires was a participant in a BOEC winter outdoor program that included skiing. The Release refers to outdoor programs and sets forth a detailed explanation of the possible risks of injury to property and person. (See id.).

It is conceded that when she signed the Release, Mrs. Squires knew that her daughter would be skiing during her trip to Colorado. (See Doc. # 56 at 10 of 19). Nevertheless, Ms. Squires argues that the Release did not provide any, much less adequate, information regarding the inherent risks of skiing or describe [*15] the particular risks of the sit-down ski that she used and that it would be controlled by her instructor with tethers. Ms. Squires provides an affidavit from Mrs. Squires stating that, in response to her telephone inquiry, a BOEC employee instructed her to mark “Sit-Down” and “Bi-Ski” on the “Wilderness/Ski Group Information” Form, and that no one from BOEC explained to her what a “Sit-Down” or “Bi-Ski” was. (See Affidavit of Sara A. Squires, Exhibit 1 to Response (Doc. # 56-1); Doc. # 84-4 at 5 of 7).

Mr. and Mrs. Squires were provided the BOEC forms and applications to be completed in advance of the trip, including the Release, by Andrea Breier, Director of the Adventure Fitness Program at Camp Fire USA at the time, the group that organized the ski trip that Ms. Squires attended. (See Affidavit of Andrea Breier, Exhibit D to Reply (Doc. # 61-1) at 1-2 of 5). Mrs. Squires had opportunities to ask questions about the ski trip and the forms before her daughter’s trip to Colorado. (See id. at 2 of 5). Ms. Breier specifically recalls explaining to Mrs. Squires that Ms. Squires would be seated when skiing, that BOEC uses sleeping bags to pad the bucket seat, that students in wheelchairs [*16] have two assistants helping them, and that the instructor uses guide ropes to steer the ski down the mountain. (See id.). Mrs. Squires knew that her daughter would be using some form of sit-down ski on this trip because her primary means of mobility was by wheelchair and she would not have been able to ski down the mountain standing up. (See id.). Mrs. Squires completed the BOEC application and Release and provided Ms. Breier a typewritten summary that explained Ms. Squires’ conditions, limitations, and medical needs. (See Doc. # 61-1 at 2 of 5, ¶ 11). Mrs. Squires also wrote a detailed letter to BOEC, stating in pertinent part:

Sometimes during activities such as skiing, kids who have an implanted baclofen pump can experience withdrawal.2 If she is in a “bucket”/”basket” type ski, where she might be more scrunched up, or her body is more compressed down, then the catheter line can become pinched or kinked up. If they use the bucket type, then her rehab doctor recommends that she ski for about 2 hrs and then be allowed to stand up to help “straighten” out the line. Then, go back to skiing again. If they use a “sit down ski” where she is more upright (like sitting in a wheelchair), then [*17] she shouldn’t have any problems. I am not familiar with the types of equipment they have, but am only saying what other families whose children also have pumps have told me about the equipment.

(Letter from Sara Squires dated February 12, 2008, Exhibit E to Reply (Doc. # 61-2)).

2 Ms. Squires had a surgically inserted baclofen pump, which dispenses medication for muscle spasms.

Despite that the Release does not specifically include the words, “skiing,” “sit-down,” or “bi-ski,” Mrs. Squires understood that her daughter would be seated in some type of sit-ski on the trip. While Mrs. Squires claims to have had no knowledge of what a sit-down bi-ski was at the time she signed the Release, the evidence demonstrates that she had sufficient notice and knowledge of the activities that her daughter would be participating in and the associated risks. Mrs. Squires conscientiously made inquiries to BOEC about the forms and the trip. (See Doc. # 84-4 at 5 of 7). Mrs. Squires was familiar with releases generally. (See Doc. # 84-4 at 4 of 7 (“Because . . . every single program on the face of the earth has a risk and release of liability and some verbiage to that effect.”); see also 6 of 7 (“It’s the [*18] same identical verbiage that is in every single risk and release of liability that I’ve signed for 20 years on Kimberley’s behalf for everything that she has ever participated in.”). Ms. Squires’ parents were informed that she would be skiing in Breckenridge, Colorado, in a type of sit-down ski, controlled by an instructor with tethers. The Release specifically refers to outdoor activities and associated risks and was accompanied by a cover letter that explained the risks involved with ski lessons, including the possibility of serious injury and even death. The Release provides that risks during outdoor programs include injury, permanent disability, fatality, severe social or economic losses, and other risks not known or reasonably foreseeable. See Hamill, 2011 Colo. App. LEXIS 495, 2011 WL 1168006 at * 8 (that “mother may not have contemplated the precise mechanics of her daughter’s fall does not invalidate the release and does not create a genuine issue of material fact”). When she signed the Release, Mrs. Squires had sufficient information “to assess the degree of risk and the extent of possible injuries from any activity,” Wycoff, 251 P.3d at 1265, and to make an informed decision to release any claims that [*19] Ms. Squires may have had against BOEC.

