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
What do you think? Leave a comment.
Copyright 2013 Recreation Law (720) Edit Law
Facebook Page: Outdoor Recreation & Adventure Travel Law
Mobile Site: http://m.recreation-law.com
By Recreation Law Recfirstname.lastname@example.orgJames H. Moss Jim Moss
#RecreationLaw, #@RecreationLaw, #Cycling.Law #Fitness.Law, #Ski.Law, #Outside.Law, #Recreation.Law, #Recreation-Law.com, #Outdoor Law, #Recreation Law, #Outdoor Recreation Law, #Adventure Travel Law, #law, #Travel Law, #Jim Moss, #James H. Moss, #Attorney at Law, #Tourism, #Adventure Tourism, #Rec-Law, #Rec-Law Blog, #Recreation Law, #Recreation Law Blog, #Risk Management, #Human Powered, #Human Powered Recreation,# Cycling Law, #Bicycling Law, #Fitness Law, #Recreation-Law.com, #Backpacking, #Hiking, #Mountaineering, #Ice Climbing, #Rock Climbing, #Ropes Course, #Challenge Course, #Summer Camp, #Camps, #Youth Camps, #Skiing, #Ski Areas, #Negligence, #Snowboarding, #RecreationLaw, #@RecreationLaw, #Cycling.Law #Fitness.Law, #SkiLaw, #Outside.Law, #Recreation.Law, #RecreationLaw.com, #OutdoorLaw, #RecreationLaw, #OutdoorRecreationLaw, #AdventureTravelLaw, #Law, #TravelLaw, #JimMoss, #JamesHMoss, #AttorneyatLaw, #Tourism, #AdventureTourism, #RecLaw, #RecLawBlog, #RecreationLawBlog, #RiskManagement, #HumanPowered, #HumanPoweredRecreation,# CyclingLaw, #BicyclingLaw, #FitnessLaw, #RecreationLaw.com, #Backpacking, #Hiking, #Mountaineering, #IceClimbing, #RockClimbing, #RopesCourse, #ChallengeCourse, #SummerCamp, #Camps, #YouthCamps, #Skiing, #Ski Areas, #Negligence, #Snowboarding, sport and recreation laws, ski law, cycling law, Colorado law, law for recreation and sport managers, bicycling and the law, cycling and the law, ski helmet law, skiers code, skiing accidents, Recreation Lawyer, Ski Lawyer, Paddlesports Lawyer, Cycling Lawyer, Recreational Lawyer, Fitness Lawyer, Rec Lawyer, Challenge Course Lawyer, Ropes Course Lawyer, Zip Line Lawyer, Rock Climbing Lawyer, Adventure Travel Lawyer, Outside Lawyer, Recreation Lawyer, Ski Lawyer, Paddlesports Lawyer, Cycling Lawyer, #RecreationalLawyer, #FitnessLawyer, #RecLawyer, #ChallengeCourseLawyer, #RopesCourseLawyer, #ZipLineLawyer, #RockClimbingLawyer, #AdventureTravelLawyer, #OutsideLawyer, Jimmy Peak, Jimmy Peak Mountain Resort, Inc., USSA, FIS, Massachusetts Ski Safety Act, MSSA, United States Ski and Snowboard Association, Kelly Brush, Jiminy Peak, Inc., Williams College, Edward Grees, Oyestein Bakken, St. Lawrence University, Federation Internationale de Ski, Jeffrey Pier, St. Lawrence University, Middlebury College, Williams Winter Carnival, Williams College Outing Club, Giant Slalom, NCAA,
Brush, v. Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort, Inc., Et Al, 626 F. Supp. 2d 139; 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52204Posted: March 25, 2013
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
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
[*143] MEMORANDUM AND ORDER REGARDING CROSS MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
(Dkt. Nos. 135, 137, 138, 139, 140, 143, 157)
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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
Michigan Ski Safety Act
CHAPTER 408 LABOR
SKI AREA SAFETY ACT
MCL § 408.321
Preceding § 408.321
An act to provide for the inspection, licensing, and regulation of ski areas and ski lifts; to provide for the safety of skiers, spectators, and the public using ski areas; to provide for certain presumptions relative to liability for an injury or damage sustained by skiers; to prescribe the duties of skiers and ski area operators; to create a ski area safety board; to provide for the disposition of revenues; to provide for liability for damages which result from a violation of this act; to provide civil fines for certain violations of this act; and to provide criminal penalties for certain violations of this act. (Amended by Pub Acts 1981, No. 86, imd eff July 2, 1981; 1995, No. 120, imd eff June 30, 1995.)
