Your release cannot use the term “inherent risk” as the description of the risks, it creates no release at all.

California appellate court reviews numerous issues brought by plaintiff in this skier v. skier fatality. Most important issue is the relationship between Assumption of the Risk in California and a Release.

Tuttle v. Heavenly Valley, L.P., 2020 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 814, 2020 WL 563604

State: California, Court of Appeal of California, Fourth Appellate District, Division Three

Plaintiff: Grant Tuttle et al.

Defendant: Heavenly Valley, L.P.

Plaintiff Claims:

Defendant Defenses: doctrines of primary assumption of the risk, on the ground Tuttle’s accident was the result of the inherent risks of skiing, and express assumption of the risk, based on Tuttle’s signed release of all claims and liability for defendant’s negligence.

Holding: for the defendant

Year: 2020

Summary

Skier died after being hit by snowboarder coming out of terrain park. Descendant’s heirs could not sue because the release stated the descendant assumed the risk of her injuries. Case is still ongoing.

Discussion by the court provides great analysis of the different types of risk assumed and the differences between inherent risks and other risks.

Facts

On September 2, 2013, Tuttle purchased a season ski pass from defendant and executed a release.2 The release begins with an all-capital advisement: “WARNING, ASSUMPTION OF RISK, RELEASE OF LIABILITY INDEMNIFICATION AGREEMENT PLEASE READ CAREFULLY BEFORE SIGNING. THIS IS A RELEASE OF LIABILITY WAIVER OF CERTAIN LEGAL RIGHTS.”

The accident occurred on December 21, 2013. Snowboarder Anthony Slater was proceeding out of defendant’s terrain park and collided with skier Tuttle after their respective trails merged. The impact of the collision propelled Tuttle into a tree. Tuttle died the following morning. Factors that potentially contributed to the accident included defendant’s signage, fencing, crowd control the day of the accident, Tuttle’s ski path, and Slater’s speed.

It is unknown what happened to the lawsuit against the snowboarder.

The actual facts on how the trial proceeded are convoluted and not in the normal course of trials. The appellate court recognized this and found although the proceedings were different, the outcome was correct.

Analysis: making sense of the law based on these facts.

The court first reviewed release law in California. The main issue the court found was the relationship between a release in California and the inherent risks of a sport. The court made this statement, which should be known by everyone in the outdoor industry.

But a release that applies only to the inherent risks of a sport is the legal equivalent of no release at all.

When you play sports, explore the woods or ski, just three examples, you assume the risk of the inherent risks of the sport. If your release only identifies inherent risks as the risks, the release protects against, you release is protecting you from things you are already protected against. A plaintiff cannot sue you for the inherent risks of the activity.

Your release is written, or should be written, to protect you from all the other risks of an activity. Risks such as those created by equipment, guides or decision’s guides or participants make. Those are risks that are probably not inherent to the sport and a such; you are liable for those risks.

The court did an extensive analysis of these issues. The foundation case is Knight v. Jewett (1992) 3 Cal.4th 296, 11 Cal. Rptr. 2d 2, 834 P.2d 696, a California Supreme Court decision that has been quoted in hundreds of cases in most states and laid down the definitions of the different types of risk and how a person assumes those different risks.

Knight and its progeny have established that a ski resort operator is not liable for injuries caused by risks inherent in the sport of snow skiing. Instead, pursuant to the doctrine of primary assumption of the risk, participants in active sports assume responsibility for injuries sustained as a result of the sport’s inherent risks. Stated another way, the defendant owes no duty of care to protect the plaintiff from the inherent risks of an active sport. Because no duty of care is owed and the plaintiff has assumed the risk of injury, no release is necessary to absolve a defendant of liability when a plaintiff is injured as the result of an inherent risk in an active sport such as skiing.

The issue in the law then becomes has the defendant done something to change the inherent risks or said another way increased the risk to the participants. The participant assumes the inherent risks and others, but not to the extent the risk has been increased. You cannot assume gross negligence, for example.

A ski resort operator “still owe[s] a duty, however, not to increase the risks of injury beyond those that are inherent in the sport. This distinction is closely tied to the policy underlying the finding of no duty, i.e., there should be no liability imposed which would chill normal participation or fundamentally alter the nature of the sport, but liability may be appropriate where the risk is not ‘inherent’ in the sport.” This is the doctrine of secondary assumption of the risk, and it is an exception to the complete defense of primary assumption of risk.

The balance between the risks in the sport that create the excitement and define the sport versus actions of the defendant in controlling or presenting the sport in such a way the risks cannot be assumed by the participants.

The court then compared the issues of increasing the risk and comparative fault. Comparative fault is how the jury or trier of fact determines who is actually liable and in what percentages for the injuries of the plaintiff.

Comparative fault principles apply in secondary assumption of the risk cases. The trier of fact considers the “plaintiff’s voluntary action in choosing to engage in an unusually risky sport, whether or not the plaintiff’s decision to encounter the risk should be characterized as unreasonable” and weighs it against the defendant’s breach of the duty not to increase the risks beyond those inherent in the active sport. Where a plaintiff’s “injury has been caused by both a defendant’s breach of a legal duty to the plaintiff and the plaintiff’s voluntary decision to engage in an unusually risky sport, application of comparative fault principles will not operate to relieve either individual of responsibility for his or her actions, but rather will ensure that neither party will escape such responsibility.”

The court then reviewed the relationship between comparative fault and how that is affected when a release is used.

A different analysis applies when a skier signs a written release that expressly holds the ski operator harmless for its own negligence. This triggers the doctrine of express assumption of the risk. Unlike secondary assumption of the risk, but like primary assumption of the risk, the doctrine of express assumption of the risk provides a complete defense in a negligence action.

The court then clarified its statement defining how a court looks at how the defenses are applied to the facts.

However, unlike both implied primary and secondary assumption of the risk, which focus on risks inherent in an active sport like skiing, express assumption of the risk focuses on the agreement itself.

Court added further clarification to its statement.

A valid release “operates to relieve the defendant of a legal duty to the plaintiff with respect to the risks encompassed by the agreement and, where applicable, to bar completely the plaintiff’s cause of action.” The legal issue in an express assumption of the risk case “‘is not whether the particular risk of injury appellant suffered is inherent in the recreational activity to which the Release applies, but simply the scope of the Release.'”

In assumption of the risk, the plaintiff must know the risks they are assuming. A release removes that actual knowledge from the analysis.

Additionally, a plaintiff does not need to have “‘specific knowledge of the particular risk that ultimately caused the injury. [Citation.] If a release of all liability is given, the release applies to any negligence of the defendant [so long as the negligent act that results in injury is] “‘reasonably related to the object or purpose for which the release is given.'”

The court then looked at the limits of protection a release provides. That limit is defined as gross negligence.

There is an outer limit to the scope of a release from liability for one’s own negligence in the recreational sports context: As a matter of public policy, if a skier proves the operator unreasonably increased the inherent risks to the level of gross negligence, express assumption of the risk is no longer a viable defense; and the operator will be liable for damages notwithstanding the existence of a valid release of liability for ordinary negligence.

If the defendant engages in gross negligence, that is outside of the protection afforded by the release.

A validly executed express release of liability for a defendant’s ordinary negligence means the only viable theory for a judgment in a plaintiff’s favor is if the defendant acted with gross negligence. There is no inconsistency between findings that a defendant is ordinarily negligent by unreasonably increasing the inherent risks of snow skiing, but not grossly negligent. A finding of gross negligence would necessarily mean a defendant unreasonably increased the inherent risks of snow skiing, so that comparative fault principles apply. But an express release, coupled with an undisputed factual finding that a defendant did not act with gross negligence, necessarily results in a defense judgment.

The court then recapped its comparison of the legal issues in a case involving inherent and other risks and a release.

To recap, snow skiing has inherent risks, and a ski operator does not owe skiers any duty to protect against them. If a skier is injured as a result of a risk inherent in the sport, the doctrine of primary assumption of the risk provides a complete defense to a lawsuit against the ski operator. But a ski resort operator owes a duty not to unreasonably increase the risks beyond those inherent in the sport. If a ski operator breaches this duty, the doctrine of secondary assumption of the risk makes the ski resort liable to an injured skier on a comparative fault basis. If the skier executes a release that absolves the ski resort operator of liability for the operator’s negligence, the release is a complete defense, provided the ski operator did not act with gross negligence. That is to say, the ski operator is entitled to judgment as a matter of law if the skier has signed a valid release and the ski operator’s conduct, although negligent, was not grossly negligent.

There is a lot more discussion in the case about the procedural issues and how the trial was handled. There is no need to discuss these here.

So Now What?

This is a difficult case to read and understand, however, if you can parse the procedural arguments from the assumption of the risk and release arguments, it is extremely educational in explaining the relationship between the plaintiff and defendant in a case like this.

Simply put there is a hierarchy of defenses available to a business or program in the outdoor recreation industry. There is no fine line between them, in fact, it is a massive gray area, that changes when you move from state to state.

  • Inherent Risks of the Activity
  • Assumption of the Risk
  • Release

Nor are the defenses entirely separate from each other. And if used properly they can be effectively used to support and define each other.

Your website can help explain the risks, inherent and otherwise. Your release can identify specific risks, which may not be apparent to some or for which some may argue they did not know and understand. Your safety talk can define the inherent risks of the activity to make sure those are known by participants.

When writing a release or assumption of the risk agreement, those written documents need to take in all aspects of the risks and make sure nothing in your program or marketing derails your defense wall.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

Copyright 2020 Recreation Law (720) 334 8529

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Author: Outdoor Recreation Insurance, Risk Management and Law

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

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Under Pennsylvania law, a collision with other skiers or boarders is an inherent risk of skiing. Skiing off the trail because of the collision is also an inherent risk of skiing.

The terrain off of the trail was different than normally found at a ski area. A 3-4 drop off into a pile of rocks. However, the risk is skiing off the trail, not what you run into when you do.

Vu v. Ski Liberty Operating Corp., et. al., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 49013

State: Pennsylvania, United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania

Plaintiff: Quan Vu and May Siew

Defendant: Ski Liberty Operating Corp., et. al.

Plaintiff Claims: Negligence and Loss of Consortium

Defendant Defenses: Release

Holding: For the defendant

Year: 2018

Summary

The definition of an inherent risk when skiing is not what causes the injury, only the risk that led to the injury. Under Pennsylvania law, there is a broad definition of inherent risks and this case was dismissed because the plaintiff assumed those inherent risks, and the defendant did not owe a duty to protect him from those risks.

Facts

The plaintiff was an experienced skier, who had been skiing for twenty years. He was skiing behind his daughter at the defendant’s ski area. A snowboarder came close to the plaintiff or hit the plaintiff sending or causing him to ski off the trail. He went off the trail, over a 3-4 drop and landed in a pile of rocks.

…Mr. Vu does not recall much detail about his accident. Mr. Vu testified: “I believe there was a snowboarder involved and I — the snowboarder got — either cut me off or got awfully close and I had a knee-jerk reaction to veer because the last thing I want to do is ram into somebody. So I — my knee-jerk reaction is to veer.” However, Mr. Vu could not recall what he saw that caused him to veer, whether he veered to the right or to the left, or whether the snowboarder was above or below him on the hill. The last thing that Mr. Vu remembered was skiing with his daughter.

He sued the defendant ski area because it was:

…negligent in the design, construction, and maintenance of the ski slope, failure to warn Mr. Vu of the dangerous condition, failure to construct a barrier to stop skiers from going over the edge into the pile of rocks, failure to inspect the scope and detect the defective condition, and failure to repair that condition.

The court granted the defendants motion for summary judgment.

Analysis: making sense of the law based on these facts.

The decision was based on the Pennsylvania Skier’s Responsibility Act. The court had to decide if the risks encountered by the plaintiff were inherent risks of skiing.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly expressly preserved the doctrine of assumption of the risk as a defense in downhill skiing cases in the Skier’s Responsibility Act, recognizing that “there are inherent risks in the sport of downhill skiing. As the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania explained, “[t]he assumption of the risk defense, as applied to sports and places of amusement, has also been described as a ‘no-duty’ rule, i.e., as the principle that an owner or operator of a place of amusement has no duty to protect the user from any hazards inherent in the activity.”

If there is no duty, then there can be no negligence.

Where there is no duty, there can be no negligence, and thus when inherent risks are involved, negligence principles are irrelevant–the Comparative Negligence Act is inapplicable–and there can be no recovery based on allegations of negligence.

Pennsylvania has a two-part test to determine if the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty.

First, this Court must determine whether [the plaintiff] was engaged in the sport of downhill skiing at the time of her injury.” “If that answer is affirmative, we must then determine whether the risk” of the circumstance that caused the plaintiff’s injury “is one of the ‘inherent risks’ of down-hill skiing.” If so, then summary judgment must be awarded against the plaintiff as a matter of law.

The first test was met; the plaintiff was skiing at the time of his accident.

The court then had to determine if the risks the plaintiff encountered were inherent to skiing. Under Pennsylvania law, inherent risks “are those that are “common, frequent, and expected” in downhill skiing.”

The plaintiff argued that because the plaintiff was no specifically aware of the risk of the 3-4-foot drop off and the pile of rocks, he could not assume the risk.

Plaintiffs argue that while Mr. Vu “was generally aware of the dangers of downhill skiing,” he was not aware “of the specific hazard of being ejected from the ski trail due to a steep 3 to 4 foot drop-off on that particular slope’s trail edge.” (emphasis in original). Because there is no evidence that Mr. Vu had subjective awareness of these risks, Plaintiffs argue, the doctrine of assumption of the risk cannot apply.

In many cases, assumption of the risk would not be a defense if the injured plaintiff had no specific knowledge of the risk. However, it was not the case here under the statute. It did not matter if the Plaintiff had specific knowledge of the risk or a general knowledge of the risks of skiing, he assumed those risks.

The court then looked at the facts and found there were two circumstances that gave rise to the plaintiff’s injuries, veering to avoid a collision and skiing over the drop off.

The first is an inherent risk of skiing in Pennsylvania.

We can easily conclude that the first risk is inherent and gives rise to no duty on behalf of Defendants. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has specifically determined that the risk of collision with another person on the slope is inherent to the sport of downhill skiing: “the risk of colliding with an-other skier is one of the common, frequent and expected risks ‘inherent’ in downhill skiing. Indeed, other skiers are as much a part of the risk in downhill skiing, if not more so, than the snow and ice, elevation, contour, speed and weather conditions.

The next issue was whether skiing over the drop off into a pile of rocks was an inherent risk of skiing. Here again, the court found skiing off the trail, no matter what you may encounter once you are off the trail, is an inherent risk of skiing. The court backed its point up quite interestingly.

We struggled to find case law on point to support our holding because we believe it to be such a common sense and logical conclusion that does not require in-depth analysis.

The court found the defendant did not owe the plaintiff a duty because he assumed the risks of his injury under the Pennsylvania Skier’s Responsibility Act.

So Now What?

Actually, an easy case. Easy under Pennsylvania law because of the Pennsylvania Supreme Courts interpretation of the Pennsylvania Skier’s Responsibility Act. When skiing in Pennsylvania collisions with other skiers or boarders are an inherent risk of skiing and skiing off the trail is also.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

Copyright 2018 Recreation Law (720) 334 8529

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

     

If you are interested in having me write your release, fill out this Information Form and Contract and send it to me.

Author: Outdoor Recreation Insurance, Risk Management and Law

To Purchase Go Here:

Facebook Page: Outdoor Recreation & Adventure Travel Law

Email: Rec-law@recreation-law.com

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

#AdventureTourism, #AdventureTravelLaw, #AdventureTravelLawyer, #AttorneyatLaw, #Backpacking, #BicyclingLaw, #Camps, #ChallengeCourse, #ChallengeCourseLaw, #ChallengeCourseLawyer, #CyclingLaw, #FitnessLaw, #FitnessLawyer, #Hiking, #HumanPowered, #HumanPoweredRecreation, #IceClimbing, #JamesHMoss, #JimMoss, #Law, #Mountaineering, #Negligence, #OutdoorLaw, #OutdoorRecreationLaw, #OutsideLaw, #OutsideLawyer, #RecLaw, #Rec-Law, #RecLawBlog, #Rec-LawBlog, #RecLawyer, #RecreationalLawyer, #RecreationLaw, #RecreationLawBlog, #RecreationLawcom, #Recreation-Lawcom, #Recreation-Law.com, #RiskManagement, #RockClimbing, #RockClimbingLawyer, #RopesCourse, #RopesCourseLawyer, #SkiAreas, #Skiing, #SkiLaw, #Snowboarding, #SummerCamp, #Tourism, #TravelLaw, #YouthCamps, #ZipLineLawyer, #RecreationLaw, #OutdoorLaw, #OutdoorRecreationLaw, #SkiLaw,


Vu v. Ski Liberty Operating Corp., et. al., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 49013

Vu v. Ski Liberty Operating Corp., et. al., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 49013

Quan Vu and May Siew, Plaintiffs, v. Ski Liberty Operating Corp., et. al., Defendants,

1:16-cv-2170

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA

2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 49013

March 26, 2018, Decided

CORE TERMS: skiing, trail, edge, downhill, ski, skier, snowboarder, sport, inherent risk, slope, collision, rocks, summary judgment, drop-off, att, daughter, skied, snow, pile, foot, lift ticket, knee-jerk, genuine, resort, Skier’s Responsibility Act, matter of law, specific risk, experienced, elevation, veering

COUNSEL: [*1] For Quan VU, May Siew, Plaintiffs: D. Aaron Rihn, Mark D. Troyan, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Robert Peirce & Associates, P.C., Pittsburgh, PA USA.

For Ski Liberty Operating Corp. doing business as Liberty Mountain Resort, Defendant: Anthony W. Hinkle, Snow Time, Inc., Cipriani & Werner, P.C., Philadelphia, PA, USA.

For Snow Time, Inc., Ski Liberty Operating Corp., Counterclaim Plaintiffs: Anthony W. Hinkle, Cipriani & Werner, P.C., Philadelphia, PA USA.

For Snow Time, Inc., Ski Liberty Operating Corp., Counterclaim Defendants: Anthony W. Hinkle, Cipriani & Werner, P.C., Philadelphia, PA USA.

JUDGES: Hon. John E. Jones III, United States District Judge.