B. Validity of Release

The court having determined that the decision to release Ms. Squires’ prospective claims was informed pursuant to Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-22-107(1)(a)(V), the court must next determine whether the Release was legally valid. “Exculpatory agreements are construed strictly against the party seeking to limit its liability.” Hamill v. Cheley Colorado Camps, Inc., P. 3d , 2011 Colo. App. LEXIS 495, 2011 WL 1168006, * 1 (Colo. App. March 31, 2011) (citation omitted). “The determination of the sufficiency and validity of an exculpatory agreement is a question of law for the court to determine.” B & B Livery, Inc. v. Riehl, 960 P.2d 134, 136 (Colo. 1998); see also Robinette v. Aspen Skiing Co., L.L.C., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34873, 2009 WL 1108093 at *2 (D. Colo. Apr. 23, 2009), aff’d, 363 Fed. Appx. 547 (10th Cir. 2010) (citing B & B Livery, 960 P.2d at 136). “Although an exculpatory agreement that attempts to insulate a party from liability for his own simple negligence” is disfavored, “it is not necessarily void as against public policy . . . as long as one party is not at such obvious disadvantage in bargaining power that the effect of the contract is to put him at the mercy of the [*20] other’s negligence.” Chadwick v. Colt Ross Outfitters, Inc., 100 P.3d 465, 467 (Colo. 2004) (citation omitted). “To be effective, the release must meet four criteria: (i) there must not have been an obvious disparity in bargaining power between the releasor and releasee; (ii) the agreement must set forth the parties’ intentions in clear and unambiguous language; (iii) the circumstances and the nature of the service must indicate that the agreement was fairly entered into; and (iv) the agreement may not violate public policy.” Robinette, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34873, 2009 WL 1108093 at *2 (citations omitted). BOEC bears the burden of proving each of these elements. See id.

Where, as here, the service provided is a recreational service and not an essential service, there is no unfair bargaining advantage. See Mincin v. Vail Holdings, Inc., 308 F.3d 1105, 1112 (10th Cir. 2002) (public need and disparity of bargaining power absent in context of mountain biking and bicycle rental); Jones v. Dressel, 623 P.2d 370, 377-78 (Colo. 1981) (because recreational skydiving service “was not a matter of practical necessity for even some members of the public” and thus “not an essential service,” Defendant did not possess a decisive [*21] advantage of bargaining strength over plaintiff); Potter v. Nat’l Handicapped Sports, 849 F. Supp. 1407, 1409-10 (D. Colo. 1994) (handicapped downhill ski racing was “a recreational activity, . . . neither a matter of great public importance nor a matter of practical necessity”) (citing Bauer v. Aspen Highlands Skiing Corp., 788 F. Supp. 472, 475 (D. Colo. 1992) (upholding an exculpatory clause in the context of ski equipment rental)). Ms. Squires does not challenge BOEC’s ability to prove this first element.

Second, the court evaluates whether the Release expresses the parties’ intent in clear and unambiguous language. “Interpretation of a written contract and the determination of whether a provision in the contract is ambiguous are questions of law.” Dorman v. Petrol Aspen, Inc., 914 P.2d 909, 912 (Colo. 1996) (citation omitted). Ms. Squires argues that the Release is ambiguous and, therefore, invalid, because the language, “[a]lso I understand that I share the responsibility for safety during all activities” expresses a “shared regime of risk,” contradicts the language “I hereby release the BOEC, its successors, representatives, assigns, and employees from any and all claims, demands, [*22] and causes of action, whether resulting from negligence or otherwise, of every nature and in conjunction with a BOEC activity,” and makes the participant/signer solely responsible for any injuries or bad outcomes. (See Doc. # 52-1; Doc. # 56 at 15-17 of 19).