MCL § 408.321
§ 408.321. Short title.
Sec. 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the “ski area safety act of 1962”.
MCL § 408.322
§ 408.322. Definitions.
Sec. 2. As used in this act:
(a) “Board” means the ski area safety board.
(b) “Commissioner” means the director of commerce or an authorized representative of the director.
(c) “Department” means the state department of commerce.
(d) “Operator” means a person who owns or controls, or who has operational responsibility for, a ski area or ski lift. An operator includes this state or a political subdivision of this state.
(e) “Passenger” means a person, skier or nonskier, who boards, disembarks from, or is transported by a ski lift, regardless of whether the ski lift is being used during the skiing season or nonskiing season, and includes a person waiting for or moving away from the loading or unloading point of ski lift.
(f) “Ski area” means an area used for skiing and served by 1 or more ski lifts.
(g) “Skier” means a person wearing skis or utilizing a device that attaches to at least 1 foot or the lower torso for the purpose of sliding on a slope. The device slides on the snow or other surface of a slope and is capable of being maneuvered and controlled by the person using the device. Skier includes a person not wearing skis or a skiing device while the person is in a ski area for the purpose of skiing.
(h) “Ski lift” means a device for transporting persons uphill on skis, or in cars on tracks, or suspended in the air by the use of cables, chains, belts, or ropes, and usually supported by trestles or towers with 1 or more spans. Ski lift includes a rope tow.
MCL § 408.323
§ 408.323. Safety board; members.
Sec. 3. A ski area safety board consisting of 7 members is created within the office of the commissioner. The board consists of 3 ski area managers, 1 from the Upper Peninsula and 2 from the Lower Peninsula; 1 engineer with skiing experience; 1 member of the central United States ski association, a nonprofit corporation; 1 person with skiing experience from the Upper Peninsula representing the general public; and 1 with skiing experience from the Lower Peninsula representing the general public. The commissioner and an officer of the Michigan tourist council are ex officio members of the board without vote.
MCL § 408.324
§ 408.324. Safety board members; appointment; term; filling of vacancies.
Sec. 4. Members of the board shall be appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the senate for terms of 4 years and until their successors are appointed and qualified. Vacancies in the board shall be filled for the unexpired term.
MCL § 408.325
§ 408.325. Officers; quorum; meetings; compensation and expenses; compliance with Open Meetings Act.
Sec. 5. (1) The business which the board may perform shall be conducted at a public meeting of the board held in compliance with Act No. 267 of the Public Acts of 1976, being sections 15.261 to 15.275 of the Michigan Compiled Laws. Public notice of the time, date, and place of the meeting shall be given in the manner required by Act No. 267 of the Public Acts of 1976. The board shall elect a chairperson and other officers it considers necessary to perform its duties between meetings. A majority of the 7 voting members shall constitute a quorum. The board shall meet not less than once yearly on the call of the chairperson or by written request of not less than 3 members.
(2) The per diem compensation of the members of the board, other than the commissioner, and the schedule for reimbursement of expenses shall be established annually by the legislature.
MCL § 408.326
§ 408.326. Rules; fee schedules.
Sec. 6. (1) The board shall promulgate rules for the safe construction, installation, repair, use, operation, maintenance, and inspection of all ski areas and ski lifts as the board finds necessary for protection of the general public while using ski areas and ski lifts. The rules shall be reasonable and based upon generally accepted engineering standards, formulas, and practices.