OPINION BY: John E. Jones III

OPINION

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiffs are Quan Vu and his wife, May Siew. (“Plaintiffs”). Defendants are Ski Liberty Operating Corp. and Snow Time, Inc., operating as Liberty Mountain Resort. (“Defendants”). This action arises out of a skiing accident at Liberty Mountain that left Mr. Vu severely injured. The complaint brings one count of negligence on behalf of Mr. Vu and one count of loss of consortium on behalf of Mrs. Siew, both alleging that the accident was caused by the Defendants’ negligence in maintaining the ski slope and failing to warn Mr. Vu of [*2] the slope’s hazardous condition. (Doc. 1). Presently pending before the Court is the Defendants’ motion for summary judgment. (the “Motion”) (Doc. 36). The Motion has been fully briefed and is therefore ripe for our review. (Docs. 38, 42, 43). For the reasons that follow, the Motion shall be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

On January 23, 2015, Mr. Vu was downhill skiing with his daughter at Liberty Mountain. (Doc. 41, ¶ 24). Mr. Vu was following his daughter from behind as they skied down the Lover Heavenly trail, a blue square intermediate hill, when he had his accident. (Id. at ¶¶ 24-25). Due to his injuries, Mr. Vu does not recall much detail about his accident. (Doc. 37, ¶ 11). Mr. Vu testified: “I believe there was a snowboarder involved and I — the snowboarder got — either cut me off or got awfully close and I had a knee-jerk reaction to veer because the last thing I want to do is ram into somebody. So I — my knee-jerk reaction is to veer.” (Doc. 37, att. 1, pp. 65-66). However, Mr. Vu could not recall what he saw that caused him to veer, whether he veered to the right or to the left, or whether the snowboarder was above or below him on the hill. (Id. at pp. 65-66). The last thing that Mr. Vu remembered [*3] was skiing with his daughter. (Id. at p. 66).

Mr. Vu’s daughter testified: “I saw someone get really close to him and he was trying to avoid them and it was either ramming into him, the snowboarder, or person who was trying to get really close to him, or veering off path.” (Doc. 42, att. 2, p. 8). “He — there was someone trying to kind of get really close to him. And he didn’t want to ram into him. So he — I don’t really understand — know what happened. But he tried to avoid it. And there was like a big ditch or something there. And he tried to stop and tried to avoid the person who was trying to cut him off.” (Id.). “My dad was — the snowboarder was — my dad was kind of like the ham in the middle of a sandwich. Between the end of the trail, the edge of the trail and the snowboarder.” (Id. at p. 9). “I just felt that the snowboarder was getting quite close to my dad and I didn’t want a collision to happen or the snowboarder to ram into my dad.” (Id. at p. 10).

Ultimately, whether he did so intentionally or not, Mr. Vu skied off of the edge of the trail and suffered catastrophic injuries. There was a drop-off at the edge of the ski trail of about three to four feet. (Doc. 41, ¶ 32). Below that drop-off was a large pile [*4] of rocks. (Id. at ¶ 31). Mr. Vu skied off of the edge of the trail, off of the embankment, and landed on the pile of rocks. (Doc. 37, ¶ 11).

Mr. Vu was an experienced skier at the time of his accident. He had skied for over twenty years and was capable of skiing black diamond slopes. (Id. at P 6). Mr. Vu testified that he was familiar with the Skier’s Responsibility Code and understood that he was responsible for skiing in control and in such a manner that he could stop or avoid other skiers. (Id.). Mr. Vu also testified that he understood that skiing is a dangerous sport and that he could get hurt if he skied out of control or if he fell. (Id.).

On the day of his accident, Mr. Vu’s wife purchased his Liberty Mountain Resort Lift Ticket. (Id. at ¶ 18). The back of the lift ticket reads as follows:

PLEASE READ

Acceptance of this ticket constitutes a contract. The conditions of the contract are stated on this ticket & will prevent or restrict your ability to sue Liberty Mountain Resort. If you do not agree with these conditions, then do not use the facility. Snowsports in their various forms, including the use of lifts, are dangerous sports with inherent and other risks. These risks include but are [*5] not limited to: variations in snow, steepness & terrain, ice & icy conditions, moguls, rocks, trees & other forms of forest growth or debris (above or below the surface), bare spots, lift towers, utility lines & poles, fencing or lack of fencing, snowmaking & snowgrooming equipment & component parts, on-snow vehicles & other forms of natural or man-made obstacles, and terrain features on or off designated trails as well as collisions with equipment, obstacles or other snowsport participants. Trail conditions vary constantly because of weather changes and use. All the inherent and other risks involved present the risk of permanent catastrophic injury or death. In consideration of using Liberty’s facilities, the purchaser or user of this ticket agrees to accept the risks of snowsports and understands and agrees that they are hazardous and further agrees NOT TO SUE Ski Liberty Operating Corp., its owners or employees if injured while using the facilities regardless of any negligence, including gross negligence, on the part of the resort, and/or its employees or agents. The purchaser or user of this ticket voluntarily assumes the risk of injury while participating in the sport, and agrees [*6] to report all injuries before leaving the resort . . .

(Doc. 37, Ex. D) (emphasis in original). Though Mr. Vu was uncertain if he read the language on the lift ticket on the day of his accident, he testified that he had read it at some point prior to his accident. (Doc. 37, ¶ 20). At his deposition, Mr. Vu was asked to read portions of the lift ticket and he had trouble doing so because the font was too small. (Doc. 37, att. 1, p. 70).

Mr. Vu and his wife initiated this action with the filing of a complaint on October 27, 2016. (Doc. 1). Plaintiffs allege that Defendants were negligent in the design, construction, and maintenance of the ski slope, failure to warn Mr. Vu of the dangerous condition, failure to construct a barrier to stop skiers from going over the edge into the pile of rocks, failure to inspect the scope and detect the defective condition, and failure to repair that condition. Defendants filed the instant motion for summary judgment on January 31, 2018. (Doc. 36).

I II. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate if the moving party establishes “that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). A dispute [*7] is “genuine” only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for the non-moving party, and a fact is “material” only if it might affect the outcome of the action under the governing law. See Sovereign Bank v. BJ’s Wholesale Club, Inc., 533 F.3d 162, 172 (3d Cir. 2008) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). A court should view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, drawing all reasonable inferences therefrom, and should not evaluate credibility or weigh the evidence. See Guidotti v. Legal Helpers Debt Resolution, L.L.C., 716 F.3d 764, 772 (3d Cir. 2013) (citing Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000)).

Initially, the moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact, and upon satisfaction of that burden, the non-movant must go beyond the pleadings, pointing to particular facts that evidence a genuine dispute for trial. See id. at 773 (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986)). In advancing their positions, the parties must support their factual assertions by citing to specific parts of the record or by “showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” FED. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1).

A court should not grant summary judgment when there is a disagreement about the facts or the proper inferences that a factfinder could draw from them. See Reedy v. Evanson, 615 F.3d 197, 210 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Peterson v. Lehigh Valley Dist. Council, 676 F.2d 81, 84 (3d Cir. 1982)). Still, “the [*8] mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment.” Layshock ex rel. Layshock v. Hermitage Sch. Dist., 650 F.3d 205, 211 (3d Cir. 2011) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48) (internal quotation marks omitted).

III. DISCUSSION

Defendants move for summary judgment on two legal bases. First, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs’ claims are barred as a matter of law because Mr. Vu’s injuries were caused by an inherent risk of skiing. Second, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs’ claims are barred by the exculpatory release language contained on the Liberty Mountain lift ticket. Because we find that Mr. Vu’s injuries arose out of risks inherent to the sport of downhill skiing, we hold that Defendants are entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law without even considering the exculpatory release language of the lift ticket.

The material facts surrounding Mr. Vu’s accident are not in dispute. Though Mr. Vu and his daughter are unclear on the specifics, it is undisputed that Mr. Vu ended up skiing off of the trail, over a drop-off, and into a pile of rocks. (Doc. 37, ¶ 11). Mr. Vu testified that a snowboarder was getting too close to him and his “knee-jerk” reaction was to veer to avoid a collision, causing him [*9] to ski off of the trail and over the embankment. (Doc. 37, att. 1, pp. 65-66). Mr. Vu’s daughter also testified that her father’s accident occurred when he tried to avoid a collision with a snowboarder. (Doc. 42, att. 2, p. 8). While Defendants argumentatively refer to this person as the “phantom snowboarder” and question the credibility of the testimony, for purposes of this Motion we can take Plaintiffs’ facts as true and assume that Mr. Vu skied off of the trail, either intentionally or as a result of a knee-jerk reaction, to avoid colliding with a snowboarder. Even so, summary judgment must be granted in favor of the Defendants because Mr. Vu’s accident occurred as a result of inherent risks of downhill skiing.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly expressly preserved the doctrine of assumption of the risk as a defense in downhill skiing cases in the Skier’s Responsibility Act, recognizing that “there are inherent risks in the sport of downhill skiing.” 42 Pa. C.S. § 7102(c). As the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania explained, “[t]he assumption of the risk defense, as applied to sports and places of amusement, has also been described as a ‘no-duty’ rule, i.e., as the principle that an owner or operator of a [*10] place of amusement has no duty to protect the user from any hazards inherent in the activity.” Chepkevich v. Hidden Valley Resort, L.P., 2 A.3d 1174, 1186 (2010) (citing Restatement (Second) of Torts, § 496A, cmt. C, 2). “Where there is no duty, there can be no negligence, and thus when inherent risks are involved, negligence principles are irrelevant–the Comparative Negligence Act is inapplicable–and there can be no recovery based on allegations of negligence.” Id.

In Hughes v. Seven Springs Farm, Inc., the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania established a two-part test for courts to use to determine whether a plaintiff’s claims are barred by the no duty rule of the Skier’s Responsibility Act. 762 A.2d 339, 343 (2000). “First, this Court must determine whether [the plaintiff] was engaged in the sport of downhill skiing at the time of her injury.” Id. at 344. “If that answer is affirmative, we must then determine whether the risk” of the circumstance that caused the plaintiff’s injury “is one of the ‘inherent risks’ of downhill skiing.” Id. If so, then summary judgment must be awarded against the plaintiff as a matter of law. Id. In the case at-bar, there can be no dispute that Mr. Vu was engaged in the sport of downhill skiing at the time of his accident. The salient question, therefore, becomes whether veering off-trail and over a drop-off into a pile [*11] of rocks to avoid a collision with a snowboarder are inherent risks of downhill skiing. If those risks are inherent to skiing, then Defendants had no duty to protect Mr. Vu. Chepkevich, 2 A.3d at 1186. If those risks are not inherent, traditional principles of negligence apply and we must determine what duty the Defendants owed Mr. Vu, whether the Defendants breached that duty, and whether the breach caused Mr. Vu’s injuries.

We begin with a discussion of what it means for a risk to be “inherent.” The Hughes court explained that “inherent” risks are those that are “common, frequent, and expected” in downhill skiing. Id. In interpreting risks, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has instructed that “the clear legislative intent to preserve the assumption of the risk doctrine in this particular area, as well as the broad wording of the Act itself, dictates a practical and logical interpretation of what risks are inherent to the sport.” Chepkevich, 2 A.3d at 1187-88. “Accordingly, courts have rejected attempts by plaintiffs to define the injury producing risks in very a specific and narrow manner.” Cole v. Camelback Mountain Ski Resort, 2017 WL 4621786, at *4 (M.D. Pa. Oct. 16, 2017) (Mariani, J.). For example, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in Chepkevich rejected the plaintiff’s argument that she did not assume the “specific [*12] risk” involved, looking instead to the “general risk” that gave rise to the accident. 2 A.3d at 1188. A number of courts have addressed the scope of the Skier’s Responsibility Act and have concluded that some of the inherent risks of downhill skiing include: lack of netting, improper course plotting, or soft snow1; skiing off trail and striking a tree2; collisions with unpadded snow equipment poles3; striking a fence on the edge of the trail4; and collisions with other skiers or snowboarders.5

1 Bjorgung v. Whitetail Resort, L.P., 550 F.3d 263 (3d Cir. 2008).

2 Id.

3 Smith v. Seven Springs Farm, Inc., 716 F.2d 1002 (3d Cir. 1983).

4 Cole, 2017 WL 4621786, at *5.

5 Hughes, 762 A.2d 339.

Before addressing the risks that Mr. Vu encountered, we must address Plaintiffs’ initial argument that the assumption of the risk doctrine is inapplicable. Plaintiffs argue that while Mr. Vu “was generally aware of the dangers of downhill skiing,” he was not aware “of the specific hazard of being ejected from the ski trail due to a steep 3 to 4 foot drop-off on that particular slope’s trail edge.” (Doc. 42, p. 8) (emphasis in original). Because there is no evidence that Mr. Vu had subjective awareness of these risks, Plaintiffs argue, the doctrine of assumption of the risk cannot apply. (Id. at pp. 9-13). For support of this argument, Plaintiffs cite several cases that are materially distinct from the case at-bar. First, Plaintiffs [*13] quote Barillari v. Ski Shawnee, Inc., “[i]t is not enough that the plaintiff was generally aware that the activity in which he was engaged had accompanying risks.” 986 F. Supp. 2d 555, 563 (M.D. Pa. 2013). Importantly, the court made this statement when analyzing the doctrine of voluntary assumption of the risk after determining that the Skier’s Responsibility Act was not applicable because the plaintiff was not engaged in the sport of downhill skiing at the time of the accident. Id. at 561. The instruction of this quote is inapplicable to our consideration of the no duty doctrine of assumption of the risk.

Next, Plaintiffs rely heavily on Bolyard v. Wallenpaupack Lake Estates, Inc., 2012 WL 629391(M.D. Pa. Feb. 27, 2012) (Caputo, J.). In Bolyard, the plaintiff sued the defendant for negligence after sustaining injuries while snow tubing on the defendant’s property. Id. at *1. The court recognized that while the plaintiff had “general knowledge” of the dangers of snow tubing on the hill, she did not assume the risk because “there is no evidence in the record that she had any knowledge of the specific hazards of that particular slope.” Id. at *6. Plaintiffs argue that “[s]imilar to the patron in Bolyard,” Mr. Vu was only generally aware of the risks he could suffer while skiing and thus assumption of the risk is inapplicable. (Doc. [*14] 42, p. 8). We disagree.

Notably, the slope in Bolyard was an old slope that was not currently in operation. 2012 WL 629391, at *1. The court used principles of negligence as applicable to landowners and licensees to determine the duty owed to the plaintiff and, consequently, considered the doctrine of voluntary assumption of the risk as a defense. Id. at **3-6. Analyzing the present action under the no duty rule, we do not consider the defense of voluntary assumption of the risk; instead, we must determine whether Mr. Vu’s injuries arose out of an inherent risk of the sport of skiing such that the Defendants had no duty at all. Pursuant to Hughes and the Skier’s Responsibility Act, there is no duty to protect a skier from the inherent risks of skiing and therefore, “when inherent risks are involved, negligence principles are irrelevant.” Id.

Finally, Plaintiffs cite Perez v. Great Wolf Lodge of the Poconos LLC,6
Staub v. Toy Factory, Inc.,
7
Jones v. Three Rivers Mgmt. Corp,
8 and Telega v. Sec. Bureau, Inc.9 in support of their position that assumption of the risk does not apply because Mr. Vu did not appreciate the specific risks that caused his accident. To start, none of these cases address the Skier’s Responsibility [*15] Act. These cases discuss appreciation of specific risk only after determining that the no duty rule was inapplicable because the risk encountered was not inherent. Again, we reiterate that “[n]egligence principles are irrelevant where the ‘no duty’ rule applies.” Lin v. Spring Mountain Adventures, Inc., 2010 WL 5257648, at *7 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 23, 2010). Whether the no duty rule applies turns on whether Mr. Vu’s particular injuries arose out of risks inherent in the sport of skiing — an issue that is not dependent on a plaintiff’s subjective awareness of those specific risks.

6 200 F. Supp. 3d 471, 478 (M.D. Pa. 2016) (Mariani, J.).

7 749 A.2d 522, (Pa. Super. 2000).

8 483 Pa. 75, 85, 394 A.2d 546, 551 (1978).

9 719 A.2d 372, 376 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1998).

We now turn to the risks involved in Mr. Vu’s accident. The facts reveal two circumstances that gave rise to Mr. Vu’s injuries: (1) veering to avoid a collision with a snowboarder; and (2) skiing over the drop-off at the edge of the trail and into a pile of rocks. If these risks are inherent to the sport of downhill skiing, Plaintiffs’ claims cannot stand.

We can easily conclude that the first risk is inherent and gives rise to no duty on behalf of Defendants. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has specifically determined that the risk of collision with another person on the slope is inherent to the sport of downhill skiing: “the risk of colliding with another skier is one of the common, frequent and expected [*16] risks ‘inherent’ in downhill skiing. Indeed, other skiers are as much a part of the risk in downhill skiing, if not more so, than the snow and ice, elevation, contour, speed and weather conditions.” Hughes, 762 A.2d at 344. Likely in recognition of the clear case law, Plaintiffs do not argue in their brief in opposition to the Motion that avoiding a collision with a snowboarder is a risk that would give rise to a duty on behalf of Defendants. To the extent that Plaintiffs’ claims of negligence are premised on Mr. Vu’s avoidance of a collision with the snowboarder, those claims must fail.

Next, we consider whether skiing over the edge of the trail and encountering a three to four foot drop-off into a pile of rocks is an inherent risk of downhill skiing. Plaintiffs frame this risk as the primary cause of Mr. Vu’s injuries.10 “Simply put, the risk of ejectment from a ski trail due to a 3 to 4 foot drop off and striking one’s head on rocks and/or boulders . . . is not an inherent, frequent, common, and expected risk of skiing.” (Doc. 42, p. 11). All parties recognize that the drop-off was at the edge of the trail rather than a ditch or hole in the slope itself. Though Plaintiffs stress that Mr. Vu did not “willingly [*17] decide to ski off trail,” the distinction is of no consequence. Plaintiffs describe the incident in terms of Mr. Vu being “ejected” from the trail due to the embankment, but it is illogical to argue that the existence of the drop-off itself would cause a skier to go over it. Whether Mr. Vu did so intentionally, accidentally, or as a means of avoiding a collision, the incontrovertible fact is that Mr. Vu did, ultimately, ski off of the three to four foot edge of the trail.

10 “. . . the specific hazard of being ejected from the ski trail due to a steep 3 to 4 foot drop-off on that particular slope’s trail edge.” (Doc. 42, p. 8); “Even if Defendant could establish that having a 3 to 4 foot trail edge drop presents a danger inherent to the sport of skiing . . .” (Id. at p. 9); “. . . he was ejected from the trail when attempting to avoid a collision and was confronted with a 3 to 4 foot drop in elevation from the ski trail.” (Id. at p. 11).

