Massachusetts Ski Safety Act

Massachusetts Ski Safety Act

ANNOTATED LAWS OF MASSACHUSETTS

PART I ADMINISTRATION OF THE GOVERNMENT

TITLE XX PUBLIC SAFETY AND GOOD ORDER

Chapter 143 Inspection and Regulation of, and Licenses for, Buildings, Elevators and Cinematographs

GO TO MASSACHUSETTS CODE ARCHIVE DIRECTORY

ALM GL ch. 143, § 71I (2012)

§ 71I. Recreational Tramways — Definitions.

As used in sections seventy-one H to seventy-one S, inclusive, the following words shall, unless the context otherwise requires, have the following meanings:

“Recreational tramway”, a device used to transport passengers uphill on skis, or in cars on tracks or suspended in the air, by the use of steel cables, chains or belts or by ropes, and usually supported by trestles or towers with one or more spans. The term recreational tramway shall include the following:

(1) Two-car aerial passenger tramway, a device used to transport passengers in two open or enclosed cars attached to, and suspended from, a moving wire rope, or attached to a moving wire rope and supported on a standing wire rope, or similar devices.

(2) Multi-car aerial passenger tramway, a device used to transport passengers in several open or enclosed cars attached to, and suspended from, a moving wire rope, or attached to a moving wire rope and supported on a standing wire rope, or similar devices.

(3) Skimobile, a device in which a passenger car running on steel or wooden tracks is attached to and pulled by a steel cable, or similar devices.

(4) Chair lift, a type of transportation on which passengers are carried on chairs suspended in the air and attached to a moving cable, chain or link belt supported by trestles or towers with one or more spans, or similar devices.

(5) J bar, T bar or platter pull, so-called, and similar types of devices, means of transportation which pull skiers riding on skis by means of an attachment to a main overhead cable supported by trestles or towers with one or more spans.

(6) Rope tow, a type of transportation which pulls the skiers riding on skis as the skiers grasp the rope manually, or similar devices.

“Operator”, a person, including the commonwealth or any political subdivision thereof, who owns or controls the operation of a recreational tramway.

“Board”, the recreational tramway board.

“Skier”, any person utilizing the ski area under control of a ski area operator for the purpose of skiing, whether or not that person is a passenger on a recreational tramway, including riders during a non-skiing season.

“Ski area”, all of the slopes and trails under the control of the ski area operator, including cross-country ski areas, slopes and trails, and any recreational tramway in operation on any such slopes or trails administered or operated as a single enterprise but shall not include base lodges, motor vehicle parking lots and other portions of ski areas used by skiers when not actually engaged in the sport of skiing.

“Ski area operator”, the owner or operator of a ski area, including an agency of the commonwealth or a political subdivision thereof, or the employees, agents, officers or delegated representatives of such owner or operator, including the owner or operator of a cross-country ski area, slope or trail, and of any recreational tramway in operation on any such slope or trail administered or operated as a single enterprise.

“Ski slope or trail”, an area designed by the person or organization having operational responsibility for the ski area as herein defined, including a cross-country ski area, for use by the public in furtherance of the sport of skiing, meaning such designation as is set forth on a trail map or as otherwise designated by a sign indicating to the skiing public the intent that the area be used by skiers for purpose of participating in the sport.

HISTORY: 1968, 565, § 1; 1978, 455, §§ 1, 2; 1996, 58, § 28; 1996, 151, § 528.

NOTES: Editorial Note

The 1978 amendment, in the first sentence, extended the applicability of definitions through § 71S, and added the definitions of “Skier,” “Ski area,” “Ski area operator,” and “Ski slope or trail.”

The first 1996 amendment, (ch 58), effective July 1, 1996, repealed this section.

The second 1996 amendment, (ch 151), effective July 1, 1996, repealed the provisions of Acts 1996, Ch. 58, § 28, that repealed this section, thereby restoring this section.

Code of Massachusetts Regulations

Recreational tramway board; adopting administrative regulations. 526 CMR 2.01 et seq.

Ski safety signs for downhill and cross-country skiing. 526 CMR 8.01 et seq.

Law Reviews

Centner, Equestrian Immunity and Sport Responsibility Statutes: Altering Obligations and Placing Them on Participants. 13 Vill. Sports & Ent. L.J. 37 (2006).

CASE NOTES

Language of ALM GL c 143, § 71I limits the definition of skier to any person utilizing a ski area for the purpose of skiing, and shows that the Massachusetts Ski Safety Act (Act), ALM GL c 143, §§ 71N, 71O, was not intended to include a non-skiing sport like snow tubing; the Act did not relieve a ski operator from a claim for injuries from a snow tubing accident, and the ski operator’s summary judgment motion was denied. Burden v. Amesbury Sports Park, Inc. (2003, Super Ct) 16 Mass L Rep 744, 2003 Mass Super LEXIS 276.

Snowboarders falls within the definition of skiers. Rich v. Tamarack Ski Corp. (2008) 24 Mass L Rep 448, 2008 Mass. Super. LEXIS 324.

Because snowboarders were included within the definition of “skiers” found in ALM GL c 143, § 71I, under ALM GL c 143, § 71O, a ski area operator and an instructor were not liable to a snowboarder who was injured when she ran into the instructor who was standing at the side of a ski hill. Rich v. Tamarack Ski Corp. (2008) 24 Mass L Rep 448, 2008 Mass. Super. LEXIS 324.

Because a racing skier’s collision with a lift tower stanchion was off the race course and off the trail–as defined in ALM GL c 143, § 71I– ALM GL c 143, § 71O, placed the duty to avoid collisions on the skier alone. Brush v. Jiminy Peak Mt. Resort, Inc. (2009) 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52204.

§ 71J. Recreational Tramways — Board to Adopt Rules and Regulations for Construction, Maintenance; Licensing of Inspectors.

After a hearing, the board shall adopt, and may from time to time amend or revoke, rules and regulations for the construction, operation and maintenance of recreational tramways and for the inspection, licensing and certification of inspectors thereof. The board shall in like manner adopt, and from time to time amend or revoke, rules and regulations for a system of signs to be used by a ski area operator in order to promote the safety of skiers. Such system shall incorporate standards in general use in the skiing industry to evaluate the difficulty of slopes and trails and to adequately alert skiers to the known danger of any slope or trail or the ski area. The attorney general shall assist the board in framing such rules and regulations.

HISTORY: 1968, 565, § 1; 1978, 455, § 3; 1996, 58, § 28; 1996, 151, § 528.

NOTES: Editorial Note

The 1978 amendment, added the second and third sentences, relative to sign systems.

The first 1996 amendment, (ch 58), effective July 1, 1996, repealed this section.

The second 1996 amendment, (ch 151), effective July 1, 1996, repealed the provisions of Acts 1996, Ch. 58, § 28, that repealed this section, thereby restoring this section.

Code of Massachusetts Regulations

Recreational tramway board. 526 CMR 1.01 through 3.04; , 4.00 (1.1-1.8), 5.00 (2.1-2.6), 6.00 (3.1-3.6), 7.00 (4.1, 4.2), 8.01, 8.02.

Law Review References

Centner, Equestrian Immunity and Sport Responsibility Statutes: Altering Obligations and Placing Them on Participants. 13 Vill. Sports & Ent. L.J. 37 (2006).

§ 71K. Recreational Tramways — to Be Licensed.

No recreational tramway shall be operated unless a license for such operation has been issued by the board. Such license shall be issued for a term of not longer than one year, upon application therefor on a form furnished by the board, and upon a determination by the board that the recreational tramway conforms to the rules and regulations of the board. In making such determination the board may rely upon the report of an inspector certified by it in accordance with its rules and regulations.

HISTORY: 1968, 565, § 1; 1996, 58, § 28; 1996, 151, § 528.

NOTES: Editorial Note

The first 1996 amendment, (ch 58), effective July 1, 1996, repealed this section.

The second 1996 amendment, (ch 151), effective July 1, 1996, repealed the provisions of Acts 1996, Ch. 58, § 28, that repealed this section, thereby restoring this section.

Code of Massachusetts Regulations

Recreational tramway board; adopting administrative regulations. 526 CMR 2.01 et seq.

Ski safety signs for downhill and cross-country skiing. 526 CMR 8.01 et seq.

Jurisprudence

51 Am Jur 2d, Licenses and Permits §§ 10, 11, 64-68, 74, 76.

Law Review References

Centner, Equestrian Immunity and Sport Responsibility Statutes: Altering Obligations and Placing Them on Participants. 13 Vill. Sports & Ent. L.J. 37 (2006).

§ 71M. Recreational Tramways — Appeals to Superior Court from Orders of Board.

Any operator who is aggrieved by any order of the board may appeal therefrom to the superior court. No such appeal shall suspend the operation of the order made by the board; provided that the superior court may suspend the order of the board pending the determination of such appeal whenever, in the opinion of the court, justice may require such suspension. The superior court shall hear such appeal at the earliest convenient day and shall enter such decree as justice may require.

HISTORY: 1968, 565, § 1; 1996, 58, § 28; 1996, 151, § 528.

NOTES: Editorial Note

The first 1996 amendment, (ch 58), effective July 1, 1996, repealed this section.