“Terms used in a contract are ambiguous when they are susceptible to more than one reasonable interpretation.” Ad Two, Inc. v. City and County of Denver, 9 P.3d 373, 376 (Colo. 2000). “In determining whether a provision in a contract is ambiguous, the instrument’s language must be examined and construed in harmony with the plain and generally accepted meanings of the words used, and reference must be made to all the agreement’s provisions.” Ringquist v. Wall Custom Homes, LLC, 176 P.3d 846, 849 (Colo. App. 2007) (citations omitted). “The meaning and effect of a contract is to be determined from a review of the entire instrument, not merely from isolated clauses or phrases.” Moland v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office of State, 111 P.3d 507, 510 (Colo. App. 2004). Specific terms, such as “negligence,” are not required for an exculpatory agreement to shield a party from negligence claims. Potter, 849 F. Supp. at 1410 (citing Heil Valley Ranch, Inc. v. Simkin, 784 P.2d 781, 785 (Colo. 1989) [*23] (noting that the release was written in simple and clear terms that were free from legal jargon, the release was not inordinately long and complicated, the plaintiff indicated in her deposition that she understood the release, and the first sentence of the release specifically addressed a risk that described the circumstances of the plaintiff’s injury)). The inquiry is not whether specific terms are used, but “whether the intent of the parties was to extinguish liability and whether this intent was clearly and unambiguously expressed.” Id. See also Chadwick, 100 P.3d at 467 (Colorado Supreme Court has “previously examined the actual language of the agreement for legal jargon, length and complication, and any likelihood of confusion or failure of a party to recognize the full extent of the release provisions”). “If there is no ambiguity, a contract will be enforced according to the express provision of the agreement.” B & B Livery, 960 P.2d at 136.

Here, the Release is written in clear and simple terms, is free from legal jargon, is neither long nor complicated, and encompasses the risks encompassed by Ms. Squires’ Fifth Claim for Relief. The Release specifically includes claims for [*24] negligence. The specific risk of what occurred in the Accident is encompassed within the risks of BOEC’s outdoor winter program. See Robinette, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34873, 2009 WL 1108093 at * 3 (“specific risk of colliding with a snowmobile being operated by a ski resort employee is necessarily within the risks of skiing/riding”) (internal quotation marks omitted). The court does not find the Release ambiguous.

Nor does the court find the Release is reasonably susceptible to Ms. Squires’ interpretation. Ms. Squires interprets two provisions in the Release in a way that strains logic to conclude that the Release as a whole is ambiguous. That Ms. Squires agrees to share the responsibility of safety during BOEC activities is not mutually exclusive from Ms. Squires agreeing to release claims arising out of BOEC activities.

Ms. Squires also notes the Release language that “BOEC has taken precautions to provide proper organization, supervision, instruction and equipment for each course,” claiming that BOEC failed to do this, and querying how BOEC could shift this responsibility to its participants. Ms. Squires claims that BOEC’s failures related to the equipment used, terrain selected, use of volunteers, control of [*25] the bi-ski, training and selection of instructors, assessment of plaintiff’s disabilities, provision of instructions and safety precautions, and prevention of accidents with other skiers. The Release specifically addresses that “although the BOEC has taken precautions to provide proper organization, supervision, instruction and equipment for each course, it is impossible for the BOEC to guarantee absolute safety.” (See Doc. # 52-1).

When the Release is read as a whole and the words are given their generally accepted meaning, it is susceptible to one reasonable interpretation: that although BOEC has taken precautions, it cannot guarantee absolute safety; that there are serious risks involved in BOEC activities; and that, to participate in BOEC activities, the releaser agrees to release BOEC from any and all claims related to a BOEC activity. The Release by its plain language expresses the parties’ intent to release BOEC from liability for all personal injuries resulting from negligence in conjunction with a BOEC activity.

Third, the court examines whether the Release was fairly entered into. “A contract is fairly entered into if one party is not so obviously disadvantaged with respect [*26] to bargaining power that the resulting contract essentially places him at the mercy of the other party’s negligence.” Hamill, 2011 Colo. App. LEXIS 495, 2011 WL 1168006 at *3 (citations omitted). Ms. Squires does not challenge BOEC’s ability to prove that the service provided here is a recreational service, not an essential service, and thus there is no unfair bargaining advantage. Where the releasor fails to point to any other unfair circumstances surrounding the exculpatory agreement, the third factor is satisfied. See Mincin, 308 F.3d at 1111. As in Chadwick, Mrs. Squires signed the Release at home in Kansas, in advance of the ski trip. 100 P.3d at 469. Mrs. Squires signed the Release voluntarily. There is no suggestion that Mrs. Squires is not competent. It is clear that Mrs. Squires is a devoted parent who has zealously tried to enhance her daughter’s quality of life. There is no evidence that the services provided by BOEC could not have been obtained elsewhere. See Hamill, 2011 Colo. App. LEXIS 495, 2011 WL 1168006 at * 3 (“in assessing fairness, courts may also examine whether the services provided could have been obtained elsewhere”) (citing Jones, 623 P.2d at 375). Mrs. Squires is experienced and familiar with liability releases [*27] in general. Ms. Squires has not demonstrated any other unfair circumstances surrounding the execution of the Release.