(2) The board, with the advice of the commissioner, shall propose legislation to establish the fee schedule for permits, inspections, and plan review activities. The fees shall reflect the actual costs and expenses of the department for issuing permits and conducting inspections and plan reviews.
MCL § 408.326a
§ 408.326a. Duties of ski area operators.
Sec. 6a. Each ski area operator shall, with respect to operation of a ski area, do all of the following:
(a) Equip each snow-grooming vehicle and any other authorized vehicle, except a snowmobile, with a flashing or rotating yellow light conspicuously located on the vehicle, and operate the flashing or rotating yellow light while the vehicle is moving on, or in the vicinity of, a ski run. A snowmobile operated in a ski area shall be operated with at least 1 operating white light located on the front of the snowmobile.
(b) Mark with a visible sign or other warning device the location of any hydrant or similar fixture or equipment used in snow-making operations located on a ski run, as prescribed by rules promulgated under section 20(3).
(c) Mark the top of or entrance to each ski run, slope, and trail to be used by skiers for the purpose of skiing, with an appropriate symbol indicating the relative degree of difficulty of the run, slope, or trail, using a symbols code prescribed by rules promulgated under section 20(3).
(d) Mark the top of or entrance to each ski run, slope, and trail which is closed to skiing, with an appropriate symbol indicating that the run, slope, or trail is closed, as prescribed by rules promulgated under section 20(3).
(e) Maintain 1 or more trail boards at prominent locations in each ski area displaying that area’s network of ski runs, slopes, and trails and the relative degree of difficulty of each ski run, slope, and trail, using the symbols code required under subdivision (c) and containing a key to that code, and indicating which runs, slopes, and trails are open or closed to skiing.
(f) Place or cause to be placed, if snow-grooming or snowmaking operations are being performed on a ski run, slope, or trail while the run, slope, or trail is open to the public, a conspicuous notice at or near the top of or entrance to the run, slope, or trail indicating that those operations are being performed.
(g) Post the duties of skiers and passengers as prescribed in sections 21 and 22 and the duties, obligations, and liabilities of operators as prescribed in this section in and around the ski area in conspicuous places open to the public.
(h) Maintain the stability and legibility of all required signs, symbols, and posted notices.
MCL § 408.327
§ 408.327. Promulgation of rules.
Sec. 7. The rules shall be promulgated pursuant to Act No. 306 of the Public Acts of 1969, as amended, being sections 24.201 to 24.315 of the Michigan Compiled Laws.
MCL § 408.328
§ 408.328. Administration and enforcement of act.
Sec. 8. The commissioner, subject to the limitations herein contained and the rules and regulations of the board, shall administer and enforce the provisions of this act.
MCL § 408.329
§ 408.329. Ski lifts, permits required; inspections, original and annual.
Sec. 9. No person shall operate a ski lift without a permit issued by the commissioner. On or before October 1 of each year an operator shall apply for a permit to the commissioner on a form furnished by the commissioner and containing such information as the board may require. All ski lifts shall be inspected before they are originally put into operation for the public’s use and thereafter at least once every 12 months, unless permitted to operate on a temporary permit.
MCL § 408.330
§ 408.330. Temporary permits.
Sec. 10. The commissioner may issue a temporary permit for 30 calendar days to an operator, who has previously been operating in this state on a regular or annual basis, to continue operation. An inspection of his ski lifts shall be made within 30 days from the issuance of the permit. A ski lift inspected and covered by a permit in the preceding year may operate on a temporary basis until further inspected.
MCL § 408.331
§ 408.331. Permit; issuance; expiration.
Sec. 11. If upon inspection a ski lift is found to comply with the rules and regulations of the board, the commissioner shall issue a permit to operate. A permit shall expire on September 30 of the following year.
MCL § 408.332
§ 408.332. Ski lifts; construction, moving, alteration; plans and specifications, filing, approval; permit for work; exclusions.