The second 1996 amendment, (ch 151), effective July 1, 1996, repealed the provisions of Acts 1996, Ch. 58, § 28, that repealed this section, thereby restoring this section.

Code of Massachusetts Regulations

Recreational tramway board; adopting administrative regulations. 526 CMR 2.01 et seq.

Ski safety signs for downhill and cross-country skiing. 526 CMR 8.01 et seq.

Jurisprudence

18C Am Jur Pl & Pr Forms (Rev), Occupations, Trades, and Professions, Forms 20, 21.

Law Review References

Centner, Equestrian Immunity and Sport Responsibility Statutes: Altering Obligations and Placing Them on Participants. 13 Vill. Sports & Ent. L.J. 37 (2006).

§ 71N. Recreational Tramways — Posting of Signs and Notices by Ski Area Operator.

A ski area operator shall:

(1) whenever maintenance or snow-making equipment is being employed on any ski slope or trail open to the public, conspicuously place or cause to be placed, notice at or near the top of any ski slope or trail being maintained that such equipment is being so employed, and shall conspicuously indicate the location of any such equipment in a manner to afford skiers reasonable notice of the proximity of such equipment;

(2) mark and identify all trail maintenance and emergency vehicles, including snowmobiles, and furnish such vehicles with flashing or rotating lights, which shall be operated during the time that said vehicles are in operation within the ski area;

(3) with respect to the emergency use of vehicles within the ski area, including but not limited to uses for purposes of removing injured or stranded skiers, or performing emergency maintenance or repair work to slopes, trails or tramway equipment, not be required to post such signs as is required by clause (1), but shall be required to maintain such lighting equipment required by clause (2);

(4) mark the location of any hydrants used in snow-making operations and located within or upon a slope or trail;

(5) conspicuously place within the ski area, in such form, size and location as the board may require, and on the back of any lift ticket issued notice, in plain language, of the statute of limitations and notice period established in section seventy-one P; and

(6) maintain a sign system on all buildings, recreational tramways, ski trails and slopes in accordance with rules and regulations promulgated by the board and shall be responsible for the maintenance and operation of ski areas under its control in a reasonably safe condition or manner; provided, however, that ski area operators shall not be liable for damages to persons or property, while skiing, which arise out of the risks inherent in the sport of skiing.

HISTORY: 1978, 455, § 4; 1996, 58, § 28; 1996, 151, § 528.

NOTES: Editorial Note

Acts 1978, Ch. 455, § 4, replaced former §§ 71N and 71O with sections 71N through 71S; the former provisions of §§ 71N and 71O are now contained in §§ 71R and 71S, respectively. Section 5 of the inserting act provides as follows:

Section 5. The provisions of clause (5) of section seventy-one N of chapter one hundred and forty-three of the General Laws, inserted by section three of this act, relative to the printing on lift tickets of a notice of the statute of limitations, shall not apply to a ski area operator who has a supply of such tickets already printed for the nineteen hundred and seventy-eight and nineteen hundred and seventy-nine skiing season, insofar as he may exhaust such supply. Such ski area operator shall, however, comply with said notice requirements beginning with the nineteen hundred and seventy-nine and nineteen hundred and eighty skiing season.

The first 1996 amendment, (ch 58), effective July 1, 1996, repealed this section.

The second 1996 amendment, (ch 151), effective July 1, 1996, repealed the provisions of Acts 1996, Ch. 58, § 28, that repealed this section, thereby restoring this section.

Code of Massachusetts Regulations

Recreational tramway board; adopting administrative regulations. 526 CMR 2.01 et seq.

Ski safety signs for downhill and cross-country skiing. 526 CMR 8.01 et seq.

Jurisprudence

57A Am Jur 2d, Negligence § 32.

15 Am Jur Trials 147, Skiing Accident Litigation.

20 Am Jur Proof of Facts 2d 1, Liability for Skiing Accident.

Law Reviews

Centner, Equestrian Immunity and Sport Responsibility Statutes: Altering Obligations and Placing Them on Participants. 13 Vill. Sports & Ent. L.J. 37 (2006).

CASE NOTES

One year limitation period in GL c 143 § 71P is not applicable only to action for violation of duty prescribed by GL c 143 § 71N but applies to all personal injury actions brought by skiers against ski area operator arising out of skiing injuries. Atkins v. Jiminy Peak, Inc. (1987) 401 Mass 81, 514 NE2d 850, 1987 Mass LEXIS 1497.

ALM GL c 143 § 71O does not exempt ski area operator from liability for injuries caused by its agent. Tilley v. Brodie Mountain Ski Area, Inc. (1992) 412 Mass 1009, 591 NE2d 202, 1992 Mass LEXIS 273.

Summary judgment in favor of ski area operator was appropriate where plaintiff was skier, who slipped while approaching ski lift, since ALM GL c 143 § 71N specifically excludes liability for injury to skier arising out of risks inherent in sport of skiing, and a skier accepts, as a matter of law, risk that he or she might be injured in manner that falls within statutorily specified risks as well as risks contemplated by statutory scheme. Fetzner v. Jiminy Peak, The Mountain Resort (1995) 1995 Mass App Div 55, 1995 Mass App Div LEXIS 30.

Ski area operator was not liable for injuries sustained by skier who, after skiing over clumps of ice on trail, lost control and skied off trail edge into woods, since injuries arose out of risks inherent in skiing, and skier failed to control speed and direction. Spinale v. Pam F., Inc. (1995) 1995 Mass App Div 140, 1995 Mass App Div LEXIS 66.

Massachusetts Ski Safety Act (Act), ALM GL c 143, §§ 71N, 71O, was not intended to include a non-skiing sport like snow tubing; the Act did not relieve a ski operator from a claim for injuries from a snow tubing accident, and the ski operator’s summary judgment motion was denied. Burden v. Amesbury Sports Park, Inc. (2003, Super Ct) 16 Mass L Rep 744, 2003 Mass Super LEXIS 276.

Although a ski area operator had a general duty to operate the ski areas under its control in a reasonably safe manner, pursuant to ALM GL c 143, § 71N(6), because a racing skier’s collision with a lift tower stanchion was off the race course and off the trail, ALM GL c 143, § 71O, placed the duty to avoid collisions on the skier alone. Brush v. Jiminy Peak Mt. Resort, Inc. (2009) 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52204.

In a negligence action brought by an inexperienced skier who was seriously injured when she struck a snow gun while skiing on a low intermediate trail, even though the ski area operator’s trail markings did not violate the Massachusetts Ski Safety Act, ALM GL c 143, § 71N, or contribute to the accident and even though the skier had an obligation under ALM GL c 143, § 71O to avoid collisions with an object so long as the object was not improperly marked, the ski area operator was not entitled to summary judgment on all the negligence claims because there were factual disputes remaining as to whether the snow gun was adequately marked and padded. Peresypa v. Jiminy Peak Mt. Resort, Inc. (2009) 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84417.

Reasonable jury could find that ski area operator breached its general duty under ALM GL c 143 § 71N(6), even though statute provides exception protecting operators from “damages…which arise out of risks inherent in sport of skiing,” where examples of inherent risks enumerated by statute include “variations in terrain, surface or subsurface snow, ice conditions or bare spots,” because presence of snow gun in middle of ski trail does not appear to fall into category of inherent risk. Eipp v. Jiminy Peak, Inc. (2001) 154 F Supp 2d 110, 2001 US Dist LEXIS 11229.

§ 71O. Recreational Tramways — Conduct, Responsibilities, and Duties of Skiers.

No skier shall embark or disembark upon a recreational tramway except at a designated location and during designated hours of operation, throw or expel any object from any recreational tramway while riding thereon, act in any manner while riding on a recreational tramway that may interfere with its proper or safe operation, engage in any type of conduct which may injure any person, or place any object in the uphill ski track which may cause another to fall while traveling uphill on a ski lift, or cross the uphill track of a recreational tramway except at designated locations. A skier shall maintain control of his speed and course at all times, and shall stay clear of any snow-grooming equipment, any vehicle, towers, poles, or other equipment.

A skier who boards a recreational tramway shall be presumed to have sufficient abilities to use the same, and shall follow any written or oral instruction given regarding its use and no skier shall embark on a recreational tramway without authority of the operator. A skier skiing down hill shall have the duty to avoid any collision with any other skier, person or object on the hill below him, and, except as otherwise provided in this chapter, the responsibility for collisions by any skier with any other skier or person shall be solely that of the skier or person involved and not that of the operator, and the responsibility for the collision with any obstruction, man-made or otherwise, shall be solely that of the skier and not that of the operator, provided that such obstruction is properly marked pursuant to the regulations promulgated by the board. No skier shall ski on any ski slope or trail or portion thereof which has been designated closed, nor ski on other than an identified trail, slope or ski area. Any person skiing on other than an open slope or trail within the ski area shall be responsible for any injuries resulting from his action. A skier shall be presumed to know the range of his own ability to ski on any slope, trail or area. A skier shall be presumed to know of the existence of certain unavoidable risks inherent in the sport of skiing, which shall include, but not be limited to, variations in terrain, surface or subsurface snow, ice conditions or bare spots, and shall assume the risk of injury or loss caused by such inherent risks. A skier shall, prior to his entrance onto the slope or trail, other than one designated for cross-country skiing, or embarking on any recreational tramway, have attached on his skis, a strap or other device for the purpose of restraining or preventing a runaway ski. A ski area operator who finds a person in violation of this section, may issue an oral warning to that individual. A person who fails to heed the warning issued by such ski area operator shall forfeit his recreational tramway ticket and recreational tramway use privileges and may be refused issuance of another such ticket to the recreational tramway.