Finally, the court finds that the Release does not violate public policy. The adaptive recreational ski services provided by BOEC are recreational and not a matter of great public importance or practical necessity. The evidence does not indicate that the Release was entered into in any unfair manner. The Release does not exculpate BOEC from any duty in violation of public policy. The Release does not undermine any competing public policy. See Robinette, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34873, 2009 WL 1108093 at *4. The expressed public policy in Colorado is “to encourage the affordability and availability of youth activities in this state by permitting a parent of a child to release a prospective negligence claim of the child against certain persons and entities involved in providing the opportunity to participate in the activities.” Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-22-107(1)(a)(VI).

In sum, as the court finds no obvious disparity in bargaining power between the parties to the Release, that the parties’ intentions are clear and unambiguous, that the agreement was fairly entered into, and that the Release does not violate [*28] public policy, the court concludes that the Release is valid. See Hamill, 2011 Colo. App. LEXIS 495, 2011 WL 1168006 at *6 (Colo. App. Mar. 31, 2011) (determining exculpatory agreement was valid because it “did not implicate a public duty, did not involve an essential service, was fairly entered into, and it plainly expressed the intent to release prospective negligence claims”); Chadwick, 100 P.3d at 469-70 (enforcing exculpatory agreement releasing organizer of hunting trip from injuries sustained when he was thrown off mule, where exculpatory agreement unambiguously expressed the intent of the parties, was not unfairly entered into, injured party read agreement and understood he was executing a release of liability when he signed it, and agreement violated no duty to the public). Ms. Squires has released “BOEC, its successors, representatives, assigns, and employees from any and all claims, demands, and causes of action” from any claims resulting from negligence in conjunction with a BOEC activity.

C. Material Misrepresentation and Fraud in the Inducement

Ms. Squires argues that BOEC’s Motion for Summary Judgment must be denied because the Release is voidable based on material misrepresentation and fraud in [*29] the inducement. “A release is an agreement to which the general contract rules of interpretation and construction apply.” Chase v. Dow Chemical Company, 875 F.2d 278 (10th Cir. 1989) (citations omitted). “Like any contract, a release procured through fraud can be set aside.” Id.

Ms. Squires argues that BOEC fraudulently misrepresented in the Greetings Letter, on the reverse side of the Release, that all of its “activities are conducted in a manner consistent with the highest standards, as defined by the Association of Experiential Education (“AEE”),” when in fact there were no written standards for the adaptive ski program, and that the program was accredited by AEE when in fact the program was not so accredited. (See Doc. # 61-1 at 4 of 5). There is no statement regarding AEE standards or accreditation in the Release itself. (See Doc. # 52-1). BOEC representative and Ski Program Director Paul Gamber testified that on the day of the Accident, BOEC did not have any written ski lesson policies and procedures for the adaptive ski program. (See Doc. # 84-6 at 2 of 2). BOEC’s Ski Program Director, Jeffrey Inouye, testified that the AEE accreditation related to programs other than the adaptive [*30] ski program that Ms. Squires attended. (See Deposition of Jeffrey Inouye (Doc. # 84-2) at 2 of 2). Ms. Squires argues that based on the lack of written safety standards, “it is not a stretch to conclude that the adaptive skiing program was not conducted in a manner consistent with the highest standards of the AEE, contrary to the representations made by BOEC in its Greetings Letter.” (Reply Memorandum Brief Regarding Misrepresentation (Doc. # 84) at 4 of 11). Ms. Squires argues that Mrs. Squires relied on these claimed misrepresentation when she signed the Release on January 13, 2008.