We hold that the risk of skiing off trail and suffering from the change of elevation between the trail and surrounding terrain is an inherent risk of downhill skiing. Mr. Vu was an experienced skier who was well aware of the risks of skiing off the designated slope; he testified repeatedly that he “would never ski off-trail.” (Doc. 41, att. 1, p. 43). He had previously skied at Liberty Mountain on multiple occasions and could not remember ever complaining about the trail or trail markings. (Id. at pp. 35-36). Additionally, Mr. Vu’s daughter testified that she did not have any difficulty discerning the edge of the slope where her father went off trail the evening of the accident. (Doc. 41, att. 2, p. 14). It would be irrational for [*18] any court to hold that skiing off trail and encountering dangerous terrain is not an inherent risk of the sport of downhill skiing — ski slopes are marked and maintained in appreciation of this risk, and beginner and experienced skiers alike know to stay within the trail limits to avoid injury. Mr. Vu himself testified that he understood that he could run into trees, rocks, boulders, or snowmaking equipment if he skied off trail. (Doc. 37, att. 1, p. 71).

We struggled to find case law on point to support our holding because we believe it to be such a common sense and logical conclusion that does not require in-depth analysis. One case from the New York appellate court, however, was particularly analogous. In Atwell v. State, the plaintiff was skiing near the edge of the trail when he observed a “floundering” skier in his path. 645 N.Y.S.2d 658, 659 (1996). Plaintiff “instinctively reacted and turned without thinking” to avoid a collision and ended up skiing off trail and into a tree. Id. The court easily found that plaintiff’s injuries were due to inherent risks of skiing. Id. at 650. “[F]rom claimant’s own description of the accident, there can be no dispute that everything he encountered, including the skier he turned [*19] to avoid hitting, the berm at the edge of the trail referred to by claimant’s expert and the tree with which he collided, are all statutorily recognized as inherent dangers of skiing.” The court noted that “[c]laimant chose to ski near the edge of the trail and there is nothing in the record to indicate that the location of the edge of the trail was not readily observable to him.” Id. Similarly here, Mr. Vu was an experienced skier who chose to ski near the edge of the slope. He had a knee-jerk reaction to avoid a skier, and ended up veering off of the trail and suffering from the elevation change and his collision with rocks. Not only is there a lack of any evidence that the edge of the trail was difficult to discern, but Mr. Vu’s daughter testified at length about how her father was close to the edge of the trail and specifically stated that she could observe the edge of the slope without difficulty. (Doc. 41, att. 2, p. 14).

We agree with the Supreme Court of New Hampshire, which simply held: “Even the most generous reading of the plaintiff’s pleadings reveals the chief cause of his injuries to be an unenumerated, yet quintessential risk of skiing: that a skier might lose control [*20] and ski off the trail. By participating in the sport of skiing, a skier assumes this inherent risk and may not recover against a ski area operator for resulting injuries.” Nutbrown v. Mount Cranmore, Inc., 140 N.H. 675, 684, 671 A.2d 548, 553 (1996).

IV. CONCLUSION

For the foregoing reasons, the Motion shall be granted. A separate order shall issue in accordance with this memorandum.

ORDER

Presently before the Court is Defendants’ motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 36). In conformity with the Memorandum issued on today’s date, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT:

1. Defendants’ motion for summary judgment (Doc. 36) is GRANTED.

2. The Clerk of the Court SHALL CLOSE the file on this case.

/s/ John E. Jones III

John E. Jones III

United States District Judge


Under California law, you assume the risk of getting hit by a toboggan being towed by a snowmobile while snowboarding.

Both sides of this case created problems for themselves, and both sides stretched their credibility. In the end, it was easy for the plaintiff to lose because of that credibility gap created by the facts and when those facts were reported.

Forrester v. Sierra at Tahoe, 2017 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 5204

State: California

Plaintiff: Dominique Forrester

Defendant: Sierra at Tahoe

Plaintiff Claims: General Negligence are Claims for Breach of Statutory Duty; Negligence Per Se; Gross Negligence and/or Reckless Conduct; and/or Common Carrier Liability

Defendant Defenses: assumption of the risk

Holding: for the defendant

Year: 2017

Summary

Snowboarder loses suit claiming a toboggan being towed by a snowmobile hit him on a beginner slope. By reporting the incident after he left the resort, he created a credibility issue.

In the end, getting hit by a toboggan being towed by a snowmobile is a risk you assume when skiing in California.

Facts

The facts in a case like this are always screwy to begin with and in my opinion, screwy from both sides of the litigation. The plaintiff and a friend were snowboarding. The plaintiff was filming his friend doing jumps. After the last jump, the plaintiff snowboarded toward the bottom which was on a beginner run waiting for his friend. While waiting, he heard someone yell, and he was hit by a toboggan. He hit his head suffering injuries. The plaintiff thought he saw a ski patroller driving away with the toboggan attached to the snowmobile. The fall broke some of his equipment also.

His friend saw the incident and stated that the driver was wearing a different uniform from what the plaintiff reported. Neither of them saw lights nor a flag on the snowmobile.

The plaintiff and his friend did not report the injury but drove home. On the way home they decided the plaintiff should call Sierra. He did and got a recording machine. He then started vomiting.

The next day the plaintiff hurt all over. Eventually, he was diagnosed with a concussion, a whiplash and disc degeneration.

The plaintiff called the ski area the next day and was told there was no one for him to talk to. He was to call back Wednesday. Wednesday, he called back and filed a report.

Forrester called Sierra again on Monday morning. He was told there was no one with whom he could discuss the incident and to call back on Wednesday. He called Wednesday and spoke with Evan MacClellan, the risk manager. MacClellan completed an incident report based on the phone call. The report described the injury as occurring at the bottom of Broadway near the terrain park. The report described that Forrester was hit by a “snowmobile” (patroller), got up after the incident, and did not report it. On the way home he started to vomit and went to the hospital the next day. The report listed Medina as a witness and included his telephone number.

The same day the plaintiff contacted an attorney.

The ski area investigated the claim. No ski patrollers or terrain park employees knew of any collision with a toboggan and a snowboarder.

MacClellan spoke with the ski patrol and terrain park employees about Forrester’s claim. None of the ski patrollers on duty that day or others with whom they spoke recalled any accident or collision. Both MacClellan and the general manager, John Rice, were suspicious of the claim; in 37 years in the ski industry, Rice had never seen a report made days after the incident. MacClellan did not call Medina, although Forrester had identified him as a witness. MacClellan could not determine that the accident actually took place. He first learned that Forrester claimed the collision was with a towed toboggan rather than the snowmobile itself after Forrester’s deposition.

Obviously, the ski area felt that no collision or accident had occurred. The case went to trial, and the plaintiff lost because the jury found he had assumed the risk of injuries.

Normally, juries like judges are asked to assemble, to a limited extent, the facts upon which they base their decision. In this case that was not done.

As we noted earlier, this case is unusual among liability cases in general because the collision itself was in dispute. Because the jury was not asked to make any preliminary factual findings, we cannot even assume that it found a collision occurred. We know only that the jury found Sierra did not unreasonably increase the inherent risk of snowboarding by its conduct on the day in question–whatever its conduct was found to be.

The plaintiff appealed the decision.

Analysis: making sense of the law based on these facts.

The court first looked into the issues surrounding the snowmobile. The defendant kept a checklist that was to be completed each day before the snowmobile was ridden. The checklist was not kept after it was completed.

Sierra requires its snowmobile drivers to follow a safety checklist and check lights, brakes, and other functions before a snowmobile is taken out. The checklist is a written form detailing the items to be checked and the name of the person taking out the snowmobile. The checklist is discarded daily unless an entry triggers a need for snowmobile maintenance. Due to this practice of discarding the checklist daily, no attempt was made to find the checklists for March 7, and the driver of the snowmobile allegedly involved in the accident was never found.

The day in question was one of the busiest of the year. The ski area employees testified that it was so buy, it would have been impossible to drive a snowmobile through the crowd on the slope in question.

The court then reviewed the evidence of the competing expert witnesses, both of whom offered testimony that at best seems stretched and will be ignored here and was ignored a lot by the court.

The court then reviewed the defenses offered by the ski area, starting with Primary Assumption of the Risk.

“Primary assumption of risk is a complete bar to recovery. It applies when, as a matter of law, the defendant owes no duty to guard against a particular risk of harm.” “Primary assumption of risk occurs where a plaintiff voluntarily participates in a sporting event or activity involving certain inherent risks. For example, an errantly thrown ball in baseball or a carelessly extended elbow in basketball are considered inherent risks of those respective sports.”

Ski areas and other operators, sponsors and instructors of recreational activities have no duty to eliminate the risk. They do have a duty not to increase the risk beyond those inherent in the sport. The court based on this analysis looked at whether a toboggan is an inherent risk of skiing and boarding and found it was.

We first address the threshold question of whether unwanted contact with a snowmobile is, in general, an inherent risk of snowboarding. We conclude that it is.

On at least two occasions, this court has found a collision with resort equipment at a ski resort to be an inherent risk of the sport.

In both examples, the court compared the collisions to collisions with stationary objects, a lift tower and a tree.

The court looked at the facts in this case and concluded the incident was a collision with a toboggan, rather than a toboggan hitting a snowboarder. I suspect the facts in the two cases the court reviewed would have different conclusions if the lift tower or the tree had hit the skiers?

To reach this conclusion, the court went back to the statements of the experts of both the plaintiff and the defendant who testified that snowmobiles were a standard practice in the sport of skiing.

There are many inherent risks of injury and emergency in skiing and snowboarding, and snowmobiles are used to respond quickly to injuries as well as to other emergencies such as lift malfunctions requiring evacuation, fire, gas leaks, and altercations. It appears to us that the use of snowmobiles on the ski slopes at ski resorts is at least as necessary to the sport as the snowmaking equipment in Souza or the directional signs acknowledged as “necessary” in Van Dyke v. S.K.I. Ltd.

The court then also looked at Secondary Assumption of Risk.

The term “assumption of risk” has been “used in connection with two classes of cases: those in which the issue to be resolved was whether the defendant actually owed the plaintiff a duty of care (primary assumption of risk), and those in which the defendant had breached a duty of care but where the issue was whether the plaintiff had chosen to face the risk of harm presented by the defendant’s breach of duty (secondary assumption of risk). In the latter class of cases, we concluded; the issue could be resolved by applying the doctrine of comparative fault, and the plain-tiff’s decision to face the risk would not operate as a complete bar to recovery. In such a case, the plaintiffs knowing and voluntary acceptance of the risk functions as a form of contributory negligence.

The court held that discussing secondary assumption of risk was not necessary in this case because the jury found the defendant was not liable because of primary assumption of the risk.

The plaintiff also argued that an evidentiary ruling should have been made in the plaintiff’s favor because the defendant failed to keep the snowmobile checklist. The rules and laws of what evidence should be kept or can be destroyed to have changed dramatically in the past twenty years, and this area of law is a hot bed of litigation and arguments.

However, the court moved around this issue because the checklist was destroyed every day. The defendant gave the plaintiff a list of the possible drivers of snowmobiles at the resort. Because the checklist was only used by the first driver, and the snowmobile could have been ridden by someone other than the driver who completed the checklist, the court found it was not critical to the case. The plaintiff request of the information had occurred after the checklist had been destroyed as was the habit for the defendant.

So Now What?

First being hit by an object being towed by a snowmobile inbounds in California is an assumed risk. This is the first case f this type I have found. Every other case where the defendant has been held not liable because of assumption of the risk at a ski area was based on the skier or boarder hitting a fixed object.

Second, credibility maybe all you have in some cases. Consequently, you never want to stretch or destroy your credibility, and you do not want your experts to do the same.

Last, if you are hurt at a resort, get help at the resort. Some of the plaintiff’s injuries might have been mitigated if treated immediately.

However, all the above issues could be crap, if the jury ruled not because they believed the plaintiff assumed the risk, but because they did not believe the plaintiff at all.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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Forrester v. Sierra at Tahoe, 2017 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 5204

Forrester v. Sierra at Tahoe, 2017 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 5204

Dominique Forrester, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. Sierra at Tahoe, Defendant and Respondent.

C079107

COURT OF APPEAL OF CALIFORNIA, THIRD APPELLATE DISTRICT

2017 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 5204

July 27, 2017, Opinion Filed

NOTICE: NOT TO BE PUBLISHED IN OFFICIAL REPORTS. CALIFORNIA RULES OF COURT, RULE 8.1115(a), PROHIBITS COURTS AND PARTIES FROM CITING OR RELYING ON OPINIONS NOT CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION OR ORDERED PUBLISHED, EXCEPT AS SPECIFIED BY RULE 8.1115(b). THIS OPINION HAS NOT BEEN CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION OR ORDERED PUBLISHED FOR THE PURPOSES OF RULE 8.1115.

SUBSEQUENT HISTORY: Review denied by Forrester v. Sierra at Tahoe, 2017 Cal. LEXIS 7927 (Cal., Oct. 11, 2017)

PRIOR HISTORY: [*1] Superior Court of El Dorado County, No. PC20120138.

CORE TERMS: snowmobile, collision, ski, inherent risk, snowboarding, sport, checklist, toboggan, driver, ski resort, skiing, unreasonably, assumption of risk, slope, secondary, emergency, resort, ski area, skier, hit, snowboarder, patroller, patrol, risks inherent, instructional error, lift, discarded, siren, suppression, tower

JUDGES: Duarte, J.; Butz, Acting P. J., Mauro, J. concurred.

OPINION BY: Duarte, J.

OPINION

Plaintiff Dominique Forrester was injured while snowboarding at defendant ski resort Sierra-at-Tahoe (Sierra) on March 7, 2010. He claimed he was hit by a toboggan, that in turn was being towed by a snowmobile, while on a beginner slope. The trial court found assumption of the risk applied to the claim, and the case went to the jury to answer the question of whether Sierra unreasonably increased the risk to Forrester above that already inherent in the sport of snowboarding. By a vote of 10 to 2, the jury answered “no.”

On appeal, plaintiff contends the trial court erred in ruling that primary assumption of the risk applied to this case, and instructing the jury accordingly. Plaintiff argues a collision with a snowmobile is not an inherent risk of snowboarding. He further contends the court incorrectly instructed the jury on secondary assumption of the risk, and erred in refusing to instruct on the willful suppression of evidence.

As we will explain, this case is unusual among liability cases in general because the very existence of the alleged accident–the collision itself–was [*2] and remains in dispute. We first conclude that unwanted contact with a snowmobile (here encompassing a towed toboggan), on a ski slope at a ski resort, is indeed an inherent risk of snowboarding. Although Forrester argues the particular alleged circumstances of the operation of the snowmobile on the day of the incident took the collision outside the boundaries of inherent risk, that issue was tendered to the jury and the jury found Sierra did not unreasonably increase the risks already inherent in snowboarding

We assume instructional error on secondary assumption of the risk but find no prejudice, and conclude that the evidence did not support an instruction on willful suppression of the evidence.

Accordingly, we affirm the judgment.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The Alleged Accident

On Sunday, March 7, 2010, Forrester met his high school friend, Franklin Medina, for a day of snowboarding at Sierra. That day was the busiest of the year, with about 6,370 people at the resort. Forrester described himself as an intermediate snowboarder who does not perform jumps. He did not wear ear buds or ear phones while snowboarding and did not recall ever seeing a snowmobile in a ski area before that [*3] day.

At about 3:30 or 4:00 p.m., Forrester was filming Medina doing jumps. After the last jump, Medina snowboarded down the run to wait for Forrester. The bottom area of the ski run is known as Broadway; it is a beginner run near the teaching area and close to the lodge.

According to Forrester, as he began to snowboard down Broadway, he heard someone yell “hey.” He tried to turn around and was hit in the back of the legs. He went airborne and landed on his bottom and then hit his head. His goggles cut his face. He was hurt and dizzy. The snowmobile was 30 yards away when Forrester first saw it, and the driver “took off.” Forrester thought the driver’s jacket was orange or red, but he was not sure. He assumed only ski patrollers, who wear orange-red jackets, operated snowmobiles. He thought the snowmobile driver was wearing a beanie. Forrester did not hear the snowmobile. After the collision, Forrester slid down the mountain, and some other snowboarders asked if he was okay. He did not realize his equipment was broken until he later responded to special interrogatories.

Medina claimed he saw the incident, and that the snowmobile was in front of Forrester’s path and pulling a toboggan. [*4] He saw the toboggan clip Forrester’s feet and “take him out.” The snowmobile was going two or three times faster than Forrester. Forrester took his equipment off and walked down the mountain. Medina claimed the driver of the snowmobile was wearing a black and purple vest like the ones worn by terrain park employees (rather than the orange and red jacket described by Forrester). Medina did not see any lights on the snowmobile and did not notice a flag, nor did he hear a siren.

Forrester did not report the accident, but tried to “walk off” the injury. On the way home Forrester and Medina discussed that Forrester had been hit and decided they should call Sierra. Forrester called just after 5:00 p.m. and got an answering machine. Forrester began vomiting and they stopped in Placerville where Medina took pictures of his face. Medina drove Forrester home.

The next day, Monday, Forrester hurt all over his body, including a bad headache. He went to his doctor who ordered a CT scan, the results of which were normal. Over the next few days, Forrester’s back began to hurt. He was diagnosed with a concussion and a whiplash back injury. Forrester was later diagnosed with disc degeneration with a [*5] prognosis of ongoing pain.

Reporting the Accident

Forrester called Sierra again on Monday morning. He was told there was no one with whom he could discuss the incident and to call back on Wednesday. He called Wednesday and spoke with Evan MacClellan, the risk manager. MacClellan completed an incident report based on the phone call. The report described the injury as occurring at the bottom of Broadway near the terrain park. The report described that Forrester was hit by a “snowmobile (patroller),” got up after the incident, and did not report it. On the way home he started to vomit and went to the hospital the next day. The report listed Medina as a witness and included his telephone number.

Forrester contacted an attorney the same day he spoke with MacClellan. Forrester sent MacClellan a written report, in which he stated he “was involved in a collision with a Sierra Ski Patrol Officer (Ski Patroller) whom [sic] was driving a snow mobile, towing a stretcher. . . . The Ski Patroller was apparently attempting to cross from my left, which was behind me (I have a ‘regular’ board stance), across my face, to the right of me when he collided into me from my blind side. As a result I flew over [*6] him and crashed very hard into the mountain. I suffered a head injury, as well as whiplash, and subsequently blacked out for a short period of time.” The statement continued that Forrester did not see the “patroller” and heard no sirens; he heard only a brief “hey” right before the impact. His friend Medina had witnessed the collision and could not believe it; other snowboarders asked if Forrester was okay, but the ski patrol did not.

MacClellan spoke with the ski patrol and terrain park employees about Forrester’s claim. None of the ski patrollers on duty that day or others with whom they had spoken recalled any accident or collision. Both MacClellan and the general manager, John Rice, were suspicious of the claim; in 37 years in the ski industry, Rice had never seen a report made days after the incident. MacClellan did not call Medina, although Forrester had identified him as a witness. MacClellan could not determine that the accident actually took place. He first learned that Forrester claimed the collision was with a towed toboggan rather than the snowmobile itself after Forrester’s deposition.