HISTORY: 1978, 455, § 4; 1987, 287.

NOTES: Editorial Note

Acts 1978, Ch. 455, § 4, replaced former §§ 71N and 71Owith §§ 71N through 71S; the former provisions of §§ 71N and 71Oare now contained in §§ 71R and 71S, respectively.

The 1987 amendment, added the fifth and sixth sentences of the second paragraph, relating to the areas of knowledge presumed to be possessed by skiers.

Code of Massachusetts Regulations

Recreational tramway board; adopting administrative regulations, 526 CMR 2.01 et seq.

Ski safety signs for downhill and cross-country skiing, 526 CMR 8.01 et seq.

Jurisprudence

57A Am Jur 2d, Negligence §§ 258 et seq., 272 et seq.

15 Am Jur Trials 147, Skiing Accident Litigation.

Law Reviews

Dahlstrom, From Recreational Skiing to Criminally Negligent Homicide: A Comparison of United States’ Ski Laws in the Wake of People v. Hall.30 NE J on Crim & Civ Con 209 (Summer, 2004)

Centner, Equestrian Immunity and Sport Responsibility Statutes: Altering Obligations and Placing Them on Participants. 13 Vill. Sports & Ent. L.J. 37 (2006).

CASE NOTES

ALM GL c 71O, insulating ski area operator from liability for collisions between skiers, did not apply where plaintiff/skier was struck from behind by ski patrol member. Tilley v. Brodie Mountain Ski Area, Inc. (1992) 412 Mass 1009, 591 NE2d 202, 1992 Mass LEXIS 273.

ALM GL c 143 § 71O does not exempt ski area operator from liability for injuries caused by its agent. Tilley v. Brodie Mountain Ski Area, Inc. (1992) 412 Mass 1009, 591 NE2d 202, 1992 Mass LEXIS 273.

Summary judgment in favor of ski area operator was appropriate where plaintiff was skier, who slipped while approaching ski lift, since ALM GL c 143 § 71N specifically excludes liability for injury to skier arising out of risks inherent in sport of skiing, and a skier accepts, as a matter of law, risk that he or she might be injured in manner that falls within statutorily specified risks as well as risks contemplated by statutory scheme. Fetzner v. Jiminy Peak, The Mountain Resort (1995) 1995 Mass App Div 55, 1995 Mass App Div LEXIS 30.

Ski area operator was not liable for injuries sustained by skier who, after skiing over clumps of ice on trail, lost control and skied off trail edge into woods, since injuries arose out of risks inherent in skiing, and skier failed to control speed and direction. Spinale v. Pam F., Inc. (1995) 1995 Mass App Div 140, 1995 Mass App Div LEXIS 66.

Massachusetts Ski Safety Act (Act), ALM GL c 143, §§ 71N, 71O, was not intended to include a non-skiing sport like snow tubing; the Act did not relieve a ski operator from a claim for injuries from a snow tubing accident, and the ski operator’s summary judgment motion was denied. Burden v. Amesbury Sports Park, Inc. (2003, Super Ct) 16 Mass L Rep 744, 2003 Mass Super LEXIS 276.

Because snowboarders were included within the definition of “skiers” found in ALM GL c 143, § 71I, under ALM GL c 143, § 71O, a ski area operator and an instructor were not liable to a snowboarder who was injured when she ran into the instructor who was standing at the side of a ski hill. Rich v. Tamarack Ski Corp. (2008) 24 Mass L Rep 448, 2008 Mass. Super. LEXIS 324.

Although a ski area operator had a general duty to operate the ski areas under its control in a reasonably safe manner, pursuant to ALM GL c 143, § 71N(6), because a racing skier’s collision with a lift tower stanchion was off the race course and off the trail, ALM GL c 143, § 71O, placed the duty to avoid collisions on the skier alone. Brush v. Jiminy Peak Mt. Resort, Inc. (2009) 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52204.

In applying ALM GL c 143, § 71O, while it may be unreasonable to presume that a child learning to ski knows the range of his own ability to ski on any slope, trail or area, a similar presumption cannot be applied to collegiate competitive skiers. Brush v. Jiminy Peak Mt. Resort, Inc. (2009) 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52204.

In a negligence action brought by an inexperienced skier who was seriously injured when she struck a snow gun while skiing on a low intermediate trail, even though the ski area operator’s trail markings did not violate the Massachusetts Ski Safety Act, ALM GL c 143, § 71N, or contribute to the accident and even though the skier had an obligation under ALM GL c 143, § 71O to avoid collisions with an object so long as the object was not improperly marked, the ski area operator was not entitled to summary judgment on all the negligence claims because there were factual disputes remaining as to whether the snow gun was adequately marked and padded. Peresypa v. Jiminy Peak Mt. Resort, Inc. (2009) 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84417.

§ 71P. Recreational Tramways — Actions Against Ski Area Operators.

For the purpose of sections seventy-one I to seventy-one R, inclusive, in any action brought against a ski area operator based on negligence, it shall be evidence of due care where the conduct of an operator has conformed with the provisions of this chapter or rules or regulations of the board made pursuant to section seventy-one J.

No action shall be maintained against a ski area operator for injury to a skier unless as a condition precedent thereof the person so injured shall, within ninety days of the incident, give to such ski area operator notice, by registered mail, of the name and address of the person injured, the time, place and cause of the injury. Failure to give the foregoing notice shall bar recovery, unless the court finds under the circumstances of the particular case that such ski area operator had actual knowledge of said injury or had reasonable opportunity to learn of said injury within said ninety-day period, or was otherwise not substantially prejudiced by reason of not having been given actual written notice of said injury within said period. In a case where lack of written notice, actual knowledge, or a reasonable opportunity to obtain knowledge of any injury within said ninety-day period is alleged by such ski area operator, the burden of proving substantial prejudice shall be on the operator.

An action to recover for such injury shall be brought within one year of the date of such injury.

HISTORY: 1978, 455, § 4.

NOTES: Cross References

Limitation of actions, generally, ALM GL c 260 § 1 et seq.

Code of Massachusetts Regulations

Ski safety signs for downhill and cross-country skiing, 526 CMR 8.01 et seq.

Jurisprudence

57A Am Jur 2d, Negligence § 9.

58 Am Jur 2d, Notice §§ 1-4, 27.

15 Am Jur Trials 177, Skiing Accident Litigation.

20 Am Jur Proof of Facts 2d 1, Liability for Skiing Accident.

46 Am Jur Proof of Facts 3d 1, Liability of Skier for Collision with Another Skier.

Law Review References

Centner, Equestrian Immunity and Sport Responsibility Statutes: Altering Obligations and Placing Them on Participants. 13 Vill. Sports & Ent. L.J. 37 (2006).

CASE NOTES

Word “injury” as used in section does not include death. Grass v. Catamount Dev. Corp. (1983) 390 Mass 551, 457 NE2d 627, 1983 Mass LEXIS 1783.

Legislature did not intend to give ski industry same degree of protection from wrongful death claims as from claims of personal injury. Grass v. Catamount Dev. Corp. (1983) 390 Mass 551, 457 NE2d 627, 1983 Mass LEXIS 1783.

Statute of limitations for action for wrongful death arising out of injury to skier and brought against operator of ski area is GL c 229 § 2, the wrongful death statute, not GL c 143 § 71P. Grass v. Catamount Dev. Corp. (1983) 390 Mass 551, 457 NE2d 627, 1983 Mass LEXIS 1783.

Action by injured skier against ski area operator is governed by one-year limitations of action provision of GL c 143 § 71P, where plaintiff’s theories of recovery were negligence and breach of warranty as well as breach of contract, in renting defective ski equipment. Atkins v. Jiminy Peak, Inc. (1987) 401 Mass 81, 514 NE2d 850, 1987 Mass LEXIS 1497.

One-year limitation period in GL c 143 § 71P is not applicable only to action for violation of duty prescribed by GL c 143 § 71N but applies to all personal injury actions brought by skiers against ski area operator arising out of skiing injuries. Atkins v. Jiminy Peak, Inc. (1987) 401 Mass 81, 514 NE2d 850, 1987 Mass LEXIS 1497.

Legislature concluded that short period for commencement of action against ski area operator was in public interest, because of threat to economic stability of owners and operators of ski areas from personal injury claims. Atkins v. Jiminy Peak, Inc. (1987) 401 Mass 81, 514 NE2d 850, 1987 Mass LEXIS 1497.

One-year limitation period applies to actions brought against ski area operators seeking compensation for injuries sustained while skiing. Atkins v. Jiminy Peak, Inc. (1987) 401 Mass 81, 514 NE2d 850, 1987 Mass LEXIS 1497.