In addition to its adaptive ski program, BOEC has a department that operates its wilderness program, which facilitates year-around programming for people with disabilities and special needs. (See Doc. # 89-3 at 3 of 3). The Greetings Letter is sent to participants involved in a wilderness course, who may or may not participate in the ski program. (See Doc. # 89-1 at 2-5 of 5). Groups interested in a wilderness course, which includes lodging and activities other than skiing, such as a ropes course, and climbing wall, will complete paperwork through the wilderness program. Id. Each program has its own separate [*31] set of forms to be completed by participants. Id. Groups who are interested only in skiing at BOEC will complete paperwork for the ski program. (See Doc. # 89-1 at 2-5 of 5). Ms. Squires was a student of BOEC as a participant of the Camp Fire USA group (“Camp Fire”). (See Doc. # 61-1 at 1-2 of 5). For its trip to Colorado, Camp Fire contracted with the wilderness program for a five-day wilderness course that included transportation and lodging in addition to skiing. (See Wilderness Course Contract (Doc. # 89-2) at 1-2 of 2). The Release and Greetings Letter were from the wilderness program. (See Doc. # 89-1 at 3 of 5).

While BOEC’s adaptive ski program did not have its own written ski lesson policies and procedures at the time of the Accident, it has at all times trained its instructors and followed the standards for adaptive skiing set forth by the PSIA, the governing body that establishes national standards for skiing. (See Doc. # 89-3 at 2 of 3). BOEC’s adaptive ski program used the PSIA Core Concepts book, the Adaptive Ski Program Manual, and the Alpine Technical Manual. (See id.; see also Doc. # 84-5).

“To establish fraud, a plaintiff has to prove that (1) a fraudulent misrepresentation [*32] of material fact was made by the defendant; (2) at the time the representation was made, the defendant knew the representation was false or was aware that he did not know whether the representation was true or false; (3) the plaintiff relied on the misrepresentation; (4) the plaintiff had the right to rely on, or was justified in relying on, the misrepresentation; and (5) the reliance resulted in damages.” Barfield v. Hall Realty, Inc., 232 P.3d 286, 290 (Colo. App. 2010) (citing CJI-Civ. 4th 19:1 (1998)). See also J.A. Walker Co., Inc. v. Cambria Corp., 159 P.3d 126, 132 (Colo. 2007) (applying same elements to a fraudulent inducement claim). “Implicit within these elements are the requirements that the claimant demonstrate that it relied on the misrepresentation and that its reliance was justified under the circumstances.” Loveland Essential Group, LLC v. Grommon Farms, Inc., 251 P.3d 1109, 1116 (Colo. App. 2010) (citation omitted).

“The misrepresentation must be made with the intent to deceive and for the purpose of inducing the other party to act on it, and there must be evidence that the other party did in fact rely on it and was induced thereby to act to his injury or damage.” Club Valencia Homeowners Ass’n v. Valencia Assocs., 712 P.2d 1024, 1026-27 (Colo. App. 1985) [*33] (citation omitted). Ms. Squires has not produced any evidence that BOEC made the alleged misrepresentations with the intent to deceive. For failure to demonstrate this element, Ms. Squires’ argument that the Release is voidable based on material misrepresentation and fraud in the inducement must fail.

Reasonable and justifiable reliance is also required for a claim of fraudulent misrepresentation. Ivar v. Elk River Partners, LLC, 705 F. Supp. 2d 1220, 1238 (D. Colo. 2010). See also Sheffield Services Co. v. Trowbridge, 211 P.3d 714, 725 (Colo. App. 2009) (“a necessary element to all fraud actions is that the plaintiff justifiably relied on the misrepresentation or the nondisclosure”); Williams v. Boyle, 72 P.3d 392, 399 (Colo. App. 2003) (element of fraudulent misrepresentation is “the right or justification in relying on the misrepresentation”).