The Lawsuit and Trial

Forrester brought suit against Sierra for general negligence and [*7] premises liability. The complaint stated: “Included in the Cause of Action for General Negligence are Claims for Breach of Statutory Duty; Negligence Per Se; Gross Negligence and/or Reckless Conduct; and/or Common Carrier Liability.” Forrester took some theories of liability “off the table” and the trial court granted defendant’s motion for nonsuit as to others. As we explain in more detail, post, the matter was submitted to the jury as an assumption of the risk case, with the jury asked to determine whether Sierra unreasonably increased the inherent risks of snowboarding

Snowmobile Evidence

Sierra requires its snowmobile drivers to follow a safety checklist and check lights, brakes, and other functions before a snowmobile is taken out. The checklist is a written form detailing the items to be checked and the name of the person taking out the snowmobile. The checklist is discarded on a daily basis unless an entry triggers a need for snowmobile maintenance. Due to this practice of discarding the checklist daily, no attempt was made to find the checklists for March 7, and the driver of the snowmobile allegedly involved in the accident was never found. At trial, Sierra stipulated that anyone [*8] driving a snowmobile at the resort that day would have been employed by Sierra. The checklist would not necessarily reveal the identity of the driver of the snowmobile in any event, because once the snowmobile is checked out others may use it without completing a new checklist. Sierra maintains no record showing who is using a snowmobile at a particular time on a specific date.

A snowmobile is a loud machine; its sound is comparable to a motorcycle or lawnmower. The flashing lights are always on if the snowmobile is running, but the siren can be turned on and off. It is against Sierra’s policy to operate a snowmobile without a siren when guests are present. The snowmobile has an attached fiberglass pole with a flag atop, to aid in visibility. March 7, 2010, was a peak day and there was a blackout on the use of snowmobiles in the ski areas except for emergencies. Rice defined emergencies as ski patrol rescue, lift evacuation, a fire or gas leak on the hill, and to carry law enforcement to an altercation. There were no documented emergencies the day of the incident. MacClellan testified that with 6,000 people on the ski slopes, it would be “virtually impossible” to drive a snowmobile [*9] through the Broadway area.

The ski patrol uses orange toboggans for rescue, which are stored in different locations on the mountain and used to transport injured guests. Patrollers take them uphill by chair lift or by snowmobile. Snowmobiles are rarely used to take a toboggan down the mountain; usually a patroller skis them down. Snowmobiles do not tow injured guests in a toboggan.

Plaintiff’s Experts

In addition to medical experts, plaintiff called a ski safety consultant and an accident reconstructionist. Richard Penniman testified as an expert on ski area mountain operations. He testified it was below industry standard to have a snowmobile on the ski slopes when a large number of people are present. On a run like Broadway that is designed for beginners, it was very dangerous to have anything present other than skiers and snowboarders. It was below the industry standard to use the Broadway area as a snowmobile route. Penniman added snowmobiles are only a convenience and a ski resort can operate without them. He conceded, however, that it was standard practice for ski areas to use snowmobiles and agreed they were extremely useful in an emergency where the risk they create might be worth [*10] it. He agreed with the policy of Sierra-at-Tahoe not to use snowmobiles on busy days except in the case of an emergency. In Penniman’s opinion, Sierra’s conduct in operating a snowmobile the day of the incident increased the risk of injury to skiers and snowboarders.

Jesse Wobrock, an accident reconstructionist and bioengineer, prepared an animation of the accident. He testified the accident had “an injury mechanism for both the lumbar spine and the traumatic brain injury.” The damage to Forrester’s left binding was consistent with the height of the toboggan, as was the orange color transfer on the binding. Wobrock testified the physical evidence corroborated the eyewitness testimony. In his opinion, the snowboard went between the tread of the snowmobile and the toboggan; the toboggan ran over the snowboard.

Defense Case

John Gardiner, a forensic engineer and biomechanic, testified for the defense. He opined there was neither consistent testimony nor sufficient physical evidence to conclude what occurred that day. Gardiner testified that if Forrester’s left binding made contact with a toboggan, the contact occurred at the rear portion of the toboggan. If the contact had been near the [*11] front of the toboggan, the snowboard would have hit the treads of the snowmobile and caused damage; there was no evidence of damage to the front of the snowboard. In Gardiner’s opinion, the force involved in Forrester’s fall would not have caused a lumbar disc injury and a concussion. Gardiner also testified that Medina’s view of the accident would have been obstructed by the snowmobile and its driver and that Wobrock’s animation of the incident was inconsistent with the laws of physics and Forrester’s testimony.

The defense pointed out the many inconsistencies between Medina’s deposition and his trial testimony, such as where he dropped off Forrester, whether Forrester wore a helmet, Forrester’s level of skill on a snowboard, the time they finished snowboarding, and whether Medina saw the snowmobile before the collision. Medina had changed his story only after talking to Forrester. The defense argued the differences between the testimony of Medina and Forrester as to the color of the snowmobile, the clothing of the driver, the location of the accident, and the timing showed that Forrester failed to carry his burden of proof as to what happened. The defense questioned how Forrester [*12] could fail to see or hear the snowmobile and offered three possibilities: (1) the collision had not happened; (2) Forrester was not paying attention; or (3) Forrester saw the snowmobile, but not the toboggan and tried to cut behind. The defense argued number three was the most reasonable and Forrester did not report the accident because he felt it was his fault.

Instructions

As relevant here, the court instructed the jury as follows:

“[CACI No.] 410. Dominique Forrester claims he was harmed while participating in snowboarding at the snow — at the Sierra at Tahoe Ski resort. To establish this claim Dominique Forrester must prove all of the following:

“1. That Sierra at Tahoe was the owner of the ski resort and that its employee was operating the snowmobile in issue in this case. Sierra at Tahoe admits that it is the owner of the ski resort and only its employee would have had access to and would have been operating a snowmobile on the ski resort.

“2. Dominique Forrester must also prove that Sierra at Tahoe unreasonably increased the risk to Dominique Forrester over and above those inherent in snowboarding;

“3. And Dominique Forrester must prove that Dominique Forrester was harmed; and lastly [*13]

“4. That Sierra at Tahoe’s conduct was a substantial factor in causing Dominique Forrester’s harm.

“[Modified CACI No.] 405. Sierra at Tahoe claims that Dominique contributed to his harm. To succeed on this claim, Sierra at Tahoe must prove the following:

“1. That Dominique Forrester assumed the risks that led to his injury; and

“2. That Dominique Forrester’s assumption of those risks was a substantial factor in causing his harm.

“If Sierra at Tahoe proves the above, Dominique Forrester’s damages are reduced by your determinations of the percentage of Dominique Forrester’s responsibility. I will calculate the actual reduction.”

Verdict and Motion for New Trial

During deliberations, the jury asked for a definition of “unreasonable” and to have Rice’s testimony about reports of emergencies that day reread. With the parties’ approval, the court responded to the first request as follows: “‘Unreasonable’ – is conduct that is contrary to conduct that a prudent person would exercise in the same or similar circumstances e.g. conduct that is careless, irrational, foolish, unwise, senseless, immoderate, exorbitant or arbitrary under the circumstances.”

By a vote of 10 to 2, the jury found Sierra did [*14] not unreasonably increase the risks to Forrester over and above those inherent in snowboarding in a ski area. Because the jury’s answer to this first question was “no,” it did not answer any additional questions contained in the verdict forms.

Forrester moved for a new trial, contending assumption of the risk did not apply to the case, there were evidentiary errors, and the court erred in not instructing on suppression of evidence. The court denied the motion.1

1 The record does not contain an order denying the motion. Under Code of Civil Procedure section 660, if there was no order, the effect is a denial of the motion.

DISCUSSION

I

Assumption of the Risk

A. The Law

“Primary assumption of risk is a complete bar to recovery. It applies when, as a matter of law, the defendant owes no duty to guard against a particular risk of harm.” (Gregory v. Cott (2014) 59 Cal.4th 996, 1001, 176 Cal. Rptr. 3d 1, 331 P.3d 179.) “Primary assumption of risk occurs where a plaintiff voluntarily participates in a sporting event or activity involving certain inherent risks. For example, an errantly thrown ball in baseball or a carelessly extended elbow in basketball are considered inherent risks of those respective sports.” (Wattenbarger v. Cincinnati Reds, Inc. (1994) 28 Cal.App.4th 746, 751, 33 Cal. Rptr. 2d 732.)

“The primary assumption of risk doctrine rests on a straightforward policy foundation: the need to avoid chilling vigorous participation in or sponsorship of recreational activities by imposing a tort duty to eliminate or [*15] reduce the risks of harm inherent in those activities. It operates on the premise that imposing such a legal duty ‘would work a basic alteration–or cause abandonment’ of the activity.” (Nalwa v. Cedar Fair, L.P. (2012) 55 Cal.4th 1148, 1156, 150 Cal. Rptr. 3d 551, 290 P.3d 1158.) “[U]nder the primary assumption of risk doctrine, operators, sponsors and instructors in recreational activities posing inherent risks of injury have no duty to eliminate those risks, but do owe participants the duty not to unreasonably increase the risks of injury beyond those inherent in the activity. (Id. at p. 1162.)

“Snowboarding is a classic example of a sport that requires participants to assume considerable risks.” (Vine v. Bear Valley Ski Co. (2004) 118 Cal.App.4th 577, 603, 13 Cal. Rptr. 3d 370 (Vine).) Courts have recognized many risks inherent in skiing and snowboarding. “Those risks include injuries from variations in terrain, surface or subsurface snow or ice conditions, moguls, bare spots, rocks, trees, and other forms of natural growth or debris. They also include collisions with other skiers, ski lift towers, and other properly marked or plainly visible objects and equipment.” (Lackner v. North (2006) 135 Cal.App.4th 1188, 1202, 37 Cal. Rptr. 3d 863.)

Whether the assumption of risk doctrine applies in a particular case is a question of law.”2 (Amezcua v. Los Angeles Harley-Davidson, Inc. (2011) 200 Cal.App.4th 217, 227, 132 Cal. Rptr. 3d 567.)

2 Although Forrester recognizes the question of whether assumption of the risk applies is a question of law reviewed de novo, he devotes a considerable portion of his briefing to arguing the trial court’s two analyses, first before trial and then on the motion for a new trial, were incorrect. “In reviewing a trial court’s decision, we review the result, not the reasoning.” (Florio v. Lau (1998) 68 Cal.App.4th 637, 653, 80 Cal. Rptr. 2d 409.)

B. Application to this Case

As we noted earlier, this case is unusual among liability cases in general because [*16] the collision itself was in dispute. Because the jury was not asked to make any preliminary factual findings, we cannot even assume that it found a collision occurred. We know only that the jury found Sierra did not unreasonably increase the inherent risk of snowboarding by its conduct on the day in question–whatever its conduct was found to be. With this in mind, we turn to Forrester’s first claim of error.

Forrester contends a collision with a snowmobile is not an inherent risk of snowboarding. He argues that although some collisions–such as with trees or other skiers or snowboarders–are inherent risks, the line should be drawn at a collision between an individual and a motorized vehicle. He asserts assumption of the risk has no role in the circumstances he claims were present here: an unmarked snowmobile with no lights, siren or flag, operated by a non-safety employee on a busy beginner slope, contrary to the safety policies of the ski resort.

Sierra counters that the circumstances Forrester claims were present here, outlined immediately above, would have unreasonably increased the risks undertaken by Forrester had the jury found the circumstances were as Forrester alleged. Sierra [*17] argues that it is apparent from the jury’s “no” vote that it found circumstances more closely aligned to those alleged by the defense, such as the absence of any collision (and even the absence of any snowmobile) whatsoever and other facts favorable to Sierra.

We first address the threshold question of whether unwanted contact with a snowmobile is, in general, an inherent risk of snowboarding. We conclude that it is.

On at least two occasions, this court has found a collision with resort equipment at a ski resort to be an inherent risk of the sport.

In Connelly v. Mammoth Mountain Ski Area (1995) 39 Cal.App.4th 8, 45 Cal. Rptr. 2d 855 (Connelly), the plaintiff collided with an unpadded ski lift tower while skiing. In affirming summary judgment for the defendant, we found this risk was inherent in the sport, and the obvious danger of the tower served as its own warning. (Id. at p. 12.) In concluding that contact with the tower was an inherent risk of the sport, the Connelly court relied on Danieley v. Goldmine Ski Associates, Inc. (1990) 218 Cal.App.3d 111, 266 Cal. Rptr. 749, where a skier collided with a tree. Danieley, in turn, relied on a Michigan statute that set forth certain inherent risks of skiing, including both trees and “‘collisions with ski lift towers and their components'” along with properly marked or plainly visible “‘snow-making or snow-grooming [*18] equipment.'” (Id. at p. 123.) “[B]ecause the Michigan Ski Area Safety Act purports to reflect the pre-existing common law, we regard its statutory pronouncements as persuasive authority for what the common law in this subject-matter area should be in California.” (Ibid.)

In Souza v. Squaw Valley Ski Corp. (2006) 138 Cal.App.4th 262, 41 Cal. Rptr. 3d 389 (Souza), a child skier collided with a plainly visible aluminum snowmaking hydrant located on a ski run. Following Connelly, we affirmed summary judgment for the defendant, finding the snowmaking hydrant was visible and a collision with it was an inherent risk of skiing. (Id. at p. 268.)

A snowmobile is not one of the risks specifically identified in the Michigan Ski Area Safety Act, and we have not found a published case specifically deciding whether a collision on a ski slope with a snowmobile is an inherent risk of skiing or snowboarding. Nevertheless, collision with certain vehicles has been included. While Souza involved only stationary equipment, the Michigan Ski Area Safety Act–which Danieley and Connelly accepted as reflecting the common law–included a collision with snow-grooming equipment as an inherent risk. Thus, collisions with some vehicles are recognized as inherent risks of the sports of skiing and snowboarding.

We recognize that assumption [*19] of the risk applies only to risks that are necessary to the sport. (Souza, supra, 138 Cal.App.4th at p. 268.) In Souza, snowmaking equipment was necessary to the sport of skiing because nature had failed to provide adequate snow. (Ibid.) As in Souza, we find the following quote from Verro v. New York Racing Ass’n, Inc. (1989) 142 A.D.2d 396, 400, 536 N.Y.S.2d 262 apt: “As is at least implicit in plaintiff’s argument, if only the risks of ordinary and necessary dangers inherent in a sport are deemed assumed, the doctrine of [primary] assumption of risk . . . would not apply to obvious, known conditions so long as a defendant could feasibly have provided safer conditions. Then, obviously, such risks would not be ‘necessary’ or ‘inherent’. This would effectively emasculate the doctrine, however, changing the critical inquiry . . . to whether the defendant had a feasible means to remedy [the dangers].”

Forrester’s expert Penniman claimed snowmobiles were merely a convenience and a ski resort could operate without them. He also testified, however, that the use of snowmobiles was a standard practice at ski resorts. Although critical of their overuse, Penniman recognized their usefulness in an emergency. He agreed with Sierra’s policy, which permitted snowmobiles to be used on the ski slopes in cases of emergency, [*20] even on the busiest days. Thus Penniman agreed generally that the use of snowmobiles was necessary to ski resorts, although he disputed the specific circumstances under which that use might be warranted.

There are many inherent risks of injury and emergency in skiing and snowboarding, and snowmobiles are used to respond quickly to injuries as well as to other emergencies such as lift malfunctions requiring evacuation, fire, gas leaks, and altercations. It appears to us that the use of snowmobiles on the ski slopes at ski resorts is at least as necessary to the sport as the snowmaking equipment in Souza or the directional signs acknowledged as “necessary” in Van Dyke v. S.K.I. Ltd. (1998) 67 Cal.App.4th 1310, 1317, 79 Cal. Rptr. 2d 775.

At least one unpublished federal case has found a collision with a snowmobile to be an inherent risk of skiing or snowboarding. In Robinette v. Aspen Skiing Co., L.L.C. (D. Colo., Apr. 23, 2009, No. 08-CV-00052-MSK-MJW, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34873, affd sub nom. Robinette v. Aspen Skiing Co., L.L.C. (10th Cir. 2010) 363 Fed.Appx. 547, the court found “the specific risk of colliding with a snowmobile being operated by a ski resort employee is necessarily within the ‘risks of skiing/riding.'” (Id. at p. *7.) The court reasoned that since “the legislature has seen fit to specifically enact safety measures to prevent skier-snowmobile collisions, one can [*21] hardly argue that such a collision somehow falls outside of [plaintiff’s] express assumption of ‘all risks of skiing.'”3 (Ibid.)

3 Although California has no similar regulation of snowmobiles at ski slopes, the requirements of the Colorado law are similar to Sierra-at-Tahoe’s policy for snowmobile operation. “All snowmobiles operated on the ski slopes or trails of a ski area shall be equipped with at least the following: One lighted headlamp, one lighted red tail lamp, a brake system maintained in operable condition, and a fluorescent flag at least forty square inches mounted at least six feet above the bottom of the tracks.” (Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 33-44-108, subd. (3).)

Based on the foregoing, we conclude the trial court did not err in ruling that primary assumption of the risk applies in this case and instructing the jury accordingly. To the extent that the evidence showed a snowmobile was operating at the resort and involved in an collision with Forrester that day, its presence and that of related equipment (here apparently a towed toboggan) on the slope was an inherent risk of snowboarding at the resort. However, that risk may well have been unreasonably increased by Sierra if the specific circumstances alleged by Forrester regarding the snowmobile’s use at the time of the alleged collision were believed by the jury. But the jury was presented with a variety of competing scenarios as to what happened at the resort that day. Although we do not know which evidence it credited and which it did not, we know that it did not consider the specific circumstances of the snowmobile’s operation that day to have unreasonably increased the risk already present from the necessary use of snowmobiles at resorts.4

4 The better practice in cases such as this one, where key facts–here even the preliminary fact as to whether there was a collision at all, let alone a collision between a snowboarder and a snowmobile towing a toboggan–are in dispute, is to craft the special verdict form to require the jury to make preliminary factual findings, here such as whether the alleged accident occurred at all and the particulars, if so. (See CACI No. 410, Directions for Use [“There may also be disputed facts that must be resolved by a jury before it can be determined if the doctrine applies”], citing Shin v. Ahn (2007) 42 Cal.4th 482, 486, 64 Cal. Rptr. 3d 803, 165 P.3d 581.)