Sec. 12. Before a new ski lift is erected, or before a presently existing ski lift is moved to a different location, or whenever any additions or alterations are made which change the structure, mechanism, classification or capacity of any ski lift, the operator shall file with the department detailed, duplicate plans and specifications of such work. The plans and specifications shall be prepared by a qualified tramway firm or by an engineer, licensed in this state as a professional engineer, in accordance with Act No. 240 of the Public Acts of 1937, as amended, being sections 338.551 to 338.576 of the Compiled Laws of 1948. Upon approval of plans and specifications, the department shall issue a permit for such work. All rope tows shall be excluded from this section.
MCL § 408.333
§ 408.333. Temporary cessation of operations; resumption.
Sec. 13. The commissioner or board may order, in writing, a temporary cessation of operation of a ski lift if it has been determined after inspection to be hazardous or unsafe. Operation shall not resume until such conditions are corrected to the satisfaction of the commissioner or board.
MCL § 408.334
§ 408.334. Preexisting structures.
Sec. 14. This act shall not be construed to prevent the use of any existing installation, upon inspection found to be in a safe condition and to conform with the rules and regulations of the board.
MCL § 408.335
§ 408.335. Noncomplying operators; modification of rules.
Sec. 15. If there are practical difficulties or unnecessary hardships for an operator to comply with the rules and regulations under this act, the commissioner, with the approval of the board, may modify the application of such rules or regulations to such a situation, if the spirit of the provisions shall be observed and the public safety is secured. Any operator may make a written request to the board stating his grounds and applying for such modification. Any authorization by the commissioner and the board shall be in writing and shall describe the conditions under which the modification is permitted. A record of all modifications shall be kept in the department and open to the public.
MCL § 408.336
§ 408.336. Fees; authorized inspectors; receipts.
Sec. 16. (a) An application for a permit shall be accompanied by fees of:
$25.00 for an annual permit; or
$2.00 for each rope tow,
$5.00 for each T bar, J bar or platter pull,
$15.00 for each chair lift or skimobile, and
$30.00 for each aerial tramway,if greater than the $25.00 annual permit fee.
(b) Inspection fees shall be as follows:
$8.00 for each rope tow,
$20.00 for each T bar, J bar or platter pull,
$60.00 for each chair lift or skimobile,
$120.00 for each aerial tramway, and
$50.00 for reinspections or special inspections at an operator’s request. Any operator may employ any person, partnership or corporation, approved by the commissioner and board, to make the inspections. Inspections made by any person, partnership, or corporation, that may be employed by an operator, shall be on forms furnished or approved by the department. Inspection fees shall be waived when the annual permit application is accompanied by such an inspection report.
(c) Fees for review and approval of plans prior to construction shall be $200.00 for a chair lift, T bar, J bar, platter pull or tramway.Fees for review and approval of plans for modification and alteration of an existing lift shall be $50.00.
(d) Fees shall be paid to the department, which shall give receipts therefor.
MCL § 408.337
§ 408.337. Chief inspector; other employees.
Sec. 17. The department, with the advice and consent of the board, shall employ or retain a person qualified in engineering and training who shall be designated chief inspector. The chief inspector and such additional inspectors and other employees as may be necessary to properly administer this act may be hired on a temporary basis or borrowed from other state departments, or the department may contract with persons, partnerships or corporations for such inspection services on an independent basis.
MCL § 408.338
§ 408.338. Disposition of fees; payment of expenses.
Sec. 18. All fees for permits or inspections, or any other income received under this act, shall be paid into the general fund. All salaries and other moneys expended under this act shall be paid by the state treasurer from a fund appropriated by the legislature.
MCL § 408.339
§ 408.339. Notices; publication.
Sec. 19. (1) In addition to the notice prescribed in section 5(1) notice of a public hearing held under this act shall be published not less than once and not less than 10 days before the hearing, in newspapers of general circulation prescribed by the commissioner.
MCL § 408.340
§ 408.340. Violations; violations of Open Meetings Act, penalties; implementation; maximum penalties.