The evidence fails to demonstrate justifiable reliance by Mrs. Squires on the statements regarding AEE standards and accreditation in the Greetings Letter. The Greetings Letter emphasized the importance of reading and signing the Release on the reverse side. (See Doc. # 84-1 at 1 of 1). The Release explains that skiing involves a risk of serious [*34] bodily injury and that it is impossible to eliminate all risk. (See Doc. # 52-1). Despite the emphasis on the importance of reading and signing the Release, Mrs. Squires did not take particular note of the language in the Release. “I can only say I assume I read it. I have no recollection of reading it before I signed it.” (See Doc. # 84-4 at 6 of 7). Ms. Squires propounds that Mrs. Squires paid close attention to the Greetings Letter but did not place any importance on the Release itself, which contained the exculpatory provisions. (See id. (the Release contained “the same identical verbiage that is in every single risk and release of liability that I’ve signed for 20 years on Kimberly’s behalf for everything that she has ever participated in. So I did not put any more credence towards this particular document than I did anything else.”)). Mrs. Squires had substantial knowledge about the ski trip, learned from Camp Fire’s past experiences, communications with Ms. Breier, and BOEC’s written materials. (See Doc. # 84-4 at 2-7 of 7). The evidence does not support a finding that Mrs. Squires justifiably relied on the information in the Greetings Letter regarding the AEE while taking no [*35] notice of the exculpatory language in the Release she signed. The evidence shows that Mrs. Squires did not make the decision for Ms. Squires to participate in the ski trip in reliance on the alleged misrepresentations. The court concludes that Ms. Squires has not created a genuine issue of fact for trial on the element of justifiable reliance on the Greetings Letter. For this reason also, Ms. Squires’ argument that the Release is voidable based on material misrepresentation and fraud in the inducement must fail.

D. Willful and Wanton Conduct

The parties acknowledge that the Release cannot bar civil liability for gross negligence. See Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-22-107(4) (“Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit a parent acting on behalf of his or her child to waive the child’s prospective claim against a person or entity for a willful and wanton act or omission, a reckless act or omission, or a grossly negligent act or omission.”); Chadwick, 100 P.3d at 467 (“In no event will an exculpatory agreement be permitted to shield against a claim of willful and wanton negligence.”).

“Although the issue of whether a defendant’s conduct is purposeful or reckless is ordinarily a question [*36] of fact, if the record is devoid of sufficient evidence to raise a factual issue, then the question may be resolved by the court as a matter of law.” Forman v. Brown, 944 P.2d 559, 564 (Colo. App. 1996). See also Terror Mining Co. v. Roter, 866 P.2d 929, 935 (Colo. 1994) (summary judgment proper even when willful and wanton conduct alleged, where facts are undisputed and do not establish or imply willful conduct); United States Fire Insurance Co. v. Sonitrol Management Corp., 192 P.3d 543 (Colo. App. 2008) (“Ordinarily, determining whether a defendant’s conduct is willful and wanton is a question of fact.”) (citation omitted).

“Gross negligence is willful and wanton conduct, that is, action committed recklessly, with conscious disregard for the safety of others.” Hamill, 2011 Colo. App. LEXIS 495, 2011 WL 1168006 at *9 (citing Forman, 944 P.2d at 564. “Willful and wanton conduct is purposeful conduct committed recklessly that exhibits an intent consciously to disregard the safety of others. Such conduct extends beyond mere unreasonableness.” Forman, 944 P.2d at 564. See also Stamp v. Vail Corp., 172 P.3d 437, 449 (Colo. 2007) (“Conduct is willful and wanton if it is a dangerous course of action that is consciously [*37] chosen with knowledge of facts, which to a reasonable mind creates a strong probability that injury to others will result.”) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); United Blood Servs. v. Quintana, 827 P.2d 509, 523 n. 10 (Colo. 1992) (“Willful misconduct consists of conduct purposely committed under circumstances where the actor realizes that the conduct is dangerous but nonetheless engages in the conduct without regard to the safety of others.”) (citation omitted); Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence, Inc. v. Qwest Corporation, 174 P.3d 821, 830 (Colo. App. 2007) (“Willful and wanton behavior is defined as a mental state of the actor consonant with purpose, intent, and voluntary choice.”) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

Based on her expert witness, Mr. Gale’s, opinion, Ms. Squires argues that BOEC acted recklessly, precluding application of the Release. Mr. Gale, a snow sports safety consultant with 43 years of ski safety training and experience, concludes that BOEC acted recklessly based on: (1) “an inherently unsafe bi-ski program administered and conducted by BOEC,” (2) BOEC instructor Jennifer Phillips’ selection of inappropriately difficult [*38] terrain and failure to follow proper lesson plan procedures, and (3) BOEC volunteer Jim Trisler’s failure to “do his job as a blocker, look-out . . . .” (See Doc. # 56-4 at 9-11 of 11; Doc. # 56-5 at 1-2 of 8; Doc. # 88-8 (Curriculum Vitae)).