In arguing that a collision [*22] with a motorized vehicle is not an inherent risk, Forrester relies on out-of-state cases, some unpublished. We find those cases distinguishable or not persuasive. In Verberkmoes v. Lutsen Mountains Corp. (D. Minn. 1994) 844 F.Supp. 1356, a skier collided with an unmarked all terrain vehicle (ATV) parked on or near a groomed trail. The court denied summary judgment for the defendant, finding the hazard of the parked ATV was within the control of the ski resort, not an obvious risk like a lift tower, and not a hidden risk like a snow-covered stump. (Id. at pp. 1358-1359.) Defendant’s “parking of the ATV on the trail during routine maintenance of the ski slope cannot be deemed, as a matter of law, an inherent risk of skiing.” (Id. at p. 1360.) Rather, it was “a danger that reasonable prudence on the part [of defendant] would have foreseen and corrected or at least placed a warning for skiers.” (Id. at p. 1359.) We find Verberkmoes distinguishable, largely because the decision was based on where the ATV was parked; the ski resort could have easily parked it elsewhere or warned against the hazard. Here, the question was whether the resort’s use of snowmobiles on the ski slopes and consequential possibility of contact with snowboarders was an inherent risk of snowboarding.

In Schlumbrecht-Muniz v. Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. (D. Colo. 2015) 132 F.Supp.3d 1310, the defendant had argued that [*23] a collision with a snowmobile is an inherent danger and risk of skiing. The court had rejected this argument twice before, each time concluding “whether a collision with a snowmobile is an inherent danger or risk of skiing is not necessarily a question of law because what is an inherent danger or risk of skiing is not limited to the circumstances specifically enumerated in the [Ski Safety Act].” (Id. at p. 1316.) The court declined to address the argument again. (Ibid.)

We find this conclusory analysis unhelpful. For the reasons stated ante, we find a collision with a snowmobile is an inherent risk of snowboarding. As to whether this particular collision was the result of the inherent risk, the jury was properly tasked with determining whether Sierra’s operation of the snowmobile unreasonably increased the risk already inherent in snowboarding. This determination governed whether this particular collision was barred by the assumption of the risk doctrine.

Forrester also relies on an unpublished case from the state of Ohio, Coblentz v. Peters 2005 Ohio 1102, 2005 Ohio App. LEXIS 1073, that found use of a motorized golf cart was not “an actual part of the sport of golf,” so the risk of being struck and injured by a golf cart “is not an ordinary risk of the game.” [*24] (Id. at ¶ 21.) To the limited extent this case is analogous, we decline to apply its narrow analysis to the sport of snowboarding and the associated risk of encountering the resort’s necessary equipment when on the ski slopes. (See Souza, supra, 138 Cal.App.4th at p. 269 [finding snowmaking equipment necessary to the sport of skiing].)

As we have noted, unlike many assumption of the risk cases, including those cited ante, here there is a genuine factual dispute as to what happened to Forrester and caused his injuries. The jury needed to resolve this factual dispute in order to determine whether Sierra unreasonably increased the inherent risk. Accordingly, the issue of whether recovery is barred by assumption of the risk could not be determined as a matter of law, such as by a motion for summary judgment, as is often the case. Here, we need not decide if Forrester’s specific collision was an inherent risk, but only the broader question of whether a collision with a snowmobile operated on the ski slopes of a resort is an inherent risk of snowboarding. If so, recovery is still possible if Sierra unreasonably increased the risk by the specific circumstances surrounding its operation of the snowmobile.

“Although defendants generally [*25] have no legal duty to eliminate (or protect a plaintiff against) risks inherent in the sport itself, it is well established that defendants generally do have a duty to use due care not to increase the risks to a participant over and above those inherent in the sport. Thus, although a ski resort has no duty to remove moguls from a ski run, it clearly does have a duty to use due care to maintain its towropes in a safe, working condition so as not to expose skiers to an increased risk of harm.” (Knight v. Jewett (1992) 3 Cal.4th 296, 315-316, 11 Cal. Rptr. 2d 2, 834 P.2d 696.) Numerous cases have pondered the factual question of whether various ski resorts have increased the inherent risks of skiing or snowboarding. (See Vine, supra, 118 Cal.App.4th at p. 591 [redesign of snowboarding jump]; Solis v. Kirkwood Resort Co. (2001) 94 Cal.App.4th 354, 366, 114 Cal. Rptr. 2d 265 [construction of the unmarked race start area on the ski run]; Van Dyke v. S.K.I. Ltd., supra, 67 Cal.App.4th 1317 [placement of signs in ski run].)

Forrester contends that even if the ski patrol’s use of a snowmobile is necessary to support the sport of snowboarding, the evidence here showed the snowmobile was not used for that purpose. Indeed, he claims that because the members of the ski patrol on duty that day denied being involved in a collision, the evidence established that the snowmobile was driven by a non-safety employee. He argues the trial court was required [*26] to resolve factual questions as to whether a member of the ski patrol was using the snowmobile before it determined whether assumption of risk applied.

We disagree with Forrester that the trial court was required to resolve these factual questions before submitting the case to the jury. Resolution of the factual issues as to how and by whom the snowmobile was operated “requires application of the governing standard of care (the duty not to increase the risks inherent in the sport) to the facts of this particular case–the traditional role of the trier of fact.” (Luna v. Vela (2008) 169 Cal.App.4th 102, 112, 86 Cal. Rptr. 3d 588.) “Our conclusion it is for the trier of fact to determine whether Vela breached his limited duty not to increase the risks inherent in the sport of volleyball finds solid support in the Supreme Court’s most recent sports injury, primary assumption of the risk decision, Shin v. Ahn, supra, 42 Cal.4th 482 . . . . In Shin the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s denial of a motion for summary judgment brought by a golfer who had struck one of his own playing partners with a tee shot. The court held the primary assumption of the risk doctrine regulates the duty a golfer owes both to playing partners and to other golfers on the course, found being hit by a stray [*27] golf shot was an inherent risk of the sport and concluded ‘golfers have a limited duty of care to other players, breached only if they intentionally injure them or engage in conduct that is “so reckless as to be totally outside the range of the ordinary activity involved in the sport.”‘ [Citation.] However, the Court also held whether the defendant had breached that limited duty of care by engaging in reckless conduct was a question for the trier of fact: ‘In determining whether defendant acted recklessly, the trier of fact will have to consider both the nature of the game and the totality of circumstances surrounding the shot. . . . [¶] Many factors will bear on whether a golfer’s conduct was reasonable, negligent, or reckless. . . . [¶] . . . This record is simply too sparse to support a finding, as a matter of law, that defendant did, or did not, act recklessly. This will be a question the jury will ultimately resolve based on a more complete examination of the facts.’ [Citation.]” (Luna, at pp. 112-113.) “In light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Shin, we conclude as the Luna court did, that resolving the question of whether [defendant] increased the risk of falling is properly decided by the trier [*28] of fact.” (Fazio v. Fairbanks Ranch Country Club (2015) 233 Cal.App.4th 1053, 1062, 183 Cal. Rptr. 3d 566.)

Forrester’s argument about the circumstances of the snowmobile’s use that day is premised upon the jury’s accepting his version of events–that a snowmobile hit him from behind, while driven by a non-safety employee who was not responding to an emergency and who was operating without lights, siren, or flag and contrary to numerous safety policies of Sierra. In short, Forrester assumes that the snowmobile had no legitimate reason to be on Broadway at the time of the incident. But the state of the evidence was such that the jury could decide otherwise. Due to Forrester’s failure to report the accident when it happened, the conflicting testimony of Forrester and Medina, the conflict in expert testimony as to how a collision would have occurred and what caused Forrester’s injuries, and the absence of any independent witness who saw or even heard about the accident, the jury could have rationally concluded the accident did not happen at all. Alternatively, the jury could have concluded that Forrester hit the toboggan out of carelessness or recklessness, Forrester’s injuries were not from the collision, or simply that Forrester failed to prove his version of the accident.

This [*29] case turned in large part on the jury’s assessment of credibility. There was evidence from which the jury could conclude that the incident occurred as described by Forrester and Medina, and that Sierra unreasonably increased its visitors’ inherent risk of a collision with a snowmobile accordingly–because a non-safety employee, not responding to an emergency, drove a snowmobile at significant speed across a beginner run on the busiest day of the year without using lights, siren or a flag, and in contravention of numerous safety policies. These circumstances, or any combination thereof, could certainly constitute an unreasonable increase of the inherent risk by Sierra. Forrester’s theory was tendered to the jury and the jury decided adversely to his argument. Forrester does not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence to support the verdict.

The trial court did not err in determining assumption of the risk applied and submitting the case to the jury on the question of whether Sierra unreasonably increased the risk inherent in the sport of snowboarding.

II

Instruction on Secondary Assumption of the Risk

A. Background

As we set forth ante, the jury was also instructed pursuant to CACI No. 405–the comparative [*30] fault instruction modified by the trial court–as to secondary assumption of the risk. The jury was told that in order for Sierra to succeed on its claim that Forrester contributed to his own harm, Sierra would need to prove both that Forrester assumed the risks that led to his injury and that Forrester’s assumption of those risks was a substantial factor in causing his harm.

The term “assumption of risk” has been “used in connection with two classes of cases: those in which the issue to be resolved was whether the defendant actually owed the plaintiff a duty of care (primary assumption of risk), and those in which the defendant had breached a duty of care but where the issue was whether the plaintiff had chosen to face the risk of harm presented by the defendant’s breach of duty (secondary assumption of risk). [Citation.] In the latter class of cases, we concluded, the issue could be resolved by applying the doctrine of comparative fault, and the plaintiff’s decision to face the risk would not operate as a complete bar to recovery. In such a case, the plaintiff’s knowing and voluntary acceptance of the risk functions as a form of contributory negligence. [Citation.]” (Kahn v. East Side Union High School Dist. (2003) 31 Cal.4th 990, 1003, 4 Cal. Rptr. 3d 103, 75 P.3d 30.)

“Secondary assumption [*31] of risk [arises] where a defendant breaches a duty of care owed to the plaintiff but the plaintiff nevertheless knowingly encounters the risk created by the breach. Secondary assumption of risk is not a bar to recovery, but requires the application of comparative fault principles.” (Connelly, supra, 39 Cal.App.4th at p. 11.)

B. Analysis

Forrester contends the special instruction on secondary assumption of the risk was incorrect because it omitted the requirement that a plaintiff “knowingly” or “voluntarily” accept the increased risk, and because the court failed to set it apart from the instruction related to primary assumption of the risk. Forrester contends the error prejudiced him because it confused the jury on the law.

As Sierra does not defend the instruction, we will assume arguendo that it is incorrect for omitting “knowingly” or “voluntarily.” We reject, however, the argument that it was error to instruct on secondary assumption of the risk immediately after instructing in the language of CACI No. 410 on primary assumption of the risk. Each instruction begins by noting the party whose claim the instruction addresses and what each party must prove to succeed on its claim. The two claims are necessarily related. “Nevertheless, in [*32] certain circumstances primary and secondary assumption of risk are intertwined and instruction is required so the jury can properly determine whether the defendant did, in fact, increase the risks inherent in a hazardous sport so that secondary assumption of risk should be considered.” (Vine, supra, 118 Cal.App.4th at p. 592.)

“Cases like this one, where the plaintiff contends the defendant breached the duty not to increase the risks inherent in a hazardous sporting activity, present both aspects of the assumption of risk doctrine. If the plaintiff fails to show any increase in the inherent risks, or if the trial court determines that the only risks encountered were inherent in the sport, the defendant prevails based on primary assumption of risk. If the jury, properly instructed on the scope of the defendant’s duty, determines the defendant did increase the inherent risk, it then considers the plaintiff’s claim based on secondary assumption of risk as an aspect of the plaintiff’s comparative fault.” (Vine, supra, 118 Cal.App.4th at p. 593.)

“[T]here is no rule of automatic reversal or ‘inherent’ prejudice applicable to any category of civil instructional error, whether of commission or omission. A judgment may not be reversed for instructional error in a civil case [*33] ‘unless, after an examination of the entire cause, including the evidence, the court shall be of the opinion that the error complained of has resulted in a miscarriage of justice.’ (Cal. Const., art. VI, § 13.)” (Soule v. General Motors Corp. (1994) 8 Cal.4th 548, 580, 34 Cal. Rptr. 2d 607, 882 P.2d 298 (Soule).)

“Instructional error in a civil case is prejudicial ‘where it seems probable’ that the error ‘prejudicially affected the verdict.’ [Citations.]” (Soule, supra, 8 Cal.4th at p. 580.) Actual prejudice must be assessed in the context of the entire record using a multifactor test. (Ibid.) “Thus, when deciding whether an error of instructional omission was prejudicial, the court must also evaluate (1) the state of the evidence, (2) the effect of other instructions, (3) the effect of counsel’s arguments, and (4) any indications by the jury itself that it was misled.” (Id. at pp. 580-581.)

Forrester contends the record demonstrates prejudice because there was strong evidence that Sierra increased the risk by its operation of a snowmobile that day, the jury deliberated for two full days, and the request for a definition of “unreasonable” suggests the jury was confused as to the law.

We disagree that the record shows it was “probable” that the instructional error “prejudicially affected the verdict.” (Soule, supra, 8 Cal.4th at p. 580.) As we have discussed, the evidence raised questions [*34] of witness credibility, and the jury was also called upon to consider conflicting expert testimony. The jury heard five days of evidence and deliberated for two days. In that circumstance, the jury’s two days of deliberation may suggest its “conscientious performance of its civic duty, rather than its difficulty in reaching a decision.” (People v. Walker (1995) 31 Cal.App.4th 432, 439, 37 Cal. Rptr. 2d 167 [six and one-half hours of deliberation after two and one-half hours of presentation of evidence].) The jury’s request for a definition of “unreasonable” and its request for a reread of evidence as to whether there was an emergency that day indicate the jury was most likely focused on Sierra’s conduct, not Forrester’s.

The most useful guide for the jury in sorting through the issues of primary and secondary assumption of the risk was the verdict form that separated the issues. The verdict form asked six questions; only if the jury answered yes to a question was it to proceed to the next question. The questions were: (1) Did Sierra or its employee unreasonably increase the risks inherent in snowboarding? (2) Was this unreasonable increase in the risks a substantial factor in causing harm to Forrester? (3) What are Forrester’s total damages? (4) Did [*35] Forrester assume the risks that led to his injury? (5) Was that assumption of risk a substantial factor in causing his injury? (6) What percentage of responsibility for Forrester’s harm do you assign to Sierra, to Forrester? The jury answered the first question “no” and therefore did not answer any other questions. Accordingly, the jury never reached the issue of secondary assumption of risk and thus never had to apply the challenged jury instruction. Forrester has failed to show prejudicial instructional error. (See Caldwell v. Paramount Unified School Dist. (1995) 41 Cal.App.4th 189, 206, 48 Cal. Rptr. 2d 448 [error to grant new trial due to instructional error when jury never reached issue covered by instruction]; Vahey v. Sacia (1981) 126 Cal.App.3d 171, 179-180, 178 Cal. Rptr. 559 [purported instructional error on damages was not prejudicial where jury found the defendant was not negligent and never reached the issue of damages].)

III

Refusal to Instruct on Willful Suppression of Evidence

A. Background

At trial, Forrester made much of the fact that the snowmobile’s driver was never identified, which he blamed on Sierra’s failure to retain the daily checklist completed by the driver who had taken out the snowmobile that day. Before trial, Forrester sought to admit Sierra’s special ski permit and winter operation plan from the United States Forest [*36] Service. He argued Sierra was required to maintain the checklist under the document retention policy set forth in that plan. The trial court excluded the document, ruling that whether Sierra had a contractual duty to retain the report was irrelevant, particularly because–given the evidence that the snowmobile could be used by multiple people in the same day–the checklist would not necessarily indicate who was driving a snowmobile at the time of the alleged accident. The court noted that Sierra had provided Forrester with a list of 19 authorized drivers.

Forrester requested that the trial court give CACI No. 204, which provides: “You may consider whether one party intentionally concealed or destroyed evidence. If you decide that a party did so, you may decide that the evidence would have been unfavorable to that party.” The request was based on evidence that MacClellan failed to interview all 19 people authorized to use a snowmobile that day and the destruction of the checklist. The court denied Forrester’s request.

Forrester raised the failure to give CACI No. 204 in his motion for a new trial.

B. Analysis

Forrester contends it was error to refuse the requested instruction. For the first time on appeal, he asserts [*37] the snowmobile driver’s leaving the scene of the accident without identifying himself was sufficient evidence to support the instruction. As to the destruction of the checklist, the basis for instruction advanced at trial, Forrester argues there was no evidence the checklist was actually discarded, only that the practice was to discard the checklists daily. He contends he was prejudiced by lack of the instruction because he could not argue the presumption that the destroyed evidence was unfavorable to Sierra to offset the inability to identify the driver.

“A party is entitled to have the jury instructed on his theory of the case, if it is reasonable and finds support in the pleadings and evidence or any inference which may properly be drawn from the evidence.” (Western Decor & Furnishings Industries, Inc. v. Bank of America (1979) 91 Cal.App.3d 293, 309, 154 Cal. Rptr. 287.) An instruction on willful suppression of evidence is appropriate if there is evidence “that a party destroyed evidence with the intention of preventing its use in litigation.” (New Albertsons, Inc. v. Superior Court (2008) 168 Cal.App.4th 1403, 1434, 86 Cal. Rptr. 3d 457.)

First, Forrester did not rely at trial on the theory that evidence was destroyed when the snowmobile driver left without identifying himself. “‘A civil litigant must propose complete instructions in accordance with his or her theory of the litigation [*38] and a trial court is not “obligated to seek out theories [a party] might have advanced, or to articulate for him that which he has left unspoken.” [Citations.]’ [Citation.]” (Stevens v. Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp. (1996) 49 Cal.App.4th 1645, 1653, 57 Cal. Rptr. 2d 525.) Thus we need not consider this new theory first advanced on appeal.

Further, the evidence established the checklist had been discarded shortly after the accident, before Forrester made his complaint. While there was no testimony from the person who discarded the checklist for that day and MacClellan testified he did not know if the specific checklist had been discarded, Rice testified the checklists were thrown out on a daily basis and MacClellan testified he knew they were thrown out shortly after they were filled out.

Forrester relies on Ventura v. ABM Industries Inc. (2012) 212 Cal.App.4th 258, 150 Cal. Rptr. 3d 861, claiming it is “right on point.” In Ventura, a negligent hiring and supervision case, the trial court gave the instruction at issue here based on testimony of the human resources director about redactions in personnel records and the defendant’s failure to interview certain witnesses during the investigation of plaintiff’s complaints. (Id. at p. 273.) The appellate court found no error, noting “Defendants were free to present the jury with evidence that (as counsel represented to the [*39] court), the redactions were only of telephone numbers, and that the failure to interview certain witnesses was proper, and to argue that evidence to the jury.” (Ibid.)

