Canadian judge holds “ski buddy” not liable for death of skier. Buddies assigned by guide in Helicopter on way out does not create a contract

The court found there was no contract between ski buddies, and the defendant skier met his duties to the deceased skier. A tree well is a risk of skiing, and no other skier could have done more than alert the guides when a skier was missing.

The deceased died in a tree well on a helicopter ski trip in Canada. His widow sued his ski buddy for his death claiming he was a“… contractually obligated to stay close to her husband, keep him in sight, and assist or alert guides and other skiers if he observed his buddy in need of assistance.”

The entire concept of a ski buddy is fraught with spatial issues.  Rarely do people ski side by side. If you are skiing side by side, both skiers can only occasionally glance downhill. Here, the facts and allegations of the plaintiff argue that the defendant should have skied behind the deceased to keep an eye on him. Would that have not placed the deceased in the same liability position with the defendant?

How do you ski through deep powder and trees and keep an eye on someone’s 100% of the time. Even if you do, how do two people do this for each other? It is physically impossible.

The next issue is normally one guide skis in front of the group and the second guide skis at the rear. No matter what, the time it would take to notify any guide either by waiting and hoping the second guide finds you or by skiing to the bottom guide, which did occur, is lengthy. The heli-ski operator told skiers to stop and yell if they got into trouble?

The most telling part of this article is the deceased was a successful personal injury attorney.

You can find the judge’s ruling dismissing the case here. The facts of the case as set out in the judge’s ruling led to the idea that there was no requirement to ski with a buddy at the time of the fatality. The buddy requirement ended when the group exited from the forest into a logged area. Everyone descended together at that point, and generally, no one tracks anyone else.

This is a Canadian legal decision and the decision, although well written was confusing because Canadian law is different from US law. My analysis may be incorrect in all aspects of the court’s decision. As an example, here is the court’s definition of standard of care in negligence.

Conduct is negligent if it creates an objectively unreasonable risk of harm. To avoid liability, a person must exercise the standard of care that would be expected of an ordinary, reasonable and prudent person in the same circumstances.

Rarely, in US law, is the phrase unreasonable risk of harm used to define negligence.

The court’s statement of the facts also shows a surprisingly quick search and location of the deceased. It took only 4 minutes, based on the radio log between when the search started and when the deceased was found.

The plaintiff argued that the defendant ski buddy owed a duty of care to the deceased by voluntarily taking on the responsibility to look out for the deceased. In order for a claim to be made under Canadian law, the person agreeing to accept the volunteer liability must have some control over the risks. Here the defendant had no control over the risks. Nor was there any evidence that the acceptance of the voluntary role of ski buddy was relied upon by the deceased.

The relationship created between ski buddies did not create a relationship where the volunteer assumed the responsibility over the deceased. Instead, the relationship between the parties was defined by the guides who created the relationship. That meant they ski buddies were to keep each other in visual and vocal contact in the forest and as outlined in a video everyone watched before skiing. The issue of the location of the responsibility, the forest was important. The parties had exited the forest into a logged area where it was generally understood the ski buddy relationship ended.

The ski buddies never spoke to each other so there was no understanding of their roles so no greater requirements were created between the ski buddies. The term ski buddy, as defined by the judge did not create a duty; in fact, the court found a ski buddy is to respect the autonomy of the other ski buddy. Meaning a ski buddy relationship does not mean you give up your skiing to watch the other, you still should enjoy your runs.

Besides the judge’s decision that the timeframe between when the deceased was discovered to not be with the group and when the guides were notified of the fact to not be negligent, the sole issue was contract.

The judge’s conclusions were as followed.

If there was a duty of care between the plaintiff and defendant as a ski buddy, then the defendant met it with his actions.

There was no contract between the parties. There was no contract or contract intention. Even if there was a contract, it ended once the parties exited the forest into the logged area where the accident occurred.

So?

The decision is not as definitive as one would have liked. The decision can also be appealed. However, it is still a great decision for skiers.

The saddest part is the heli-ski guide service created liability, which resulted in this lawsuit against one of its clients. By writing its release so that it not only protected the heli-ski operations but everyone else this would have been avoided.