Sec. 20. (1) Except for sections 21 to 24, and except as provided in subsection (2), a person who violates this act, or a rule or order promulgated or issued pursuant to this act, or a person who interferes with, impedes, or obstructs the commissioner, an authorized representative of the commissioner, or a board member in the performance of duties prescribed by this act, is guilty of a misdemeanor. Each day a violation or other act continues shall be considered a separate offense.
(2) A member of the board who intentionally violates section 5(1) shall be subject to the penalties prescribed in Act No. 267 of the Public Acts of 1976, as amended.
(3) Not more than 270 days after the effective date of this subsection, the board shall, pursuant to section 7, promulgate rules consistent with this act to implement this act, except for subsection (2) and sections 21, 22, 23, and 24, not to exceed $50.00 for each violation.
MCL § 408.341
§ 408.341. Conduct of skier; prohibited acts.
Sec. 21. (1) A skier shall conduct himself or herself within the limits of his or her individual ability and shall not act or ski in a manner that may contribute to his or her injury or to the injury of any other person. A skier shall be the sole judge of his or her ability to negotiate a track, trail, or slope.
(2) While in a ski area, a skier or passenger shall not do any of the following:
(a) Board a ski lift which has been designated as closed.
(b) Wilfully board or embark upon, or disembark from, a ski lift, except at an area designated for those purposes.
(c) Intentionally drop, throw, or expel an object from a ski lift while riding on the lift.
(d) Do any act which interferes with the running or operation of a ski lift, such as, but not limited to: swinging or bouncing on an aerial lift, attempting to contact supporting towers, machinery, guides, or guards while riding on a ski lift; or skiing out of the designated ski track on a surface lift or tow.
(e) Use a ski lift, unless the skier or passenger has the ability to use the lift safely without instruction on use of the lift by a ski area owner, manager, operator, or employee, or unless the skier or passenger requests and receives instruction before entering the boarding area of the ski lift.
(f) Use a ski lift or ski without properly engaging and using ski restraining devices, brakes, or restraining straps.
MCL § 408.342
§ 408.342. Duties of skier; acceptance of inherent dangers.
Sec. 22. (1) While in a ski area, each skier shall do all of the following:
(a) Maintain reasonable control of his or her speed and course at all times.
(b) Stay clear of snow-grooming vehicles and equipment in the ski area.
(c) Heed all posted signs and warnings.
(d) Ski only in ski areas which are marked as open for skiing on the trail board described in section 6a(e).
(2) Each person who participates in the sport of skiing accepts the dangers that inhere in that sport insofar as the dangers are obvious and necessary. Those dangers include, but are not limited to, injuries which can result from variations in terrain; surface or subsurface snow or ice conditions; bare spots; rocks, trees, and other forms of natural growth or debris; collisions with ski lift towers and their components, with other skiers, or with properly marked or plainly visible snow-making or snow-grooming equipment.
MCL § 408.343
§ 408.343. Accident causing injury to another person, notification; identification; penalty for wilful failure to give identification or notification; accident causing injury to skier, notification of hazardous condition.
Sec. 23. (1) A skier involved in an accident causing an injury to another person shall to the extent that he or she is reasonably able to do so immediately notify the ski patrol or the operator, or law enforcement or emergency personnel, and shall clearly identify himself or herself. A skier who wilfully fails to give identification after involvement in a skiing accident with another person, or a skier who is reasonably able to do so who fails to notify the proper authorities or to obtain assistance when the skier knows that another person involved in the accident is in need of medical or other assistance, is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for not more than 30 days, or a fine of not more than $100.00, or both.
(2) A skier involved in an accident causing an injury to himself or herself, but not to another person, shall immediately notify the ski patrol or the operator, or law enforcement or emergency personnel, if the accident created a known hazardous condition in the area where the accident occurred.
MCL § 408.344
§ 408.344. Violations of act, liability for resulting damage.
Sec. 24. A skier or passenger who violates this act, or an operator who violates this act shall be liable for that portion of the loss or damage resulting from that violation.