Personal injury action against ski area operators is barred by ALM GL c 143 § 71P, where Massachusetts resident on March 1, 1991 sued New Hampshire ski resort corporation in Massachusetts federal district court for injury suffered at resort on March 2, 1989, because Massachusetts conflict rules call for application of one-year Massachusetts limitations period for actions against ski area operators, instead of New Hampshire’s 2-year statute of limitations. Tidgewell v. Loon Mountain Recreation Corp. (1993, DC Mass) 820 F Supp 630, 1993 US Dist LEXIS 6457.

§ 71Q. Recreational Tramways — Leaving Scene of Skiing Accident.

Any person who is knowingly involved in a skiing accident and who departs from the scene of such accident without leaving personal identification or otherwise clearly identifying himself and obtaining assistance knowing that any other person involved in the accident is in need of medical or other assistance shall be punished by a fine of not less than one hundred dollars.

HISTORY: 1978, 455, § 4.

NOTES: Cross References

Fine and or imprisonment for leaving scene of accident involving automobiles, ALM GL c 90 § 24.

Code of Massachusetts Regulations

Ski safety signs for downhill and cross-country skiing, 526 CMR 8.01 et seq.

Law Review References

Centner, Equestrian Immunity and Sport Responsibility Statutes: Altering Obligations and Placing Them on Participants. 13 Vill. Sports & Ent. L.J. 37 (2006).

§ 71R. Recreational Tramways — Penalties for Violations of §§ 71K and 71N or of Regulations Promulgated Under § 71J.

Whoever violates any provision of section 71K, 71N, or any rule or regulation made under the provisions of section 71J, shall be punished by a fine of not more than two hundred dollars; provided, however, that any person who operates a recreational tramway, after the license therefor has been suspended or revoked, shall be punished by a fine of one hundred dollars for each day of such operation.

HISTORY: 1968, 565, § 1; 1978, 455, § 4.

NOTES: Editorial Note

This section incorporates the provisions of former § 71N, 25 renumbered and amended by the 1978 act, to include the reference to violations of new § 71N and to increase the fine from $100 to $200 for violations other than operating on a suspended or revoked license, for which the daily fine was increased from $50 to $100.

Code of Massachusetts Regulations

Ski safety signs for downhill and cross-country skiing, 526 CMR 8.01 et seq.

Law Review References

§ 71S. Recreational Tramways — Applicability of Other Chapters; Jurisdiction of Public Utilities Department.

Recreational tramways shall not be subject to the provisions of chapters one hundred and fifty-nine, one hundred and sixty, one hundred and sixty-one, and one hundred and sixty-two, and shall not be subject to the jurisdiction or control of the department of telecommunications and energy.

HISTORY: 1968, 565, § 1; 1978, 455, § 4; 1997, 164, § 114.

NOTES: Editorial Note

This section contains the provisions of former § 71O, as renumbered by the 1978 act without amendment, except for 2 minor corrective changes.

The 1997 amendment, effective Nov 25, 1997, substituted “telecommunications and energy” for “public utilities”. Section 1 of the amending act provides as follows:

Section 1. It is hereby found and declared that:

(a) electricity service is essential to the health and well-being of all residents of the commonwealth, to public safety, and to orderly and sustainable economic development;

(b) affordable electric service should he available to all consumers on reasonable terms and conditions;

(c) ratepayers and the commonwealth will be best served by moving from (i) the regulatory framework extant on July 1, 1997, in which retail electricity service is provided principally by public utility corporations obligated to provide ultimate consumers in exclusive service territories with reliable electric service at regulated rates, to (ii) a framework under which competitive producers will supply electric power and customers will gain the right to choose their electric power supplier;

(d) the existing regulatory system results in among the highest, residential and commercial electricity rates paid by customers throughout the United States;

(e) such extraordinary high electricity rates have created significant adverse effects on consumers and on the ability of businesses located in the commonwealth to compete in regional, national, and international markets;

(f) the introduction of competition in the electric generation market will encourage innovation, efficiency, and improved service from all market participants, and will enable reductions in the cost of regulatory oversight;

(g) competitive markets in generation should (i) provide electricity suppliers with the incentive to operate efficiently, (ii) open markets for new and improved technologies, (iii) provide electricity buyers and sellers with appropriate price signals, and (iv) improve public confidence in the electric utility industry;

(h) since reliable electric service is of utmost importance to the safety, health, and welfare of the commonwealth’s citizens and economy, electric industry restructuring should enhance the reliability of the interconnected regional transmission systems, and provide strong coordination and enforceable protocols for all users of the power grid;

(i) it is vital that sufficient supplies of electric generation will be available to maintain the reliable service to the citizens and businesses of the commonwealth; and that.

(j) the commonwealth should ensure that universal service are energy conservation policies, activities, and services are appropriately funded and available throughout the commonwealth, and should guard against the exercise of vertical market power and the accumulation of horizontal market power;

(k) long-term rate reductions can be achieved most effectively by increasing competition and enabling broad consumer choice in generation service, thereby allowing market forces to play the principal role in determining the suppliers of generation for all customers;

(l) the primary elements of a more competitive electricity market will be customer choice, preservation and augmentation of consumer protections, full and fair competition in generation, and enhanced environmental protection goals;

(m) the interests of consumers can best be served by an expedient and orderly transition from regulation to competition in the generation sector consisting of the unbundling of prices and services and the functional separation of generation services from transmission and distribution services;

(n) the restructuring of the existing electricity system should not undermine the policy of the commonwealth that electricity bills for low income residents should remain as affordable as possible;

(o) the commonwealth should enter into a compact with the other New England states and New York State, that provides incentives for the public and investor owned electricity utilities located in such states to sell energy to retail customers in Massachusetts which adheres to enforceable standards and protocols and protects the reliability of interconnected regional transmission and distribution systems;

(p) since reliable electricity service depends on conscientious inspection and maintenance of transmission and distribution systems, to continue and enhance the reliability of the delivery of electricity, the regional network and the commonwealth, the department of telecommunications and energy should set stringent and comprehensive inspection, maintenance, repair, replacement, and system service standards;

(q) the transition to expanded customer choice and competitive markets may produce hardships for employees whose working lives were dedicated to their employment;

(r) it is preferable that possible reductions in the workforce directly caused by electricity restructuring be accomplished through collective bargaining negotiations and offers of voluntary severance, retraining, early retirement, outplacement, and related benefits;

(s) the transition to a competitive generation market should be orderly and be completed as expeditiously as possible, should protect electric system reliability, and should provide electricity corporation investors with a reasonable opportunity to recover prudently incurred costs associated with generation-related assets and obligations, within a reasonable and fair deregulation framework consistent with the provisions of this act;

(t) the recovery of such prudently incurred costs shall occur only after such electric companies take all practicable measures to mitigate stranded investments during the transition to a competitive market;

(u) such charges associated with the transition should be collected over a specific period of time on a non-bypassable basis and in a manner that does not result in an increase in rates to customers of electricity corporations;

(v) financial mechanisms should be available that allow electricity corporations to securitize that portion of their transition costs which cannot be divested in the marketplace and which concurrently minimize transition charges to consumers;

(w) the initial benefit of this transition to a competitive market shall result in consumer electricity rate reductions of at least 10 per cent beginning on March 1, 1998, as part of an aggregate rate reduction totaling at least 15 per cent upon the subsequent approval of divestiture and securitization; and.

(x) the general court seeks, through the enactment of this legislation, to establish the parameters upon which a restructuring of the electricity industry shall be based and which reflects the public policy decisions for the commonwealth designed to balance the needs of all participants in the existing and future systems;

Therefore, it is found that it is in the public interest of the commonwealth to promote the property and general welfare of its citizens, a public purpose for which public money may be expended, by restructuring the electricity industry in the commonwealth to foster competition and promote reduced electricity rates through the enactment of the following statutory changes.

Code of Massachusetts Regulations

Ski safety signs for downhill and cross-country skiing, 526 CMR 8.01 et seq.

Law Review References


Colleges, Officials, and a Ski Area are all defendants in this case.

Brush, v. Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort, Inc., Et Al, 626 F. Supp. 2d 139; 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52204

MA Ski Safety Act and a release prevent the plaintiff’s suit.

As the court said, this is a sad case; the plaintiff was a student ski racer. She hit a lift tower during a race and became a paraplegic. She sued the ski area, Jimmy Peak Mountain Resort, Williams College, its coaches and several other officials of the race.

The race was part of a weekend Williams Winter Carnival. The carnival was at Jimmy Peak and included ski races. The plaintiff examined the Giant Slalom course. She exited the course during a run and struck an unprotected lift tower. The factual issues resolved around whether the tower was supposed to be protected by B-Netting (the red netting you see on the sides of ski races) or padding.

The race was on a homologated hill (a slope that met FIS regulations). The race organizers prepared a plan for the netting on the course which showed the netting in the area where the plaintiff left the course. When the plaintiff left the course, there was no netting to slow her down or stop her.

The plaintiff argued the “plan” was a requirement to run the race as required by FIS. The defendants argued the plan was where safety equipment might need to be necessary. The B-netting was not set up according to the plan.

Summary of the case

The plaintiff claimed the defendant ski area was liable for “…negligent operation of a ski area in violation of the MSSA (Count I); negligent failure to undertake duties assumed under a contract with Williams (Count II); and negligent inspection (Count III).