Here are the articles I based this article on: ‘Ski buddy’ not liable for heli-ski death, court rules and Judge rules “ski buddy” not liable for death. The article describing the suit before the judge’s ruling is ‘Ski buddy’ sued in heli-ski death

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By Recreation Law    Rec-law@recreation-law.com      James H. Moss         #Authorrank

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2013 Northwest Paddling Festival Vendor Information Package

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2013 Northwest Paddling Festival

May 10, 2013 – Private Manufacturer/Retail Clinic Day

May 11, 2013 – Festival Open to the Public

Lake Sammamish State Park. Issaquah, WA

For Vendor Information PDF. click herewww.northwestpaddlingfestival.com

Articles from the Summer 2012 Wilderness & Environmental Medicine

If you are in the Outdoor Recreation industry you should be a member of the Wilderness Medical Society

This issue has it all, altitude issues, canoeing issues, mountain biking injuries, insect and snake bikes, CPR and the National Ski Patrol round out the articles.

Oximetry Fails to Predict Acute Mountain Sickness or Summit Success During a Rapid Ascent to 5640 Meters

Change in Oxygen Saturation Does Not predict Acute Mountain Sickness on Jade Mountain

Rare Mitochondrial DNA Polymorphisms are Associated with High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) Susceptibility in Han Chinese

The Hawkesbury Canoe Classic: Musculoskeletal Injury Surveillance and Risk Factors Associated with Marathon Paddling

The Epidemiology of Mountain Bike Park Injuries at the Whistler Bike Park, British Columbia (BC), Canada

Fatalities from Venomous and Nonvenomous Animals in the United States (1999 – 2007)

Hyponatremia in an 85 Year old Hiker: When Depletion Plus Dilution Produces Delirium

Black Widow Spider Envenomation, a Rare Cause of Horner’s Syndrome

Effects of Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation at High Altitudes on the Physical Condition of Untrained and Unacclimatized Rescuers

Prehospital Medical Care and the National Ski Patrol

You are going to get great information by reading the newsletter, website and journal of the WMS. More importantly, I find the information is just as critical in telling you what not to do.

You can become a member of the WMS by going here. Sign up today and learn for the rest of the year.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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Law requires helmets, injuries down fatalities up?

However the article eventually does explain some great ideas about helmets.

An article Injuries have dropped since mandatory rule came in, but fatalities remain the same was written to look at the effects of a mandatory helmet law in British Columbia, Canada. The law was enacted in 1996. Riding a bike without a helmet can get you a $40 ticket.

One part of the article says that fatalities are down. The article also states:

Statistics compiled by the Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation show that injuries from cyclists involved in collisions did decrease from 35% of all police attended collisions in 1995 to 31% of those collisions by 1999.

However, a Canadian ministry says that bicycle fatalities have not decreased. “However in 2010, the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles admitted that fatalities had not decreased since the introduction of the helmet law.”

The article then states:

Bicycle helmet proponents are the subject of a great number of myths and exaggerations, some of which feature prominently in the promotion of helmets, according to the foundation.

These proponents claim that helmets prevent 85% of head injuries and 88% of brain injuries. But the foundation claims that where helmet use has become significant, there has been no detectable reduction in head injuries relative to cycle use.

Another myth, according to the foundation, is that bicycle helmets prevent 90% of fatalities.

“This prediction comes from a single source and is not reflected by real-world experience. Fatality trends in countries where helmet use has become significant give no reason to believe that helmets have saved even a single life,” the foundation states at http://www.cyclehelmets.org.

The article is full of confusing facts. However at least the article tackles the issues concerning helmets and dispels a few myths.

I suspect that injuries are down; however attributing that to helmets is difficult. Why injuries are up, could just be a factor of more people riding bikes, bikes that enable riders to go a lot faster or more cars on the road, as well as any number of different reasons.

Bicycle helmets may prevent a minor head injury, however most people do not believe that helmet may save your life.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

If you like this let your friends know or post it on FB, Twitter or LinkedIn

Copyright 2012 Recreation Law (720) Edit Law

blog@rec-law.us

Twitter: RecreationLaw

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Facebook Page: Outdoor Recreation & Adventure Travel Law

Blog:www.recreation-law.com

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I got money; therefore I should do what I want on public lands.

A Boise man has appealed the denial of his application to land his helicopter in the Fairfield Ranger District, USFS Idaho for 30 days of heli-skiing each year.

Another one of those “aw shucks” moments.

See Boise man appeals heli-skiing denial.

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