In his Expert Report, Mr. Gale concludes:

The incident was the cumulative result of an inherently unsafe bi-ski program administered and conducted by BOEC. It knew or should have known that its “word of mouth” rather than written safety protocols and procedures were ineffective and substantially enhanced the risk over and above the inherent risks of skiing to Miss Squires. It purposely chose a dangerous course of training, supervision, and bi-ski program implementation. In doing do it created a strong probability that this circumstance was [a] predictable incident that was bound to happen sooner or later. It failed to address fundamental safety procedures even though it appears to do so in its other adaptive program offerings. . . This further demonstrates BOEC’s willful, reckless, and comprehensive disregard for Miss Squire’s safety.

(Doc. # 56-5 at 1 of 8, ¶ 5.2). Mr. Gale also concludes that the conduct of BOEC’s instructor, Ms. Phillips, was [*39] intentional, willful, and reckless.

The conduct of BOEC’s instructor Jennifer Phillips fell well below the PSIA standards. As a PSIA certified instructor, she was or should be well aware of the policies, procedures, and standards for bi-ski instruction particularly terrain selection. The plethora of written PSIA instructional methodology and information addresses skill based instructional activities with safety as a fundamental priority and duty. She intentionally made the decision to abandon the PSIA lesson plan and sequential format for bi-ski instruction. This conduct demonstrates intentional, willful, and reckless disregard for Miss Squire[s’] safety.

(Doc. # 56-5 at 1 of 8, ¶ 5.3). Mr. Gale further identifies reckless conduct with regard to the use of slip knots to ensure that the bi-ski would remain tethered to the BOEC instructor. He concludes that:

Defendant BOEC was or should have been fully aware of the dangers of a detached bi-ski caused by the reckless choice not to properly utilize or dangerously utilize BOEC’s own slip knot rule powerfully hitting some object, person, or a tree. The safety procedures, training, and program risk management did not match the risk nor fully [*40] address the safety requirements dealing with a detached and out of control bi-ski loose on the slope. The foreseeable consequence was a serious injury to the student, the public, or both. The entities recklessly disregarded Miss Squires[‘] safety and willfully created this higher than normal risk for Miss Squires. There were no prudent or careful precautions taken to reduce or lessen the risk of this predictable and foreseeable incident.

(Doc. # 56-5 at 2 of 8, ¶ 5.5).

Mr. Bil Hawkins of Knott Laboratories also provided an expert report. (See Doc. # 56-2). Mr. Hawkins has a B.S. in civil engineering and is a certified Level II Rope Access Technician. (See Doc. # 88-5). Mr. Hawkins examined the safety knot, or slip knot, used to fasten the bi-ski’s tether to BOEC instructor Ms. Phillips. This knot was the only mechanism that prevented the downhill movement of the bi-ski. Mr. Hawkins concludes in his expert report:

Based upon Knott Laboratory’s inspection, the available evidence, and this engineer’s education, training, and experience, the following conclusions have been reached within a reasonable degree of engineering certainty:

o Ms. Phillips was not certified to [i]nstruct students on [*41] a bi-ski device at the time of Ms. Squires[‘] accident on February 13, 2010

o BOEC knew or should have known that Ms. Phillips was not certified to instruct participants on a bi-ski device at the time of Ms. Squires[‘] accident on February 13, 2010

o Ms. Phillips did not follow BOEC’s written policy by providing two independent means of anchor when providing sole support to a participant on a rope device

o The safety knot Ms. Phillips reportedly tied directly against the skin of her wrist would not have slipped off her arm had it been tied properly

(Doc. # 56-2 at 11 of 11).

There is thus some evidence in the record that it may have been reckless for Ms. Phillips to take Ms. Squires on Cashier, a blue run, on the day of the Accident. Ms. Squires was a blind, first-time skier strapped to a bi-ski with no means to control her own speed or direction. It was BOEC policy to start such a student on a green run. (See Deposition of Paul E. Gamber (Doc. # 97-11) at 2 of 2). But see Deposition of Stanley Gale (Doc. # 90-5) at 2 of 2 (“Q: Are you saying — are you saying that it’s wrong to have an adaptive bi-skier on Cashier run? A: No.”); Expert Report of Ruth Ann DeMuth (Doc. # 100-5) at 5 of 6 [*42] (BOEC employee Jennifer Phillips “did not compromise the safety of Miss Squires by going up the Beaver Run Lift to Cashier.”).