Ventura is distinguishable. There, the actions that supported the instruction occurred during the investigation of plaintiff’s claim, thus permitting an inference there was destruction of evidence to prevent its use in litigation. Here, the evidence was that the snowmobile checklists were routinely discarded each day long before the incident at issue here, unless information on the checklist triggered a need for maintenance. Because Forrester did not report his accident until multiple days had passed, Sierra did not become aware of Forrester’s claim until after the checklist at issue had been discarded. There was no evidence, either direct or from which the inference could be drawn, that the practice of discarding the checklists daily was intended to forestall their use in litigation.

The trial court did not err in declining to give CACI No. 204 on willful suppression of evidence.5

5 Further, Forrester’s claim of prejudice is unconvincing. The instruction permits the jury to draw the inference that the suppressed evidence would have been unfavorable to the party suppressing it. The checklist would have shown, at most, the name of the snowmobile driver. Sierra stipulated that the driver was one of its employees and provided Forrester with a list of authorized drivers.

DISPOSITION

The judgment is affirmed. Sierra shall recover costs on appeal. (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.278(a).)

/s/ Duarte, J.

We concur:

/s/ Butz, Acting P. J.

/s/ Mauro, J.


Bagley v. Mt. Bachelor, Inc., dba Mt. Bachelor Ski and Summer Resort, 2014 Ore. LEXIS 994

Bagley v. Mt. Bachelor, Inc., dba Mt. Bachelor Ski and Summer Resort, 2014 Ore. LEXIS 994

Myles A. Bagley, individually, Petitioner on Review, and Al Bagley, individually; and Lauren Bagley, individually, Plaintiffs, v. Mt. Bachelor, Inc., dba Mt. Bachelor Ski and Summer Resort, Respondent on Review, and John DOES 1-10, Defendants.

SC S061821

SUPREME COURT OF OREGON

2014 Ore. LEXIS 994

May 7, 2014, Argued and Submitted

December 18, 2014, Filed

PRIOR HISTORY: CC 08CV0118SF; CA A148231. On review from the Court of Appeals. [*1] *

* Appeal from Deschutes County Circuit Court, Stephen P. Forte, Judge. 258Or App 390, 310 P3d 692 (2013).

COUNSEL: Kathryn H. Clarke, Portland, argued the cause and filed the briefs for petitioner on review. With her on the briefs was Arthur C. Johnson.

Andrew C. Balyeat, Balyeat & Eager, LLP, Bend, argued the cause and filed the brief for respondent on review.

Michael J. Estok, Lindsay Hart, LLP, Portland, filed a brief on behalf of amicus curiae Oregon Association of Defense Counsel.

Kristian Roggendorf, Roggendorf Law LLC, Lake Oswego, filed a brief on behalf of amicus curiae Oregon Trial Lawyers Association.

JUDGES: BREWER, J.

OPINION BY: BREWER

OPINION

En Banc

BREWER, J.

The issue on review in this case is whether an anticipatory release1 of a ski area operator’s liability for its own negligence in a ski pass agreement is enforceable in the face of an assertion that the release violates public policy and is unconscionable. Plaintiff suffered serious injuries while snowboarding over a jump in defendant ski area operator’s “terrain [*2] park,” and brought this action alleging that defendant was negligent in the design, construction, maintenance, and inspection of the jump. Defendant moved for summary judgment based on an affirmative defense of release; plaintiff filed a cross-motion for partial summary judgment on the ground that the release was unenforceable as a matter of law. The trial court granted defendant’s summary judgment motion and denied plaintiff’s cross-motion. Plaintiff appealed, asserting, among other arguments, that the trial court erred in concluding that the release did not violate public policy and that it was neither substantively nor procedurally unconscionable. The Court of Appeals affirmed. Bagley v. Mt. Bachelor, Inc., 258 Or App 390, 310 P3d 692 (2013). Because we conclude that enforcement of the release would be unconscionable, we reverse and remand.

1 By “anticipatory release,” we refer to an exculpatory agreement that purports to immunize–before an injury occurs–the released party from liability for its own tortious conduct.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

We review the trial court’s rulings on summary judgment to determine whether “there is no genuine issue as to any material fact” and whether “the moving party is entitled to prevail as a matter of law.” [*3] ORCP 47 C. We view the historical facts set out in the summary judgment record, along with all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from them, in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party–plaintiff on defendant’s motion for summary judgment, and defendant on plaintiff’s cross-motion. Id.; Vaughn v. First Transit, Inc., 346 Or 128, 132, 206 P3d 181 (2009). The historical facts in the record largely relate to the enforceability of the release at issue. Defendant’s summary judgment motion did not address the issues of negligence, causation, or damages. Therefore, insofar as those issues are relevant to the enforceability of the release, we accept as true the allegations in plaintiff’s complaint. ORCP 47 C (adverse party on summary judgment has burden of producing evidence only “on any issue raised in the motion as to which adverse party would have burden of persuasion at trial”).

On September 29, 2005, plaintiff purchased a season pass from defendant for use at defendant’s ski area. Plaintiff was a skilled and experienced snowboarder, having purchased season passes from defendant for each of the preceding three years and having classified his skill level as of early 2006, before being injured, as an “advanced expert.” Upon purchasing the season pass, plaintiff [*4] executed a written “release and indemnity agreement” that defendant required of all its patrons. That document provided, in pertinent part:

“In consideration of the use of a Mt. Bachelor pass and/or Mt. Bachelor’s premises, I/we agree to release and indemnify Mt. Bachelor, Inc., its officers and directors, owners, agents, landowners, affiliated companies, and employees (hereinafter ‘Mt. Bachelor, Inc.’) from any and all claims for property damage, injury, or death which I/we may suffer or for which I/we may be liable to others, in any way connected with skiing, snowboarding, or snowriding. This release and indemnity agreement shall apply to any claim even if caused by negligence. The only claims not released are those based upon intentional misconduct.

“* * * * *

“The undersigned(s) have carefully read and understand this agreement and all of its terms on both sides of this document. This includes, but is not limited to, the duties of skiers, snowboarders, or snowriders. The undersigned(s) understand that this document is an agreement of release and indemnity which will prevent the undersigned(s) or the undersigneds’ estate from recovering damages from Mt. Bachelor, Inc. in the event [*5] of death or injury to person or property. The undersigned(s), nevertheless, enter into this agreement freely and voluntarily and agree it is binding on the undersigned(s) and the undersigneds’ heirs and legal representatives.

“By my/our signature(s) below, I/we agree that this release and indemnity agreement will remain in full force and effect and I will be bound by its terms throughout this season and all subsequent seasons for which I/we renew this season pass.

“See reverse side of this sheet * * * for duties of skiers, snowboarders, or snow riders which you must observe.”

(Capitalization omitted.)2 The reverse side of the document detailed the “Duties of Skiers” under ORS 30.985 and ORS 30.990 and also included a printed notification that “Skiers/Snowboarders/Snowriders Assume Certain Risks” under ORS 30.975–the “inherent risks of skiing.”3

2 Although defendant relies on several documents that, it asserts, separately and collectively released it from liability for plaintiff’s injuries, for convenience we refer to those documents in the singular throughout this opinion as “the release.” In addition to the releases discussed in the text, plaintiff’s father also executed a “minor release and indemnity agreement” on plaintiff’s [*6] behalf, containing essentially the same terms as the other releases, because plaintiff was not yet eighteen years old when he bought the season pass. Plaintiff asserted before the trial court and the Court of Appeals that he was entitled to–and effectively did–disavow the release after he reached majority. For reasons explained in its opinion, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s rejection of that argument. Plaintiff did not seek review of that holding in this court and we do not address it here.

3 As elaborated below, Oregon has enacted statutes specifically pertaining to skiing and ski areas. See ORS 30.970 – 30.990. Those statutes, among other provisions, set out the “duties” of skiers, require that ski area operators inform skiers of those duties, establish notice requirements and a statute of limitations pertaining specifically to injury or death while skiing, and provide that those who engage in the sport of skiing accept and assume the risks inherent in that activity.

On November 18, 2005, plaintiff began using the pass, which stated, in part:

“Read this release agreement

“In consideration for each lift ride, the ticket user releases and agrees to hold harmless and indemnify Mt. Bachelor, [*7] Inc., and its employees and agents from all claims for property damage, injury or death even if caused by negligence. The only claims not released are those based upon intentional misconduct.”

(Capitalization omitted.) Further, the following sign was posted at each of defendant’s ski lift terminals:

“YOUR TICKET IS A RELEASE

“The back of your ticket contains a release of all claims against Mt. Bachelor, Inc. and its employees or agents. Read the back of your ticket before you ride any lifts or use any of the facilities of Mt. Bachelor, Inc. If you purchase a ticket from someone else, you must provide this ticket release information to that person or persons.

“Skiers and lift passengers who use tickets at this resort release and agree to hold harmless and indemnify Mt. Bachelor, Inc., its employees and agents from all claims for property damage, injury or death which he/she may suffer or for which he/she may be liable to others, arising out of the use of Mt. Bachelor’s premises, whether such claims are for negligence or any other theory of recovery, except for intentional misconduct.

“If you do not agree to be bound by the terms and conditions of the sale of your ticket, please do not purchase [*8] the ticket or use the facilities at Mt. Bachelor.

“Presentation of this ticket to gain access to the premises and facilities of this area is an acknowledgment of your agreement to the terms and conditions outlined above.”

(Capitalization in original.)

Beginning on November 18, 2005, plaintiff used his season pass to ride defendant’s lifts at least 119 times over the course of 26 days that he spent snowboarding at the ski area. On February 16, 2006, while snowboarding over a human-made jump in defendant’s “air chamber” terrain park, plaintiff sustained serious injuries resulting in his permanent paralysis. Approximately four months later, plaintiff provided defendant with notice of his injuries under ORS 30.980(1), which requires that “[a] ski area operator shall be notified of any injury to a skier * * * within 180 days after the injury[.]” Within two years after he was injured, plaintiff brought this action; his complaint alleged negligence on defendant’s part in designing, constructing, maintaining, and inspecting the jump on which plaintiff was injured. Defendant answered, in part, by invoking the affirmative defense of release, pointing to the above-quoted documents.

In its summary judgment motion, [*9] defendant asserted that plaintiff “admittedly understood that he [had] entered into a release agreement and was snowboarding under its terms on the date of [the] accident.” Defendant argued that the release conspicuously and unambiguously disclaimed its future liability for negligence, and that the release was neither unconscionable nor contrary to public policy under Oregon law, because “skiers and snowboarders voluntarily choose to ski and snowboard and ski resorts do not provide essential public services.” Thus, defendant reasoned, there was no material issue of fact as to whether the release barred plaintiff’s action, and defendant was entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

In his cross-motion for partial summary judgment, plaintiff asserted that the release was unenforceable because it was contrary to public policy and was “both substantively and procedurally unconscionable.” The trial court rejected plaintiff’s public policy and unconscionability arguments, reasoning that “[s]now riding is not such an essential service which requires someone such as [p]laintiff to be forced to sign a release in order to obtain the service.” Accordingly, the trial court granted summary judgment in defendant’s [*10] favor and denied plaintiff’s cross-motion for partial summary judgment.

As noted, the Court of Appeals affirmed. The court initially observed that the line between the public policy and unconscionability doctrines on which plaintiff relied was not clearly delineated:

“We assume without deciding that the ‘void as contrary to public policy’ doctrine pertaining to this type of case has not been superseded by later-evolved principles concerning substantive unconscionability. See Restatement[(Second) of Contracts], § 208 comment a [(1981)] (unconscionability analysis generally ‘overlaps’ with public-policy analysis).”

Bagley, 258 Or App at 403 n 7. The court then proceeded separately to analyze plaintiff’s arguments. It first concluded that the release did not violate public policy. In particular, the court understood plaintiff to rely on an uncodified Oregon public policy that gives primacy to the tort duties of landowners and business operators to provide safe premises for invitees. In rejecting plaintiff’s argument, the Court of Appeals relied on several factors. First, the court observed that the release “clearly and unequivocally” expressed defendant’s intent to disclaim liability for negligence. Id. at 405 (“[W]e are hard-pressed to envision [*11] a more unambiguous expression of ‘the expectations under the contract'[.]”). Second, the court noted that anticipatory releases that disclaim liability only for ordinary negligence do not necessarily offend public policy where they pertain exclusively to recreational activities and, most importantly, where the party seeking to relieve itself from liability does not provide an essential public service. Id. The court noted that a ski resort primarily offers recreational activities that, with possible exceptions that do not apply in this case, such as training for search-and-rescue personnel, do not constitute essential public services. Id. at 406. Third, the court stated that plaintiff’s claims were based on ordinary negligence and did not implicate a violation of any heightened duty of care. Id.

The court then rejected plaintiff’s unconscionability argument for essentially the same reasons. First, the court concluded, the release was not procedurally unconscionable in that it did not surprise plaintiff (that is, it was conspicuous and unambiguous) and it was not impermissibly oppressive, because, even though offered on a “take it or leave it basis,” plaintiff always could choose not to engage [*12] in the non-essential recreational activity that defendant offered. Id. at 407-08. The court also concluded that the release was not essentially unfair and, therefore, was not substantively unconscionable. Id. at 409. Although “favorable” to defendant, the release was not impermissibly so, the court stated, because a person does not need to ski or snowboard, but rather merely desires to do so. That is, the patron is free to walk away rather than accept unjust terms. Id. at 409-10. For those reasons, the court affirmed the trial court’s summary judgment rulings and its dismissal of plaintiff’s action.

ANALYSIS

The parties’ dispute in this case involves a topic–the validity of exculpatory agreements–that this court has not comprehensively addressed in decades. Although the specific issue on review–the validity of an anticipatory release of a ski area operator’s liability for negligence–is finite and particular, it has broader implications insofar as it lies at the intersection of two traditional common law domains–contract and tort–where, at least in part, the legislature has established statutory rights and duties that affect the reach of otherwise governing common law principles.

It is a truism that a contract validly [*13] made between competent parties is not to be set aside lightly. Bliss v. Southern Pacific Co. et al, 212 Or 634, 646, 321 P2d 324 (1958) (“When two or more persons competent for that purpose, upon a sufficient consideration, voluntarily agree to do or not to do a particular thing which may be lawfully done or omitted, they should be held to the consequences of their bargain.”). The right to contract privately is part of the liberty of citizenship, and an important office of the courts is to enforce contractual rights and obligations. W. J. Seufert Land Co. v. Greenfield, 262 Or 83, 90-91, 496 P2d 197 (1972) (so stating). As this court has stated, however, “contract rights are [not] absolute; * * * [e]qually fundamental with the private right is that of the public to regulate it in the common interest.” Christian v. La Forge, 194 Or 450, 469, 242 P2d 797 (1952) (internal quotation marks omitted).

That “common,” or public, interest is embodied, in part, in the principles of tort law. As a leading treatise explains:

“It is sometimes said that compensation for losses is the primary function of tort law * * * [but it] is perhaps more accurate to describe the primary function as one of determining when compensation is to be required.

“* * * * *

“[Additionally, t]he ‘prophylactic’ factor of preventing future harm has been quite important in the field of torts. The courts are concerned not only with compensation [*14] of the victim, but with admonition of the wrongdoer.”

W. Page Keeton, Prosser and Keeton on the Law of Torts § 4, 20-25 (5th ed 1984). See also Dan B. Dobbs, The Law of Torts, § 8, 12 (2000) (most commonly mentioned aims of tort law are compensation of injured persons and deterrence of undesirable behavior). A related function of the tort system is to distribute the risk of injury to or among responsible parties. Prosser and Keeton, § 4, 24-25.4

4 See also Rizutto v. Davidson Ladders, Inc., 280 Conn 225, 235, 905 A2d 1165 (2006) (fundamental purposes of the tort system are “compensation of innocent parties, shifting the loss to responsible parties or distributing it among appropriate entities, and deterrence of wrongful conduct.”).

One way in which courts have placed limits on the freedom of contract is by refusing to enforce agreements that are illegal. Uhlmann v. Kin Daw, 97 Or 681, 688, 193 P 435 (1920) (an illegal agreement is void and unenforceable). According to Uhlmann:

“An agreement is illegal if it is contrary to law, morality or public policy. Plain examples of illegality are found in agreements made in violation of some statute; and, stating the rule broadly, an agreement is illegal if it violates a statute or cannot be performed without violating a statute.”

Id. at 689 (internal citation omitted); see also Eldridge et al. v. Johnston, 195 Or 379, 405, 245 P2d 239 (1952) (“It is elementary that [*15] public policy requires that * * * contracts [between competent parties], when entered into freely and voluntarily, shall be held sacred and shall be enforced by the courts of justice, and it is only when some other overpowering rule of public policy * * * intervenes, rendering such agreement illegal, that it will not be enforced.”).

In determining whether an agreement is illegal because it is contrary to public policy, “[t]he test is the evil tendency of the contract and not its actual injury to the public in a particular instance.” Pyle v. Kernan, 148 Or 666, 673-74, 36 P2d 580 (1934). The fact that the effect of a contract provision may be harsh as applied to one of the contracting parties does not mean that the agreement is, for that reason alone, contrary to public policy, particularly where “the contract in question was freely entered into between parties in equal bargaining positions and did not involve a contract of adhesion, such as some retail installment contracts and insurance policies.” Seufert, 262 Or at 92.

As we discuss in more detail below, courts determine whether a contract is illegal by determining whether it violates public policy as expressed in relevant constitutional and statutory provisions and in case law, see, e.g., Delaney v. Taco Time Int’l, Inc., 297 Or 10, 681 P2d 114 (1984) (looking to those [*16] sources to determine whether discharge of at-will employee violated public policy), and by considering whether it is unconscionable. With respect to the doctrine of unconscionability, one commentator has explained:

“The concept of unconscionability was meant to counteract two generic forms of abuses: the first of which relates to procedural deficiencies in the contract formation process, such as deception or a refusal to bargain over contract terms, today often analyzed in terms of whether the imposedupon party had meaningful choice about whether and how to enter the transaction; and the second of which relates to the substantive contract terms themselves and whether those terms are unreasonably favorable to the more powerful party, such as terms that impair the integrity of the bargaining process or otherwise contravene the public interest or public policy; terms (usually of an adhesion or boilerplate nature) that attempt to alter in an impermissible manner fundamental duties otherwise imposed by the law, fine-print terms, or provisions that seek to negate the reasonable expectations of the nondrafting party, or unreasonably and unexpectedly harsh terms having nothing to do with price [*17] or other central aspects of the transaction.”