The court fist looked at the definition of Negligence and what the plaintiff must prove under Massachusetts law:

To prevail in a negligence action under Massachusetts law, a plaintiff must prove that (1) the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of reasonable care; (2) the defendant breached this duty; (3) damage to the plaintiff resulted; and (4) the breach of the duty caused this damage.

The court reading the MSSA found the act served two “somewhat contradictory purposes “(1), to limit the liability of ski operators in order to ensure their economic survival and (2) to ensure skier safety.”

Reading the act the court found the duty that caused the plaintiff’s injuries was on the plaintiff, not the ski area. The lift tower was off the ski trail and therefore, under the MSSA the ski area had no duty to set up netting or pad it. If the netting had been set up voluntarily, then the court found there would still be no liability because negligence in a voluntary act does not create liability under the MSSA.

Indeed, this court has previously noted that “imposing liability on ski area operators for duties voluntarily assumed but negligently performed would undercut a key goal of the MSSA,” because it would discourage ski area operators from adding safety features.

The court then looked at the plaintiff’s claims that the agreements of the college to use the ski area which was enveloped in two contracts created contractual duties that the defendant ski area breached. Under Massachusetts law, a tort can be created from a contractual relationship. (This is a minority view in most states.) However, the court could not find language in the contracts that created a duty to undertake steps to keep the competition safe as possible.

The court found that the defendant ski area had not been negligent and had not violated a duty to the plaintiff and dismissed the defendant Jimmy Peak Ski Area.

The court then looked at the remaining defendants, the colleges and the race officials, most of whom were employees of the colleges. These defendants relied upon the release as their defense. The release was required by the USSA (United States Ski and Snowboard Association) to race in USSA events, which this race was. The release had a venue clause that required Colorado law be applied to interpret the release. Choice of law provisions (jurisdiction and venue clauses) absent substantial Massachusetts public policy reasons are upheld in Massachusetts.

The court then examined the release under Colorado law and found the release to be enforceable. The plaintiff argued the release was ambiguous. The waiver was clear to the signor that signing the release waived all claims against the USSA. The USSA waiver listed every possible person to be protected by the release.

United States Ski and Snowboard Association and “its subsidiaries, affiliates, officers, directors, volunteers, employees, coaches, contractors and representatives, local ski clubs, competition organizers and sponsors, and ski and snowboard facility operators.”

Consequently, the waiver protected the remaining defendants. The third party defendants were also released by the waiver because their liability was contingent on the liability of the first party defendants. If the first party defendants were not liable, the third party defendants could not be liable.

The final argument the court reviewed was the claim the actions of the defendants amounted to gross negligence. Under Colorado law a waiver does not protect against gross negligence.

…under Colorado law an exculpatory agreement cannot “provide a shield against a claim for willful and wanton negligence.” In Colorado an individual who “purposefully committed an affirmative act which he knew was dangerous to another’s person and which he performed heedlessly, without regard to the consequences or rights and safety of another’s person” can be found to have acted with willful and wanton negligence.

The court defined gross negligence as “Gross negligence involves “materially more want of care than constitutes simple inadvertence,” though “it is something less than willful, wanton and reckless conduct.”

The court found the defendants had not acted in a way that was gross negligence, and no jury could find gross negligence on the part of any defendants.

There is no evidence in the record, and indeed, no allegation, that any of the Defendants, or anyone at the competition, became aware that there was an area of the trail without netting where netting was normally placed and declined to remedy the situation. At most, there was a collective failure to take a step that might have lessened the injuries suffered by Plaintiff. No reasonable jury could find that this simple inadvertence, no matter how tragic its consequences, constituted gross negligence.

So Now What?

The first issue was what was the plan? Actually, a point that was not addressed in the decision which should be addressed here was why was there a plan?

How can you create a plan, call it a safety plan and not execute it 100%? If it just a draft, or if it is just ideas, you better label it that way. You cannot create documents like that, that are not going to come back and fry you.

Paperwork is the easiest way for a plaintiff to find something to prove you did something wrong. If your paperwork says you will do something that you did not do, or not do something that you did, the plaintiff will work hard to connect it to the injury. You set your own standards, defined your duty to the customers and/or guests (future plaintiffs) and then violated, breached those duties you created.

The choice of laws clause, jurisdiction and venue clause, did not work as it normally would have in this case. The case was brought in federal court because there were parties to the suit from two different states (called diversity jurisdiction cases). No one seemed to want to argue the jurisdiction and venue clause in the release should be enforced. That is difficult to do in some diversity jurisdiction cases in federal court; however, it is not impossible. The case would have had the same outcome under Colorado law, whether or not it would have been filed at all in Colorado after being dismissed in Massachusetts is the question.

Another flaw in how the defendants could have provided more protection is there was not a separate release for the event or the race. Between the Williams College Outing Club, the ski area and the college, someone should have required the participants to sign a release for the event. It could have been based on the course, not all possible courses in the US. It could have named the colleges and their employees to provide better protection. It could have been based on the facts and law of Massachusetts.

It is sad when a young woman has her life upended and changed. However, the law is the law. As the court stated:

It would, however, be false compassion now to ignore the undisputed facts and the unavoidable law. The Massachusetts Ski Safety Act, in the case of Jiminy Peak, and the USSA waiver, in the case of the other Defendants, forecloses any possibility of liability for payment of damages to Plaintiff in these circumstances. To encourage pursuit of a lawsuit lacking a legal basis would only serve to compound the tragedy.

 

Plaintiff: Kelly Brush

 

Defendant: Jiminy Peak, Inc., the operator of the ski area where the accident occurred; Williams College and two of its ski coaches, Edward Grees and Oyestein Bakken, who organized the competition; St. Lawrence University and its ski coach, Jeffrey Pier, who was the referee of the race during which Brush was injured; and Barry Bryant, who served as the competition’s Technical Delegate from the Federation Internationale de Ski (“FIS”). Pier and St. Lawrence University have also filed a third-party complaint seeking contribution from Brush’s school, Middlebury College, and its ski coach Forest Carey, who was a race referee for a race

 

Plaintiff Claims: negligence or gross negligence, negligent operation of a ski area in violation of the MSSA (Count I); negligent failure to undertake duties assumed under a contract with Williams (Count II); and negligent inspection (Count III).

 

Defendant Defenses: Massachusetts Ski Safety Act and Release

 

Holding: For all Defendants

 

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Brush, v. Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort, Inc., Et Al, 626 F. Supp. 2d 139; 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52204

Brush, v. Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort, Inc., Et Al, 626 F. Supp. 2d 139; 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52204

Kelly Brush, Plaintiff v. Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort, Inc., Et Al, Defendants and st. Lawrence university, Defendant/Third-Party Plaintiff v. Middlebury College, Et Al, Third-Party Defendants

C.A. No. 07-10244-MAP

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS

626 F. Supp. 2d 139; 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52204

June 11, 2009, Decided

COUNSEL: [**1] For Jeffrey Pier, ThirdParty Plaintiff: Michael H. Burke, LEAD ATTORNEY, George W. Marion, Bulkley, Richardson & Gelinas, Springfield, MA.

For Barry Bryant, Defendant: John B. Connarton, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, Luke R. Conrad, Donovan Hatem, LLP, Boston, MA.

For Williams College, Defendant: William J. Dailey, Jr., Brian H. Sullivan, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Sloane & Walsh, LLP, Boston, MA.

For St. Lawrence University, ThirdParty Plaintiff: Thomas E. Day, Edward J. McDonough, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, Flanagan & Cohen, PC, Springfield, MA.

For Kelly Brush, Plaintiff: Walter E. Judge, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, Downs, Rachlin & Martin, Burlington, VT; Robert B. Luce, LEAD ATTORNEY, Downs, Rachlin & Martin PLLC, Burlington, VT.

For Williams College, Defendant: Lawrence J. Kenney, Jr., Sloane & Walsh, Boston, MA.

For Forest Carey, ThirdParty Defendant: Gerald F. Lucey, Nelson, Kinder, Mosseau & Saturley, P.C., Boston, MA.

For Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort, Inc., Defendant: David B. Mongue, LEAD ATTORNEY, Donovan & O’Connor, LLP, North Adams, MA.

For Middlebury College Middlebury, VT 05753, ThirdParty Defendant: Robert B. Smith, Nelson, Kinder, Mosseau & Saturley, P.C., Boston, MA.

JUDGES: MICHAEL A. PONSOR, United States District [**2] Judge.

OPINION BY: MICHAEL A. PONSOR

OPINION

[*143] MEMORANDUM AND ORDER REGARDING CROSS MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

(Dkt. Nos. 135, 137, 138, 139, 140, 143, 157)

PONSOR, D.J.

I. INTRODUCTION

This case stems from a tragic skiing accident that left the plaintiff, Kelly Brush, permanently disabled. The accident occurred during a collegiate ski race on February 18, 2006 when Brush lost control and crashed into a ski lift stanchion just off the trail. In her six-count amended complaint Brush alleges that the severity of her injuries was the result of negligence or gross negligence on the part of the following defendants: Jiminy Peak, Inc., the operator of the ski area where the accident occurred; Williams College and two of its ski coaches, Edward Grees and Oyestein Bakken, who organized the competition; St. Lawrence University and its ski coach, Jeffrey Pier, who was the referee of the race during which Brush was injured; and Barry Bryant, who served as the competition’s Technical Delegate from the Federation Internationale de Ski (“FIS”). Pier and St. Lawrence University have also filed a third-party complaint seeking contribution from Brush’s school, Middlebury College, and its ski coach Forest Carey, who was a race [**3] referee for a race on the same trail the day before Brush’s accident. Before the court are motions for summary judgment from all of the parties.