The court cannot conclusively determine based on the evidence before it whether there was a purposeful or conscious failure to use a slipknot or tie the properly. The use of a slipknot with a bi-ski is the established BOEC policy. (See Deposition of Jennifer L. Phillips (Doc. # 100-3) at 2-3 of 3; Deposition of Paul E. Gamber (Doc. # 100-4) at 4 of 4). Witnesses who were asked agreed that it could be reckless to conduct a bi-ski lesson without a properly-tied slip knot tethering a bi-ski with fixed outriggers. (See Deposition of Jennifer L. Phillips (Doc. # 90-8) at 2 of 2; Deposition of Peter W. Axelson (Doc. # 97-9) at 3 of 3; Deposition of Paul E. Gamber (Doc. # 97-11) at 2 of 2; (Doc. # 90-7) at 2 of 2; Deposition of Ruth Ann DeMuth (Doc. # 90-6) at 2 of 2; Deposition of Patrick B. Kelley (Doc. # 90-4) at 2 of 3). Mr. Hawkins concludes that “[t]he safety knot Ms. Phillips reportedly tied directly against the skin of her wrist would not have slipped off her arm had it been tied properly.” (Doc. # 56-2 at 11 of 11).

This evidence and these conclusions by the [*43] expert witnesses could demonstrate reckless, grossly negligent, and willful and wanton acts and omissions. A jury could conclude there was purposeful conduct committed recklessly with conscious disregard for the rights and safety of Ms. Squires. The evidence, viewed in a light most favorable to Ms. Squires, might lead a reasonable jury to conclude that BOEC was conscious of its conduct and the existing conditions and knew there was a strong probability that injury to Ms. Squires would result. The court concludes that Ms. Squires is properly afforded an opportunity to present to a jury evidence of the alleged willful and wanton, reckless, or grossly negligent acts or omissions. It will best be determined at trial, after the submission of Ms. Squires’ case in chief, whether BOEC acted recklessly.

The court addresses separately Ms. Squires’ argument that BOEC volunteer, Mr. Trisler’s, “acts and omissions” were “more than mere recklessness.” (See Doc. # 56 at 14 of 19). Mr. Gale concludes that

[t]he conduct of BOEC trained Jim Trisler fell below the duty of a blocker. He did absolutely nothing to prevent the collision or intervene prior to the collision between Jennifer Phillips and Michael [*44] Goodwin. He failed in his essential duties which were to prevent the collision, or at the very least, to reduce the severity of the consequences.

(See Doc. # 56-5 at 2 of 8, ¶ 5.4). See also Doc. # 56-4 at 10 of 11 (“he did not do his job as a blocker, look-out, or make his presence known to Michael Goodwin. Apparently, he did not hear or see Michael Goodwin coming down out of control before the powerful impact. He was not vigilant nor did he fulfill his duty and responsibility to protect and warn. It seems that he was not on the look-out as he should have been or he would have likely seen Michael Goodwin skiing too close, out of control, and headed for Jennifer Philips and Miss Squires[‘] bi-ski device.”). Ms. Squires argues that ‘[a]lthough Mr. Gale does not specifically use the word reckless in describing Mr. Trisler’s acts and omissions, his analysis and description describe more than mere recklessness.” (Response (Doc. # 56) at 14 of 19). The court disagrees. Colorado law defines negligence as “a failure to do an act which a reasonably careful person would do, or the doing of an act which a reasonably careful person would not do, under the same or similar circumstances to protect [*45] . . . others from bodily injury, . . .” CJI-Civ. 9:6 (2011). The evidence in the record, including Mr. Gale’s opinion, amounts to no more than negligence by Mr. Trisler. As to Mr. Trisler, there is insufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact that he acted willfully and wantonly, that is, that he consciously chose a dangerous course of action with knowledge of facts that, to a reasonable mind, created a strong probability that injury to Ms. Squires would result. The Release thus bars Ms. Squires’ claim based on Mr. Trisler’s conduct.

Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that:

1. Defendant BOEC’s Motion for Summary Judgment (filed December 3, 2010) (Doc. # 52) is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

2. The Fifth Claim for Relief in the Second Amended Complaint (Doc. # 13) shall proceed against Defendant Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center only on the alleged willful and wanton, reckless, or grossly negligent acts or omissions.

3. The court will hold a Telephonic Status Conference on Thursday December 8, 2011 at 8:30 a.m. Counsel for the parties shall create a conference call and then telephone the court at 303-844-2117 at the scheduled time.

DATED at Denver, Colorado, this 8th [*46] day of November, 2011.

BY THE COURT:

/s/ Craig B. Shaffer

United States Magistrate Judge