Richard A. Lord, 8 Williston on Contracts § 18.10, 91 (4th ed 2010). As that passage suggests, the doctrine of unconscionability reflects concerns related specifically to the parties and their formation of the contract, but it also has a broader dimension that converges with an analysis of whether a contract or contract term is illegal because it violates public policy.5

5 This court has not distinguished between contracts that are illegal because they violate public policy and contracts that are unenforceable because they are unconscionable. However, a difference in focus between the two concepts has been described in this way:

“[O]ur public policy analysis asks whether the contract provision at issue threatens harm to the public as a whole, including by contravening the constitution, statutes, or judicial decisions of [this state]. In contrast, an unconscionability analysis asks whether the agreement, by its formation or by its terms, is so unfair that the court cannot enforce it consistent with the interests of justice.”

Phoenix Ins. Co. v. Rosen, 242 Ill 2d 48, 61, 949 NE2d 639 (2011). As that passage suggests, the two doctrines are aimed at similar concerns: unfairness or oppression in contract formation or terms that [*18] are sufficiently serious as to justify the conclusion that the contract contravenes the interests of justice.

Recognizing that convergence, this court often has relied on public policy considerations to determine whether a contract or contract term is sufficiently unfair or oppressive to be deemed unconscionable. See, e.g., William C. Cornitius, Inc. v. Wheeler, 276 Or 747, 754-55, 556 P2d 666 (1976) (treating lessee’s unconscionability defense as grounded in public policy); Cone v. Gilmore, 79 Or 349, 352-54, 155 P 192 (1916) (analyzing unconscionability challenge to contract enforcement based on public policy considerations); Balfour v. Davis 14 Or 47, 53, 12 P 89 (1886) (referring to unconscionability interchangeably with public policy considerations). Other authorities also have described the two doctrines in functionally the same terms, see, e.g., E. Allen Farnsworth, 1 Farnsworth on Contracts, § 4.28, 577 (3d ed 2004) (comparing unconscionability to violation of public policy), or as involving substantially overlapping considerations, see Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 208 comment a (1981) (policy against unconscionable contracts or contract terms “overlaps with rules which render particular bargains or terms unenforceable on grounds of public policy”).

As discussed, the Court of Appeals concluded that the release at issue here did not violate public policy and was not [*19] unconscionable for essentially the same reasons: it was conspicuous and unambiguous, and it related to a recreational activity, not an essential public service. Likewise, neither party has suggested that different legal standards apply in determining whether the release at issue in this case violates public policy or is unconscionable. Thus, for the sake of convenience–if not doctrinal convergence–we address the parties’ public policy arguments in the context of our analysis of whether, in the particular circumstances of this case, enforcement of the release would be unconscionable.6

6 We emphasize that it is not necessary to decide in this case whether the doctrines always are identical in practical effect or whether they may vary in their application depending on the particular circumstances of a given case. It suffices to say that we discern no difference in their practical application in this case and, therefore, for the sake of convenience, we consider plaintiff’s violation of public policy theory in the context of his unconscionability arguments.

Oregon courts have recognized their authority to refuse to enforce unconscionable contracts since the nineteenth century. See Balfour, 14 Or 47 (refusing [*20] to award attorney fees because amount specified in contract was unconscionable); see also Caples v. Steel, 7 Or 491 (1879) (court may refuse specific performance if bargain is unconscionable). Unconscionability is “assessed as of the time of contract formation,” and the doctrine “applies to contract terms rather than to contract performance.” Best v. U.S. National Bank, 303 Or 557, 560, 739 P2d 554 (1987) (“Unconscionability is a legal issue that must be assessed as of the time of contract formation.”); Tolbert v. First National Bank, 312 Or 485, 492 n 4, 823 P2d 965 (1991) (same).

Unconscionability may be procedural or substantive. Procedural unconscionability refers to the conditions of contract formation and focuses on two factors: oppression and surprise. See, e.g., John Edward Murray, Jr., Murray on Contracts § 96(b), 555-56 (4th ed 2001) (describing components of procedural unconscionability). Oppression exists when there is inequality in bargaining power between the parties, resulting in no real opportunity to negotiate the terms of the contract and the absence of meaningful choice. Vasquez-Lopez v. Beneficial Oregon, Inc., 210 Or App 553, 566-567, 152 P3d 940, 948 (2007); Acorn v. Household Intern. Inc., 211 F Supp 2d 1160, 1168 (ND Cal. 2002). Surprise involves whether terms were hidden or obscure from the vantage of the party seeking to avoid them. Id. Generally speaking, factors such as ambiguous contract wording and fine print are the hallmarks of surprise. In contrast, the existence of gross inequality of [*21] bargaining power, a takeit- or-leave-it bargaining stance, and the fact that a contract involves a consumer transaction, rather than a commercial bargain, can be evidence of oppression.

Substantive unconscionability, on the other hand, generally refers to the terms of the contract, rather than the circumstances of formation, and focuses on whether the substantive terms contravene the public interest or public policy.7 See Restatement § 208 comment a; Williston on Contracts § 18.10 at 91. Both procedural and substantive deficiencies–frequently in combination–can preclude enforcement of a contract or contract term on unconscionability grounds. Restatement § 208 comment a.8

7 It sometimes can be difficult to categorize the factors on which a determination of unconscionability may be based as distinctly procedural or substantive, and even factors usually considered in assessing procedural unconscionability can help establish a violation of public policy. For example, the passage quoted above from Williston on Contracts § 18.10, 356 Or at suggests that adhesive and fine-print terms may be substantively unconscionable. Indeed, the author goes on to say that “[t]he distinction between procedural and substantive abuses * * * may become quite blurred.” [*22] Williston on Contracts § 18.10 at 108-111.

8 In some jurisdictions, courts require both procedural and substantive unconscionability before they will invalidate a contract. See, e.g., Armendariz v. Found. Health Psychcare Servs., Inc., 24 Cal 4th 83, 114, 99 Cal Rptr 2d 745, 6 P3d 669, 690 (2000) (procedural and substantive unconscionability must both be present in order for a court to exercise its discretion to refuse to enforce a contract or clause under the doctrine of unconscionability); Blue Cross Blue Shield of Ala. v. Rigas, 923 So 2d 1077, 1087 (Ala 2005) (“To avoid an arbitration provision on the ground of unconscionability, the party objecting to arbitration must show both procedural and substantive unconscionability.”). This court has not addressed that issue, and because, as explained below, we conclude that both procedural and substantive considerations support the conclusion that the release here is unconscionable, we do not decide that issue in this case.

Identifying whether a contract is procedurally unconscionable requires consideration of evidence related to the specific circumstances surrounding the formation of the contract at issue. By contrast, the inquiry into substantive unconscionability can be more complicated. To discern whether, in the context of a particular transaction, substantive concerns relating to unfairness or oppression are sufficiently [*23] important to warrant interference with the parties’ freedom to contract as they see fit, courts frequently look to legislation for relevant indicia of public policy. When relevant public policy is expressed in a statute, the issue is one of legislative intent. See Uhlmann, 97 Or at 689-90 (so stating). In that situation, the court must examine the statutory text and context to determine whether the legislature intended to invalidate the contract term at issue.9 Id.

9 Many jurisdictions that limit or prohibit the use of anticipatory releases from negligence liability on public policy grounds do so as a matter of statutory enactment, rather than common law. For example, Great Britain and the States of Louisiana and Montana have statutory provisions that forbid contracts exculpating one party from liability for negligence that results in personal injury. Unfair Contract Terms Act of 1977, ch 50, § 2(1) (Eng) (“A person cannot by reference to any contract term or to a notice given to persons generally or to particular persons exclude or restrict his liability for death or personal injury resulting from negligence.”); La Civ Code Ann art 2004 (“Any clause is null that, in advance, excludes or limits the liability of one party for causing physical injury [*24] to the other party.”); Mont Code Ann § 28-2-702 (“All contracts that have for their object, directly or indirectly, to exempt anyone from responsibility * * * for violation of law, whether willful or negligent, are against the policy of the law.”); see also Miller v. Fallon County, 222 Mont 214, 221, 721 P2d 342 (1986) (under statute, prospective release from liability for negligence is against the policy of the law and illegal, despite being a private contract between two persons without significant public implications).

Some states use statutes to make anticipatory releases from liability for negligence void as against public policy as to businesses providing recreational activities to the public. NY Gen Oblig Law § 5-326 (every contract between recreational business owner and user of facility, pursuant to which owner receives payment for use of facilities, that exempts owner from liability for damages resulting from owner’s negligence “shall be deemed void as against public policy and wholly unenforceable”); Haw Rev Stat § 663-1.54(a) (“Any person who owns or operates a business providing recreational activities to the public * * * shall be liable for damages resulting from negligent acts or omissions of the person which cause injury.”).

Other states have enacted more narrowly crafted statutes that deal with specific [*25] recreational activities, including skiing. For example, an Alaska statute specifically prohibits ski area operators from requiring skiers to enter into agreements releasing them from liability in exchange for the use of the facilities. Alaska Stat Ann § 05.45.120. In North Carolina, a statute imposes a duty on ski area operators “[n]ot to engage willfully or negligently in any type of conduct that contributes to or causes injury to another person or his properties.” NC Gen Stat § 99C-2(c)(7); NC Gen Statute § 9C-3 (violation of duties of ski area operator that causes injury or damage shall constitute negligence); see also Strawbridge v. Sugar Mountain Resort, Inc., 320 F Supp 2d 425, 433 (WD NC 2004) (in light of statutory duty imposed on ski area operators not to negligently engage in conduct that causes injury, exculpatory clause on back of lift ticket was unenforceable).

Still other states have statutes that pertain specifically to skiing and, although not addressing releases, prescribe ski area operator duties and provide that operators will be liable for a violation of those duties. Colo Rev Stat § 33-44-104(1) (violation of duties of ski area operator constitutes negligence to extent such violation causes injury to any person or damage to property); see also Anderson v. Vail Corp., 251 P3d 1125, 1129-30 (Colo App 2010) (if ski area operator violated statutory duties, exculpatory agreement would not release operator from [*26] liability); Idaho Code § 6-1107 (“Any ski area operator shall be liable for loss or damages caused by its failure to follow the duties set forth in [other sections of the Idaho Code pertaining to duties of ski area operators], where the violation of duty is causally related to the loss or damage suffered.”); NM Stat Ann § 24-15-11 (to same effect); ND Cent Code § 53-09-07 (same); W Va Code § 20-3A-6 (same); Utah Code Ann § 78B-4-401(public policy of Utah Inherent Risks of Skiing Act is to make ski area operators better able to insure themselves against the risk of loss occasioned by their negligence); see also Rothstein v. Snowbird Corp., 175 P3d 560, 564 (Utah 2007) (by extracting a pre-injury release from plaintiff for liability due to ski resort’s negligent acts, resort breached public policy underlying Utah Inherent Risks of Skiing Act).

Frequently, however, the argument that a contract term is sufficiently unfair or oppressive as to be unenforceable is grounded in one or more factors that are not expressly codified; in such circumstances, the common law has a significant role to play. As the commentary to the Restatement (Second) of Contracts explains:

“Only infrequently does legislation, on grounds of public policy, provide that a term is unenforceable. When a court reaches that conclusion, it usually does so on the basis of a public policy [*27] derived either from its own perception of the need to protect some aspect of the public welfare or from legislation that is relevant to the policy although it says nothing explicitly about enforceability.”

Restatement § 178 comment b.

This court has considered whether enforcement of an anticipatory release would violate an uncodified public policy in only a few cases. Although, in those cases, this court has not expressly analyzed the issue through the lens of unconscionability, it has followed an approach that is generally consistent with the application of that doctrine. That is, the court has not declared such releases to be per se invalid, but neither has it concluded that they are always enforceable. Instead, the court has followed a multi-factor approach:

“Agreements to exonerate a party from liability or to limit the extent of the party’s liability for tortious conduct are not favorites of the courts but neither are they automatically voided. The treatment courts accord such agreements depends upon the subject and terms of the agreement and the relationship of the parties.”

K-Lines v. Roberts Motor Co., 273 Or 242, 248, 541 P2d 1378 (1975).

In K-Lines, this court upheld a limitation of liability contained in a commercial sales agreement. The court held that the [*28] fact

“[t]hat one party may possess greater financial resources than the other is not proof that such a disparity of bargaining power exists that a limitation of liability provisions should be voided.

“When the parties are business concerns dealing in a commercial setting and entering into an unambiguous agreement with terms commonly used in commercial transactions, the contract will not be deemed a contract of adhesion in the absence of evidence of unusual circumstances.”

Id. at 252-53. The court also noted that, in an earlier decision, it had stated: Cite as 356 Or 543 (2014) 559

“‘There is nothing inherently bad about a contract provision which exempts one of the parties from liability. The parties are free to contract as they please, unless to permit them to do so would contravene the public interest.'”

Id. at 248 (quoting Irish & Swartz Stores v. First Nat’l Bk., 220 Or 362, 375, 349 P2d 814 (1960), overruled on other grounds by Real Good Food v First National Bank, 276 Or 1057, 557 P2d 654 (1976)).10

10 In K-Lines, which, as noted, involved a commercial transaction, the court distinguished between releases from liability for ordinary negligence and releases involving more serious misconduct, concluding that the latter violate public policy, but that the former are not necessarily unenforceable. K-Lines, 273 Or at 249.

Soon after deciding K-Lines, this court, in Real Good Food, held that a bank-serving [*29] as a bailee for depositors-could not limit its liability for the negligence of its employees. Relying on the Restatement (Second) of Torts, the court held:

“Where the defendant is a common carrier, an innkeeper, a public warehouseman, a public utility, or is otherwise charged with a duty of public service, and the agreement to assume the risk relates to the defendant’s performance of any part of that duty, it is well settled that it will not be given effect. Having undertaken the duty to the public, which includes the obligation of reasonable care, such defendants are not free to rid themselves of their public obligation by contract, or by any other agreement.”

Id. at 1061 (quoting Restatement (Second) of Torts § 496B comment g (1965)).11 The court in Real Good Food concluded that “[b]anks, like common carriers and utility companies, perform an important public service,” and the release therefore violated public policy and was unenforceable. 276 Or at 1061.

11 Restatement (Second)of Torts § 496B provides:

“A plaintiff who by contract or otherwise expressly agrees to accept a risk of harm arising from the defendant’s negligent or reckless conduct cannot recover for such harm, unless the agreement is invalid as contrary to public policy.”

According [*30] to the comments to that section, an exculpatory agreement should be upheld if it is freely and fairly made, if it is between parties who are in an equal bargaining position, and if there is no societal interest with which it interferes. Restatement (Second) of Torts § 496B comment b. Comments e-j set out a non-exclusive list of situations in which releases may interfere with societal interests, insofar as they are contrary to public policy. Among other things, in addition to situations like those described in the passage quoted above, the Restatement refuses to give effect to express liability releases where there is a substantial disparity in bargaining power. Restatement (Second) of Torts § 496B comment j.

Finally, this court has held that another factor for determining whether an anticipatory release may be unenforceable is the possibility of a harsh or inequitable result for the releasing party. Commerce & Industry Ins. v. Orth, 254 Or 226, 231-32, 458 P2d 926 (1969) (so stating); Estey v. MacKenzie Engineering Inc., 324 Or 372, 376-77, 927 P2d 86 (1996) (court’s inquiry into intent of parties to immunize against negligence “focuse[s] not only on the language of the contract, but also on the possibility of a harsh or inequitable result that would fall on one party by immunizing the other party from the consequences of his or her own negligence”).

We glean from those [*31] decisions that relevant procedural factors in the determination of whether enforcement of an anticipatory release would violate public policy or be unconscionable include whether the release was conspicuous and unambiguous; whether there was a substantial disparity in the parties’ bargaining power; whether the contract was offered on a take-it-or-leave-it basis; and whether the contract involved a consumer transaction. Relevant substantive considerations include whether enforcement of the release would cause a harsh or inequitable result to befall the releasing party; whether the releasee serves an important public interest or function; and whether the release purported to disclaim liability for more serious misconduct than ordinary negligence. Nothing in our previous decisions suggests that any single factor takes precedence over the others or that the listed factors are exclusive. Rather, they indicate that a determination whether enforcement of an anticipatory release would violate public policy or be unconscionable must be based on the totality of the circumstances of a particular transaction. The analysis in that regard is guided, but not limited, by the factors that this court [*32] previously has identified; it is also informed by any other considerations that may be relevant, including societal expectations.12

12 Justice Peterson eloquently described the role of societal expectations in informing the development of both the common law and legislation:

“The beauty and strength of the common-law system is its infinite adaptability to societal change. Recent decisions of this court are illustrative. In Heino v. Harper, 306 Or 347, 349-50, 759 P2d 253 (1988), the court abolished interspousal immunity, holding ‘that the common-law rule of interspousal immunity is no longer available in this state to bar negligence actions between spouses.’ In Winn v. Gilroy, 296 Or 718, 734, 681 P2d 776 (1984), the court abolished parental tort immunity for negligent injury to minor children. Nineteen years earlier, in Wights v. Staff Jennings, 241 Or 301, 310, 405 P2d 624 (1965), stating that ‘it is the function of the judiciary to modify the law of torts to fit the changing needs of society,’ the court held that a seller of a product may be held strictly liable for injuries to a plaintiff not in privity with the seller.

“The development of the common law occurs in an environment in which tensions abound. On occasion, the Legislative Assembly passes laws in response to decisions of this court. Products liability decisions of this court led to the enactment [*33] of a series of products liability statutes now found in ORS 30.900 to 30.927. A decision of this court involving an injury to a skier, Blair v. Mt. Hood Meadows Development Corp., 291 Or 293, 630 P2d 827, modified, 291 Or 703, 634 P2d 241 (1981), led to the enactment of statutes concerning skiing activities, ORS 30.970 to 30.990.

“On the other hand, this court, in deciding common-law issues presented to it, has ascertained public policy by looking to legislative enactments. The legislature is incapable of passing laws that govern every conceivable situation that might arise, however. The common-law court is the institution charged with the formulation and application of rules of governing law in situations not covered by constitution, legislation, or rules.”

Buchler v. Oregon Corrections Div., 316 Or 499, 518-19, 853 P2d 798 (1993) (Peterson, J., concurring).