Jiminy Peak argues that pursuant to the Massachusetts Ski Safety Act (“MSSA”) it, as the ski area operator, has no liability because Plaintiff’s injuries were caused by her collision with an object off the trail. The other Defendants assert that Plaintiff cannot recover from them because she executed a liability waiver that covered Defendants and their alleged negligence when she registered with the United States Ski and Snowboard Association (“USSA”). The Third-Party Defendants argue that as a matter of law they have no obligation to contribute even if Third-Party Plaintiffs Pier and St. Lawrence are liable to Plaintiff. Plaintiff asks the court to rule that the MSSA does not bar her claims against Jiminy Peak and the USSA liability waiver is not applicable to bar the claims of the other Defendants. Finally she asserts that the facts are sufficient to permit this case to go to trial on a theory of gross negligence, even if the USSA waiver is valid.

For the reasons set forth below, the court will allow all Defendants’ motions for [*144] summary judgment, [**4] deny Plaintiff’s motion, and order entry of judgment for Defendants.

II. BACKGROUND

The facts are largely undisputed. Where disputes exist, the court has viewed the facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiff.

A. The Accident.

Brush was injured while competing in the Williams Winter Carnival, a two-day event at the Jiminy Peak ski area in Hancock, Massachusetts hosted by the Williams College Outing Club in association with the Williams College ski team. The Winter Carnival is part of the regular season of the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association (EISA), one conference within the ski program of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The competition was also held under the auspices of the USSA and the FIS, which in the United States operates through the USSA. As a result of the USSA/FIS affiliation, all competitors in the Winter Carnival had to be USSA members, though not all had to be NCAA athletes. The USSA/FIS designation meant that skiers could earn “points” to improve their international, individual standing by competing in the Winter Carnival events.

The particular event during which Plaintiff was injured was the Giant Slalom, which took place on the second day of [**5] the Winter Carnival. This event requires skiers to pass through “gates” set along the trail as they descend the slope as quickly as possible. Skiers are ranked based on their best time through the course and are not penalized for any runs they fail to finish, due for example to a fall. Technological changes in the past decade have increased the sport’s risks. New ski designs allow skiers to reach speeds of forty miles per hour. At the same time it has become harder to predict how skiers will fall if they lose control. Some courses now are set with gates at the edges of the trail to maximize the distance skiers must travel from one side of the trail to another in order to slow skiers down. Persons involved with competitive skiing are aware that technical changes have increased the importance of proper placement of safety equipment during competitions.

Under NCAA and USSA rules, members of the “competition jury” have a responsibility to inspect the layout of a trail prior to its use during a competition. The competition jury for the race during which Brush was injured included the “Chief of the Race,” Defendant Edward Grees, the head ski coach at Williams; the “Chief of the Course,” Defendant [**6] Oyestein Bakken, an assistant ski coach at Williams; the “Race Referee,” Jeffrey Pier, a ski coach at St. Lawrence University; and the “Technical Delegate,” Defendant Barry Bryant. Third-party Defendant Forest Carey, the Middlebury coach, was the “Race Referee” for a race that used the same trail the previous day.

The USSA requires that trails used in competitions be “homologated,” which means that the trail has been confirmed to meet the relevant FIS regulations. The USSA also mandates that trails be prepared in keeping with homologation requirements. The parties disagree about whether all members of the jury were responsible for confirming that the trail was set consistent with the homologation report, but for purposes of this memorandum the court will assume they were. Additionally, there is a dispute as to whether the trail was, in fact, prepared as set out in a homologation report drafted in keeping with FIS requirements. Again, for purposes of its rulings here, the court will [*145] assume that the trail was not prepared as the homologation report contemplated.

Plaintiff asserts that the relevant homologation report required that “B-netting,” a type of netting used to slow errant skiers [**7] before they collide with objects, be placed along the edge of the trail starting uphill from any lift tower and continuing downhill some distance past the lift tower. The homologation report, completed in 2002 by Defendant Grees and an FIS representative for the area where Plaintiff was hurt, included a diagram showing such B-netting. While at least some of the defendants assert the report merely displays safety equipment that might be necessary, rather than the minimal required safety equipment, the court will, again, assume for the current purposes that the report indicated that B-netting should have been installed above and below lift towers. The parties do agree that B-netting was not set up according to the diagram on the day Plaintiff was hurt.

At the time of Plaintiff’s accident there was B-netting along the left edge of the trail, stopping at a point approximately even with the gate where Brush lost control and somewhat uphill from a lift tower. No other netting was placed between the trail and the tower, so that the area directly in front of the tower lacked any protection. In prior years B-netting was placed in accordance with a diagram in the homologation report, extending [**8] past the lift tower above and below.

Not only was there less B-netting on February 18, 2006 than there was in the past, there were no triangular nets set around the lift tower itself. Triangular nets are another available type of safety netting used to deflect a skier from a particular hazard. Additionally, neither the tower nor its support stanchion was equipped with a type of padding known as Willy Bags, though such padding is regularly used in speed events.

After the Giant Slalom course was set, Plaintiff had an opportunity to ski down the slope to assess the course, and she did so. Later, during one of her timed runs, Plaintiff caught an edge of one of her skis and lost control. As a result she left the trail and struck the unprotected lift tower support stanchion. The collision caused life-altering injuries to Plaintiff, including paraplegia.

B. Relevant Agreements.

1. USSA Waiver.

At the time of her accident Plaintiff was a member of the USSA and the FIS. During the summer of 2005 registration forms for both organizations were completed on her behalf. 1 The FIS waiver included language acknowledging the risks of skiing competitively. Additionally, it stated that national or club organizations [**9] in the United States may require a skier to waive any liability claims in order to participate in their activities.

1 The parties agree that Plaintiff’s mother signed the relevant USSA Release and FIS Registration with Plaintiff’s full consent and authorization. They further agree that the weight given to those documents should be the same as it would be if Plaintiff had signed them herself. (Dkt. No. 162, Pl.’s Resp. to Defs.’ Joint Statement of Undisputed Material Facts at 18.)

Those completing the USSA registration form had to sign a clearly-labeled liability release. (Dkt. No. 142, Ex. 9.) Pursuant to that release a USSA member

unconditionally WAIVES AND RELEASES ANY AND ALL CLAIMS, AND AGREES TO HOLD HARMLESS, DEFEND AND INDEMNIFY USSA FROM ANY CLAIMS, present or future, to Member or his/her property, [*146] or to any other person or property, for any loss, damage, expense, or injury (including DEATH), suffered by any person from or in connection with Member’s participation in any Activities in which USSA is involved in any way, due to any cause whatsoever INCLUDING NEGLIGENCE and/or breach of express or implied warranty on the part of USSA.

Id.

As used in the release “USSA” referred to the [**10] United States Ski and Snowboard Association and “its subsidiaries, affiliates, officers, directors, volunteers, employees, coaches, contractors and representatives, local ski clubs, competition organizers and sponsors, and ski and snowboard facility operators.” Id. The term “Activities” included “skiing and snowboarding in their various forms, as well as preparation for participation in, coaching, volunteering, officiating and related activities in alpine, nordic, freestyle, disabled, and snowboarding competitions and clinics.” Id.

2. Agreements Between Defendants.

The Williams College ski team utilized the Jiminy Peak ski area for its Winter Carnival and for practice sessions pursuant to a written agreement between the parties. (Dkt. No. 158, Tab 18, Jiminy Peak/Williams College Contract.) That five-paragraph agreement gave Williams and members of its community various types of access to the ski area in exchange for a single annual payment. Jiminy Peak agreed to have its mountain manager work with the Williams alpine coach to determine safe conditions for ski team training and to make and groom snow for the trails that were used during the annual winter carnival.

Jiminy Peak and Williams [**11] College were also parties to an Alpine Schedule Agreement with the USSA. Pursuant to that agreement the competition was listed on the USSA’s official schedule; all competitors had to be members of the USSA; competitors, as noted, were able to earn “points;” competition organizers had to agree to allow some non-collegiate USSA members to compete; and members of the competition jury had to be members of USSA. Additionally, the agreement required that facilities “to be used in the actual competition events . . . conform with applicable rules and with requirements of the [Technical Delegate] and competition jury.” (Dkt. No. 158, Tab 8, Alpine Schedule Agreement 2, P 8.) The competition organizer, the Williams College Outing Club, was responsible for “working with” Jiminy Peak, the USSA, and the competition jury to select facilities and ensure that they were prepared in accordance with “such rules or requirements, and homologation or facility approval requirements according to discipline and type of competition.” Id.

III. DISCUSSION

“Summary judgment is appropriate where ‘there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and [] the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'” [**12] Coffin v. Bowater, Inc., 501 F.3d 80, 85 (1st Cir. 2007) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). “[C]ourts are required to view the facts and draw reasonable inferences ‘in the light most favorable to the party opposing the [summary judgment] motion.'” Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378, 127 S. Ct. 1769, 167 L. Ed. 2d 686 (2007) (citing United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655, 82 S. Ct. 993, 8 L. Ed. 2d 176 (1962)). “Cross-motions for summary judgment do not alter the basic Rule 56 standard, but rather simply require us to determine whether either of the parties deserves judgment as a matter of law on facts that are not disputed.” Adria Int’l Group, Inc. [*147] v. Ferre Dev., Inc., 241 F.3d 103, 107 (1st Cir. 2001).

A. Claims Against Jiminy Peak.

Plaintiff asserts three claims against Jiminy Peak: negligent operation of a ski area in violation of the MSSA (Count I); negligent failure to undertake duties assumed under a contract with Williams (Count II); and negligent inspection (Count III). [HN1] “To prevail in a negligence action under Massachusetts law, a plaintiff must prove that (1) the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of reasonable care; (2) the defendant breached this duty; (3) damage to the plaintiff resulted; and (4) the breach of the duty caused this [**13] damage.” Brown v. United States, 557 F.3fd 1, 3 (1st Cir. 2009) (quoting Jupin v. Kask, 447 Mass. 141, 849 N.E.2d 829, 835 (Mass. 2006)). Jiminy Peak asserts that under the MSSA it did not owe Plaintiff any duty to use reasonable care to prevent her collision with an object off the ski trail. Plaintiff argues that Jiminy Peak had a duty to her pursuant to the MSSA and its agreements with Williams College and the USSA.

1. Statutory Duty.

[HN2] The MSSA serves two somewhat contradictory purposes, (1) to limit the liability of ski operators in order to ensure their economic survival and (2) to ensure skier safety. McHerron v. Jiminy Peak, Inc., 422 Mass. 678, 665 N.E.2d 26, 27 (Mass. 1996). Pursuant to the MSSA a ski area operator has a general duty to operate the “ski areas under its control in a reasonably safe manner.” Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 143, § 71N(6) (2008).

However, this duty is sharply limited by other provisions of the act. Of particular relevance in this case is that the MSSA places “the duty to avoid any collision with any . . . object on the hill below” solely on the skier, so long as the object was not improperly marked. Id. at § 71O. The MSSA does shift the duty to avoid collisions back to the ski area operator [**14] when the ski operator has not marked the obstruction “pursuant to the regulations promulgated by the [recreational tramway] board” or “as otherwise provided” in the statute. Id.; see also Eipp v. Jiminy Peak, Inc., 154 F. Supp. 2d 110, 116 (D. Mass. 2001) (declining to enter summary judgment for the ski area operator where skier was injured after striking “a snowgun in the middle of a ski trail”). At the time of Plaintiff’s accident the only active regulations, at 526 C.M.R. § 10, did not address signage requirements.

The other requirements established by the MSSA require ski area operators to (1) mark maintenance and snow-making equipment that is in use (Id. at § 71N(1)), (2) mark with flashing lights trail maintenance and emergency vehicles in use in a ski area (Id. at § 71N(2)), and (3) mark the location of snow-making hydrants “within or upon a slope or trail” § 71N(4)).

[HN3] Under the MSSA, skiers are also solely responsible for any injuries resulting from skiing anywhere other than on an open slope or trail. 2 Id. at § 71O; Spinale v. Pam F., Inc., 1995 Mass. App. Div. 140, 142 (Mass. App. Div. 1995) (“[Section] 71O expressly imposes responsibility for injuries sustained while ‘skiing [**15] on other than an open slope or trail within the ski area’ on the skier, and thereby exempts the ski area operator from liability for the [*148] same.”). The ski area operator has no duty to provide netting or padding around obstacles off the trail. Walsh v. Jiminy Peak, Inc., No. 02-11890-MAP, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18463 at *12-13 (D. Mass. Aug. 29, 2005). Nor does it assume such a duty by padding some obstacles. Id. Indeed, this court has previously noted that “imposing liability on ski area operators for duties voluntarily assumed but negligently performed would undercut a key goal of the MSSA,” because it would discourage ski area operators from adding safety features. 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18463 at *16.

2 [HN4] A “[s]ki slope or trail” is limited to the “area designed by the person or organization having operational responsibility for the ski area as herein defined, including a cross-country ski area, for use by the public in furtherance of the sport of skiing . . . .” Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 143, § 71I.

The parties agree that the lift tower stanchion 3 Plaintiff struck was “off the course and off the trail.” (Dkt. No. 162 at 23.) Given these facts, the MSSA placed the duty to avoid collisions on Plaintiff alone. 4

3 Plaintiff [**16] separately argues that Jiminy Peak had a specific duty to protect skiers from collisions with ski lift stanchions pursuant to 526 C.M.R. 10.09(4)(b). That regulation specifies that ski area operators are to fence or barricade any area of the tramway that could cause injury to a person. However, that requirement appears within a section entitled “Protection Against moving parts or Other Hazards and Clearance Envelopes.” Id. at 10.09(4). Given that context, it is clear that this fencing requirement is only intended to keep members of the public from getting too close to moving parts of a tramway system which might cause injury and does not apply to nonmoving elements like stanchions and support towers.

4 Ski area operators’ liability is also limited such that they “shall not be liable for damages to persons or property, while skiing, which arise out of the risks inherent in the sport of skiing.” Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 143, § 71N(6). The parties disagree about the applicability of this limitation to this case. Jiminy Peak argues that collisions with off-trail objects, regardless of their cause, are a risk inherent in the sport of skiing. Plaintiff notes that the “inherent risks” enumerated [**17] in the statute are natural conditions that can cause a skier to lose control, not dangers that result from such a loss of control. Id. at § 71O (enumerating the “risks inherent in the sport of skiing” as including “variations in terrain, surface or subsurface snow, ice conditions or bare spots”). Plaintiff appears to have the stronger argument that off-trail collisions, though not unexpected, are in a different category than the inherent risks identified in § 71O. As neither party suggests that Plaintiff’s crash resulted from an encounter with a natural condition like those listed in the statute, the limitation on ski area operator liability related to inherent risks of skiing is irrelevant. The determinative fact in this case, undisputed on the record, is that Plaintiff lost control and struck a stationary object, the stanchion, off the trail. The MSSA shields Jiminy Peak from liability in this situation. There is no need for an “inherent risk” analysis.

Plaintiff argues that Jiminy Peak’s duty to her was not fully circumscribed by the MSSA because her injury occurred during the course of a race. Ski racing is certainly dangerous, perhaps more dangerous than ordinary recreational skiing [**18] because speed is pursued sometimes to the limit of a skier’s competence, and beyond. Jiminy Peak undoubtedly was aware of the dangers associated with ski racing and took some steps, together with the race organizers, to try to reduce those dangers. However, no authority suggests that Jiminy Peak or any other ski operator in Massachusetts owes a greater duty to racing skiers than to other, perhaps less experienced, recreational skiers.

Plaintiff asserts that Jiminy Peak assumed a greater duty to racing skiers, similar to the heightened duty one Massachusetts trial court determined ski area operators owed to a minor child enrolled in an instructional program. Sanchez-Souquet v. Jiminy Peak, Inc., 1997 MBAR-094, 1997 Mass. Super. LEXIS 198 (Mass. Super. Ct. 1997). In Sanchez-Souquet, the state court concluded that it was unfair to require “a ski student to ‘assume the risk’ for his injury” [*149] because ski area operators knew that such skiers lacked experience and judgment and were relying on their instructors to keep them safe. 1997 Mass. Super. LEXIS 198 at *9. Plaintiff urges this court to conclude that racing skiers also should be held to a lower standard than regular recreational skiers because, like students [**19] learning to ski, competitive skiers ski at the edge of their ability. Even if the court was persuaded that the court reached the correct outcome in Sanchez-Souquet (a decision the court need not, and does not, reach) it would not be inclined to carve out a further exception for competitive skiers. While it may be unreasonable to presume that a child learning to ski “know[s] the range of his own ability to ski on any slope, trail or area,” a similar presumption cannot be applied to collegiate competitive skiers. Mass. Gen Laws ch. 143, § 71O.

More importantly, [HN5] the MSSA applies to all skiers, a group which includes “any person utilizing the ski area under control of a ski area operator for the purpose of skiing . . . .” Id. at § 71I; Fetzner v. Jiminy Peak, The Mountain Resort, 1995 Mass. App. Div. 55, 56 (Mass. App. Div. 1995) (“The definition of skier in G.L.c. 143 includes any person utilizing the ski area.”). Competitive skiers thus have the same responsibility to avoid collisions with objects off the trail as other skiers. Ski area operators simply have no duty under the statute to prevent the injuries suffered by a skier who collides with an off-course obstacle. Without such a duty, [**20] Jiminy Peak’s alleged negligence cannot give rise to liability. McHerron v. Jiminy Peak, Inc., 422 Mass. 678, 665 N.E.2d 26, 28 (Mass. 1996) (“As the defendant had no duty to remedy a statutorily defined unavoidable risk inherent in the sport of skiing, the defendant’s alleged negligence in failing to eliminate the [risk] does not create liability.”).

2. Contractual Duty.

Plaintiff asserts that even if Jiminy Peak did not have a duty to her pursuant to the MSSA or through its voluntary safety efforts, it did have a contractual duty to undertake specific steps to ensure the competition would be as safe as possible. Failing to take those steps, Plaintiff asserts, constituted a breach of a separate, non-statutory duty. Massachusetts recognizes that “a claim in tort may arise from a contractual relationship . . . and may be available to persons who are not parties to the contract.” Parent v. Stone & Webster Engineering Corp., 408 Mass. 108, 556 N.E.2d 1009, 1012 (Mass. 1990). However, Jiminy Peak did not obligate itself to provide particular safety measures, such as netting or padding, in either of the two contracts relied on by Plaintiff. Pursuant to its agreement with Williams College, Jiminy Peak agreed to consult [**21] about safe training conditions for Williams skiers and to permit use of several trails for the Winter Carnival competition. Under the Alpine Schedule Agreement, the competition organizers are responsible for “working with” the ski area operator to ensure that ski facilities were prepared in accordance with all USSA rules, regulations, and applicable homologation requirements. The ski area operator, Jiminy Peak, did not itself undertake that responsibility and therefore any failure to ensure that applicable safety requirements were met did not give rise to tort liability.

B. Claims Against Competition Organizers and Officials.

1. The USSA Waiver.

Defendants collectively argue that Plaintiff’s various negligence claims are precluded by the liability waiver executed when her USSA membership was renewed the summer before her accident. Plaintiff [*150] asserts that the waiver does not bar her claims because its language was ambiguous as to the persons and entities it covered. In resolving this question the court applies Colorado law, as urged by Plaintiff and agreed to by Defendants. The waiver includes a choice of law provision selecting Colorado law and [HN6] in the absence of a “substantial Massachusetts [**22] public policy reason,” Massachusetts law honors choice of law provisions in contracts. Jacobson v. Mailboxes Etc. U.S.A., 419 Mass. 572, 646 N.E.2d 741, 744 (Mass. 1995).

[HN7] Under Colorado law “[e]xculpatory agreements are disfavored and, therefore, they are strictly construed against the party seeking to limit its liability.” Del Bosco v. United States Ski Ass’n, 839 F. Supp. 1470, 1473 (D. Colo. 1993). Under Colorado law the applicability of a liability waiver is a legal question to be resolved by the court after consideration of 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 v. Dressel, 623 P.2d 370, 376 (Colo. 1981) (citations omitted). Plaintiffs urge the court to rule that the waiver invoked by Defendants is inapplicable under the third and fourth factors.

As to the third factor, Plaintiff argues that the USSA waiver was a contract of adhesion because the USSA’s dominance over amateur ski racing in this country prevented her from being able to negotiate less onerous contract terms with the USSA. [HN8] “Colorado [**23] defines an adhesion contract as ‘generally not bargained for, but imposed on the public for a necessary service on a take it or leave it basis.'” Bauer v. Aspen Highlands Skiing Corp., 788 F. Supp. 472, 474 (D. Colo. 1992) (citing Jones v. Dressel, 623 P.2d 370, 374 (Colo. 1981)).

On the undisputed facts of this case, Plaintiff’s “adhesion” argument must fail, because under Colorado law recreational activities and services are not essential. Rowan v. Vail Holdings, Inc., 31 F. Supp. 2d 889, 898 (D. Colo. 1998) (holding that waiver was not fairly entered because skier was skiing “as a part of work, not as a part of recreation”); Bauer, 788 F. Supp. at 475 (enforcing waiver executed as part of ski rental, even though all ski rental outlets used similar waivers, because such services were recreational, not essential). Plaintiff completed the USSA waiver in order to engage in a recreational activity. The nature of the activity is not changed by its competitive nature, its subjective importance in Plaintiff’s life, or the fact that a single entity controlled virtually all opportunities to engage in the recreational activity. But see O’Connor v. United States Fencing Ass’n, 260 F. Supp. 2d 545, 552 (E.D.N.Y. 2003) [**24] (concluding that a liability waiver was not binding under Colorado law because the waiver’s author so controlled the sport of fencing that an athlete wishing to compete had no choice but to agree to the terms in the waiver).

Finally, Plaintiff argues that the waiver did not express the parties’ intentions in clear and unambiguous language. Having reviewed the waiver, the court concludes that the language of the waiver was clear and unambiguous. Clear language indicates that the signer is waiving all claims against the USSA including those based on negligence, as indicated in bold, italic, capital letters. See Jones, 623 P.2d at 378. The waiver defined USSA quite expansively to encompass a host of individuals and groups including all affiliates, volunteers, competition organizers, sponsors, coaches, and representatives. It is clear that the list was meant to encompass any [*151] one involved in running a competition sanctioned by the USSA. Finally, it is undisputed that skiers, including Plaintiff, participating in the Williams Winter Carnival knew the event was sanctioned by the FIS through the USSA because they knew they were competing, in part, for FIS points.

2. Gross Negligence.

Plaintiff [**25] asserts that even if the USSA waiver is valid, she should be able to proceed against these Defendants on a theory of gross negligence. The argument is colorable but ultimately unpersuasive.

It is true that [HN9] under Colorado law an exculpatory agreement cannot “provide a shield against a claim for willful and wanton negligence.” Id. at 376. In Colorado an individual who “purposefully committed an affirmative act which he knew was dangerous to another’s person and which he performed heedlessly, without regard to the consequences or rights and safety of another’s person” can be found to have acted with willful and wanton negligence. Barker v. Colorado Region–Sports Car Club, Inc., 35 Colo. App. 73, 532 P.2d 372, 379 (Colo. Ct. App. 1974). In Massachusetts, waivers may only release a defendant from ordinary negligence. Zavras v. Capeway Rovers Motorcycle Club, Inc., 44 Mass. App. Ct. 17, 687 N.E.2d 1263, 1265 (Mass. App. Ct. 1997).

Plaintiff has alleged in her complaint that Defendants were grossly negligent. [HN10] Gross negligence involves “materially more want of care than constitutes simple inadvertence,” though “it is something less than [] willful, wanton and reckless conduct.” Altman v. Aronson, 231 Mass. 588, 121 N.E. 505, 506 (Mass. 1919). Despite [**26] the severity of Plaintiff’s injuries, the conduct alleged by Plaintiff is simple inadvertence. There is no evidence in the record, and indeed no allegation, that any of the Defendants, or anyone at the competition, became aware that there was an area of the trail without netting where netting was normally placed and declined to remedy the situation. At most there was a collective failure to take a step that might have lessened the injuries suffered by Plaintiff. No reasonable jury could find that this simple inadvertence, no matter how tragic its consequences, constituted gross negligence.

C. Third-Party Claims.

Having concluded that all Defendants, including the Third-Party Plaintiffs, are entitled to summary judgment, the court necessarily grants Third-Party Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on the third-party contribution claims asserted against them. Any negligence on the part of Forest Carey, whether in his capacity as a race official or as Plaintiff’s coach is expressly covered by the USSA waiver. Even if the court had concluded that the waiver was inapplicable, Third-Party Defendants would be entitled to summary judgment because Carey simply did not breach any duty he owed [**27] to Plaintiff. His role as a race official concluded the day before Plaintiff’s accident. As a competitor on the following day, Plaintiff was outside the group of people likely to be injured by his acts or omissions as a referee. Therefore he had no duty with respect to her safety. See Matteo v. Livingstone, 40 Mass. App. Ct. 658, 666 N.E.2d 1309, 1312 (Mass. App. Ct. 1996) (citing Palsgraf v. Long Island R.R. Co., 248 N.Y. 339, 162 N.E. 99 (N.Y. 1928)). The risk which caused Plaintiff harm, improper safety fencing, was similarly not reasonably foreseeable to Carey in his capacity as her coach. See Moose v. Mass. Inst. of Tech., 43 Mass. App. Ct. 420, 683 N.E.2d 706, 710 (Mass. App. Ct. 1997) (upholding a jury’s finding that a coach was negligent where the risk which caused a student-athlete’s [*152] injury was reasonably foreseeable). Third-party Defendants would thus be entitled to summary judgment even absent the USSA waiver.

IV. CONCLUSION

This is a terribly sad case. A young woman has been tragically, permanently injured. Putting aside considerations of legal liability, somebody connected with the 2006 Winter Carnival should, as a matter of conscience and professionalism, have noticed the unprotected ski tower and made sure that appropriate netting [**28] was installed to provide a greater degree of protection to the competitors.

It would, however, be false compassion now to ignore the undisputed facts and the unavoidable law. The Massachusetts Ski Safety Act, in the case of Jiminy Peak, and the USSA waiver, in the case of the other Defendants, forecloses any possibility of liability for payment of damages to Plaintiff in these circumstances. To encourage pursuit of a lawsuit lacking a legal basis would only serve to compound the tragedy.

For the reasons set forth above, Defendants’ Motions for Summary Judgment (Dkt. Nos. 135, 137, 138, 139, 140) are hereby ALLOWED, Third-Party Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 143) is hereby ALLOWED, and Plaintiff’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 157) is hereby DENIED. The trial scheduled for September 28, 2009 will obviously not go forward.

The Clerk is ordered to enter judgment for Defendants; the case may now be closed.

It is So Ordered.

/s/ Michael A. Ponsor

MICHAEL A. PONSOR

U. S. District Judge

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