With those principles in mind, we first consider the factors that usually are described as procedural, viz., those pertaining to the formation of the agreement. Plaintiff does not contend that the release was inconspicuous or ambiguous; that is, plaintiff does not contend that he was surprised by its terms. Thus, that factor weighs in favor of enforcement. Other procedural factors, however, point in a different direction. This was not an agreement between equals. Only one party to the contract-defendant-was a commercial enterprise, and that [*34] party exercised its superior bargaining strength by requiring its patrons, including plaintiff, to sign an anticipatory release on a take-it-or-leave-it basis as a condition of using its facilities. As the Restatement (Second) of Torts, section 496B, explains, a release may not be enforced

“where there is such a disparity in bargaining power between the parties that the agreement does not represent a free choice on the part of the plaintiff. The basis for such a result is the policy of the law which relieves the party who is at such a disadvantage from harsh, inequitable, and unfair contracts which he is forced to accept by the necessities of his situation. The disparity in bargaining power may arise from the defendant’s monopoly of a particular field of service, from the generality of use of contract clauses insisting upon assumption of risk by those engaged in such a field, so that the plaintiff has no alternative possibility of obtaining the service without the clause; or it may arise from the exigencies of the needs of the plaintiff himself, which leave him no reasonable alternative to the acceptance of the offered terms.”

Id. comment j (emphasis added).

Also, plaintiff had no opportunity in this [*35] case to negotiate for different terms or pay an additional fee for protection against defendant’s negligence. What makes the substantial disparity in the parties’ bargaining positions even more significant in this circumstance is the limited number of ski areas that provide downhill skiing and snow-boarding opportunities in Oregon, and the generality of the use of similar releases among that limited commercial cohort.13 Simply put, plaintiff had no meaningful alternative to defendant’s take-it-or-leave-it terms if he wanted to participate in downhill snowboarding. Although that factor is not, by itself, dispositive,

“[w]hen one party is in such a superior bargaining position that it totally dictates all terms of the contract and the only option presented to the other party is to take it or leave it, some quantum of procedural unconscionability is established. The party who drafts such a contract of adhesion bears the responsibility of assuring that the provisions of the contract are not so one-sided as to be unconscionable.”

Strand v. U.S. Bank Nat. Ass’n, 693 NW2d 918, 925 (ND 2005).

13 In an excerpt from the transcript of plaintiff’s deposition that was included in the summary judgment record, plaintiff testified that he had never been to a ski resort [*36] where a release such as the one at issue here was not required.

We next consider the substantive factors that are relevant to our inquiry. The parties have identified the following relevant factors: whether enforcement of the release would cause a harsh or inequitable result; whether defendant’s recreational business operation serves an important public interest or function; and whether the release purported to disclaim liability for more serious misconduct than ordinary negligence.

We begin with the question whether enforcement of the release would cause a harsh and inequitable result to befall the releasing party, in this case, plaintiff. As discussed, this court has recognized the importance of that consideration in other cases. See, e.g., Estey, 324 Or at 376. As pertinent here, we conclude that the result would be harsh because, accepting as true the allegations in plaintiff’s complaint, plaintiff would not have been injured if defendant had exercised reasonable care in designing, constructing, maintaining, or inspecting the jump on which he was injured. And that harsh result also would be inequitable because defendant, not its patrons, has the expertise and opportunity to foresee and control hazards [*37] of its own creation on its premises, and to guard against the negligence of its employees. Moreover, defendant alone can effectively spread the cost of guarding and insuring against such risks among its many patrons.

Those public policy considerations are embodied in the common law of business premises liability. Business owners and operators have a heightened duty of care toward patrons–invitees14–with respect to the condition of their premises that exceeds the general duty of care to avoid unreasonable risks of harm to others. Hagler v. Coastal Farm Holdings, Inc., 354 Or 132, 140-41, 309 P3d 1073 (2013); Garrison v. Deschutes County, 334 Or 264, 272, 48 P3d 807 (2002) (business invitee rule is a “special duty”). As this court explained in Woolston v. Wells, 297 Or 548, 557-58, 687 P2d 144 (1984):

“In general, it is the duty of the possessor of land to make the premises reasonably safe for the invitee’s visit. The possessor must exercise the standard of care above stated to discover conditions of the premises that create an unreasonable risk of harm to the invitee. The possessor must exercise that standard of care either to eliminate the condition creating that risk or to warn any foreseeable invitee of the risk so as to enable the invitee to avoid the harm.”

Furthermore, a business operator’s obligation to make its premises reasonably safe for its invitees includes taking into account [*38] the use to which the premises are put. See, e.g., Ragnone v. Portland School Dist. No. 1J, 291 Or 617, 621 n 3, 633 P2d 1287 (1981) (so stating); Mickel v. Haines Enterprises, Inc., 240 Or 369, 371-72, 400 P2d 518 (1965) (owner must “take reasonable precautions to protect the invitee from dangers which are foreseeable from the arrangement or use of the premises.”).

14 An “invitee” is “[a] person who has an express or implied invitation to enter or use another’s premises, such as a business visitor or a member of the public to whom the premises are held open.” Bryan A Garner, Black’s Law Dictionary 846 (8th ed 1999).

The legislature has statutorily modified those duties to some extent in the Skier Responsibility Law, ORS 30.970 to 30.990. Under ORS 30.975, skiers assume certain risks:

“In accordance with ORS 31.600 [pertaining to contributory negligence] and notwithstanding ORS 31.620 (2) [abolishing the doctrine of implied assumption of risk], an individual who engages in the sport of skiing, alpine or nordic, accepts and assumes the inherent risks of skiing insofar as they are reasonably obvious, expected or necessary.”

ORS 30.970(1) describes “inherent risks of skiing”:

“‘Inherent risks of skiing’ includes, but is not limited to, those dangers or conditions which are an integral part of the sport, such as changing weather conditions, variations or steepness in terrain, [*39] snow or ice conditions, surface or subsurface conditions, bare spots, creeks and gullies, forest growth, rocks, stumps, lift towers and other structures and their components, collisions with other skiers and a skier’s failure to ski within the skier’s own ability.”

ORS 30.985 prescribes the duties of skiers, which generally deal with behaving safely while skiing.

By providing that a skier assumes the “inherent risks of skiing,” ORS 30.975 reduced ski area operators’ heightened common law duty to discover and guard against certain natural and inherent risks of harm. However, the Skier Responsibility Law did not abrogate the common-law principle that skiers do not assume responsibility for unreasonable conditions created by a ski area operator insofar as Cite as 356 Or 543 (2014) 565 those conditions are not inherent to the activity. See Nolan v. Mt. Bachelor, Inc., 317 Or 328, 336, 856 P2d 305 (1993) (Skier Responsibility Law provides that “[t]o the extent an injury is caused by an inherent risk of skiing, a skier will not recover against a ski area operator; to the extent an injury is a result of [ski area operator] negligence, comparative negligence applies”). It follows that the public policy underlying the common-law duty of a ski area operator to exercise reasonable care to avoid creating [*40] risks of harm to its business invitees remains applicable in this case.

In short, because (1) accepting as true the allegations in plaintiff’s complaint, plaintiff would not have been injured if defendant had exercised reasonable care in designing, constructing, maintaining, or inspecting the jump on which he was injured; and (2) defendant, not its patrons, had the expertise and opportunity–indeed, the commonlaw duty–to foresee and avoid unreasonable risks of its own creation on its business premises, we conclude that the enforcement of the release would cause a harsh and inequitable result, a factor that militates against its enforcement.

To continue our analysis, we next consider whether defendant’s business operation serves an important public interest or function. The parties sharply disagree about the importance of that factor to our resolution of this case. According to defendant, that factor is paramount here, because, as a matter of law, anticipatory releases of negligence liability are unenforceable only when a defendant provides an “essential” public service.

Although this court has not previously addressed that precise issue in the context of a release involving a recreational [*41] activity, other courts have done so. As defendant observes, courts in several jurisdictions that lack statutory prohibitions of anticipatory releases of liability for negligence have upheld such releases (at least in part) on the ground that the activity at issue did not involve an “essential” public service.15 However, courts in other jurisdictions have taken the opposite approach, concluding that, regardless of whether the release involves an essential public service, anticipatory releases that immunize a party from the consequences of its own negligence can violate public policy or be unconscionable.

15 See, e.g., Malecha v. St. Croix Valley Skydiving Club, Inc., 392 NW 2d 727 (Minn App 1986) (upholding an exculpatory agreement entered into between a skydiving operation and a patron); Chepkevich v. Hidden Valley Resort, 607 Pa 1, 2 A3d 1174 (2010) (skiing); Pearce v. Utah Athletic Foundation, 179 P3d 760 (Utah 2008) (bobsledding); Benedek v. PLC Santa Monica, LLC, 104 Cal App 4th 1351, 129 Cal Rptr 2d 197 (2002) (health club); Henderson v. Quest Expeditions, Inc., 174 SW3d 730, (Tenn Ct App 2005) (whitewater rafting).

For example, in Dalury v. S-K-I, Ltd., 164 Vt 329, 670 A2d 795 (1995), the Vermont Supreme Court rejected the argument that anticipatory releases of negligence liability necessarily are enforceable in the context of recreational activities because such activities are not essential. 670 A2d at 799. In that case, the plaintiff sustained serious injuries when he collided with a metal pole that formed part of the control maze for a ski-lift line. He brought a negligence action against the [*42] defendant ski area operator, alleging that it had negligently designed, built, and placed the maze pole. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment based on an anticipatory release that the plaintiff had signed absolving the defendant of liability for negligence.

On appeal, the court noted that the release was conspicuous and unambiguous, but it nevertheless concluded that the release violated public policy. Id. at 797. The court began its analysis with the Restatement (Second) of Torts § 496B comment b, which states that an anticipatory release should be upheld if (1) it is freely and fairly made, (2) between parties who are in equal bargaining positions, and (3) there is no societal interest with which it interferes. Dalury, 670 A2d at 797. The parties’ dispute focused on the last issue. The defendant urged the court to conclude that, because skiing-like other recreational activities-is not a necessity of life, the sale of a lift ticket is a purely private transaction that implicates no public interest. The court concluded that “no single formula will reach the relevant public policy issues in every factual context.” Id. at 798. Rather, the court stated that it would consider “the totality of the circumstances [*43] of any given case against the backdrop of current societal expectations.” Id.

The court found a significant public policy consideration in the case in the law of premises liability; in particular, the court stated, business owners–including ski area operators–owe a duty of care to make their premises safe for patrons where their operations create a foreseeable risk of harm. Id. at 799. The court observed that

“[d]efendants, not recreational skiers, have the expertise and opportunity to foresee and control hazards, and to guard against the negligence of their agents and employees. They alone can properly maintain and inspect their premises, and train their employees in risk management. They alone can insure against risks and effectively spread the cost of insurance among their thousands of customers. Skiers, on the other hand, are not in a position to discover and correct risks of harm, and they cannot insure against the ski area’s negligence.

“If defendants were permitted to obtain broad waivers for their liability, an important incentive for ski areas to manage risk would be removed with the public bearing the cost of the resulting injuries. * * * It is illogical, in these circumstances, to undermine the [*44] public policy underlying business invitee law and allow skiers to bear risks they have no ability or right to control.”

Id.

Turning to the defendant’s argument that the release was enforceable because ski resorts do not provide an essential public service, the court stated that, “[w]hile interference with an essential public service surely affects the public interest, those services do not represent the universe of activities that implicate public concerns.” Id. The court held that, “when a facility becomes a place of public accommodation, it ‘render[s] a service which has become of public interest in the manner of the innkeepers and common carriers of old.'” Id. at 799-800 (quoting Lombard v. Louisiana, 373 U.S. 267, 279, 83 S Ct 1122, 10 L Ed 2d 338 (1963)) (internal quotation marks omitted).

Finally, the court’s analysis was informed by a statute that placed the “inherent risks” of any sport on the participant, insofar as the risks were obvious and necessary.16 The court stated that “[a] ski area’s own negligence * * * is neither an inherent risk nor an obvious and necessary one in the sport of skiing,” and, therefore, “a skier’s assumption of the inherent risks of skiing does not abrogate the ski area’s duty to warn of or correct dangers which in the exercise of reasonable prudence in [*45] the circumstances could have been foreseen and corrected.” Dalury, 670 A2d at 800 (internal quotation marks omitted).17

16 Vermont Statutes Annotated title 12, section 1037, provides:

“Notwithstanding the provisions of section 1036 of this title, a person who takes part in any sport accepts as a matter of law the dangers that inhere therein insofar as they are obvious and necessary.”

17 For similar reasons, the Connecticut Supreme Court also has declined to enforce an anticipatory release of negligence liability in the face of the defendant’s contention that recreational activities do not implicate the public interest. Hanks v. Powder Ridge Restaurant Corp., 276 Conn 314, 885 A2d 734 (2005). Hanks was a negligence action brought by a plaintiff who was injured when his foot was caught between his snowtube and the artificial bank of a snowtubing run at a ski resort operated by the defendant. The defendant relied on an anticipatory release that the plaintiff had signed that purported to absolve the defendant from liability for its negligence. The court acknowledged that the release was conspicuous and unambiguous, but ultimately agreed with the Vermont Supreme Court that determining what constitutes the public interest required consideration of all relevant circumstances, including that the plaintiff lacked sufficient knowledge and authority to discern [*46] whether, much less ensure that, the snowtubing runs were maintained in a reasonably safe condition. Id. at 331. Thus, the court held, “it is illogical to permit snowtubers, and the public generally, to bear the costs of risks that they have no ability or right to control.” Id. at 332.

We, too, think that the fact that defendant does not provide an essential public service does not compel the conclusion that the release in this case must be enforced. As the court stated in Dalury, “[w]hile interference with an essential public service surely affects the public interest, those services do not represent the universe of activities that implicate public concerns.” 670 A2d at 799. It is true that ski areas do not provide the kind of public service typically associated with government entities or heavily regulated private enterprises such as railroads, hospitals, or banks. See Real Good Food, 276 Or at 1061 (“Banks, like common carriers and utility companies, perform an important public service, and, for that very reason, are subject to state and federal regulation.”). However, like other places of public accommodation such as inns or public warehouses, defendant’s business premises–including its terrain park–are open to the general public virtually without [*47] restriction, and large numbers of skiers and snowboarders regularly avail themselves of its facilities. To be sure, defendants’ business facilities are privately owned, but that characteristic does not overcome a number of legitimate public interests concerning their operation.18

18 Public accommodations laws that prohibit discrimination against potential users of the facility are just one example of limitations imposed by law that affect the use of defendant’s premises. See, e.g., ORS 447.220 (explaining purpose of ORS 447.210-280 to make places of public accommodation accessible to persons with disability); ORS 447.210 (defining public accommodation to include “places of recreation”); ORS 659A.403 (prohibiting discrimination in places of public accommodation); ORS 659A.400 (defining places of public accommodation for purposes of ORS 659A.403 to include places offering “amusements”).

The major public interests at stake are those underlying the law of business premises liability. The policy rationale is to place responsibility for negligently created conditions of business premises on those who own or control them, with the ultimate goal of mitigating the risk of injury-producing accidents. Hagler, 354 Or at 140-41; Garrison, 334 Or at 272. In that setting, where a business operator extends a general invitation [*48] to enter and engage in activities on its premises that is accepted by large numbers of the public, and those invitees are subject to risks of harm from conditions of the operator’s creation, their safety is a matter of broad societal concern. See Dalury, 670 A2d 799 (“[W]hen a substantial number of such sales take place as a result of the [operator’s] general invitation to the public to utilize the facilities and services in question, a legitimate public interest arises.”). The public interest, therefore, is affected by the performance of the operator’s private duties toward them. See, e.g., Strawbridge v. Sugar Mountain Resort, Inc., 320 F Supp 2d 425, 433-34 (WD NC 2004) (holding, under North Carolina law, that “the ski industry is sufficiently regulated and tied to the public interest” to preclude enforcement of anticipatory release, based on the principle that “a party cannot protect himself by contract[ing] against liability for negligence * * * where * * * public interest is involved, or where public interest requires the performance of a private duty”). Accordingly, we reject defendant’s argument that the fact that skiing and snowboarding are “non-essential” activities compels enforcement of the release in this case. Instead, we conclude that defendant’s business operation is sufficiently tied [*49] to the public interest as to require the performance of its private duties to its patrons.

Finally, we consider the nature of the conduct to which the release would apply in this case. Defendant makes a fair point that, although the release purports to immunize it from liability for any misconduct short of intentional conduct, plaintiff’s claim is based on ordinary negligence. Defendant notes that this court has held that an anticipatory release violates public policy where it purports to immunize the releasee from liability for gross negligence, reckless, or intentional conduct, but a release that disclaims liability only for ordinary negligence more often is enforced. K-Lines, 273 Or at 249. That statement is correct as a general comment on the validity of anticipatory releases, but, of course, whether any particular release will be enforced depends on the various factors that we discuss in this opinion. In the circumstances of this transaction, the fact that plaintiff’s claim is based on negligence rather than on more egregious conduct carries less weight than the other substantive factors that we have considered or than it would, for example, in a commercial transaction between parties of relatively [*50] equal bargaining power.19

19 Defendant does not contend that the release would be enforceable against a claim based on alleged gross negligence or reckless conduct.

SUMMARY AND APPLICATION

To summarize, our analysis leads to the conclusion that permitting defendant to exculpate itself from its own negligence would be unconscionable. As discussed, important procedural factors supporting that conclusion include the substantial disparity in the parties’ bargaining power in the particular circumstances of this consumer transaction, and the fact that the release was offered to plaintiff and defendant’s other customers on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

There also are indications that the release is substantively unfair and oppressive. First, a harsh and inequitable result would follow if defendant were immunized from negligence liability, in light of (1) defendant’s superior ability to guard against the risk of harm to its patrons arising from its own negligence in designing, creating, and maintaining its runs, slopes, jumps, and other facilities; and (2) defendant’s superior ability to absorb and spread the costs associated with insuring against those risks. Second, because defendant’s business premises [*51] are open to the general public virtually without restriction, large numbers of skiers and snowboarders regularly avail themselves of its facilities, and those patrons are subject to risks of harm from conditions on the premises of defendant’s creation, the safety of those patrons is a matter of broad societal concern. The public interest, therefore, is affected by the performance of defendant’s private duties toward them under business premises liability law.

In the ultimate step of our unconscionability analysis, we consider whether those procedural and substantive considerations outweigh defendant’s interest in enforcing the release at issue here. Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 178 comment b (“[A] decision as to enforceability is reached only after a careful balancing, in the light of all the circumstances, of the interest in the enforcement of the particular promise against the policy against the enforcement of such terms.”). Defendant argues that, in light of the inherent risks of skiing, it is neither unfair nor oppressive for a ski area operator to insist on a release from liability for its own negligence. As defendant explains,

“[W]hen the plaintiff undertook this activity, he exposed himself [*52] to a high risk of injury. Only he controlled his speed, course, angle, ‘pop’ and the difficulty of his aerial maneuver. Skiing and snowboarding requires [sic] the skier to exercise appropriate caution and good judgment. Sometimes, even despite the exercise of due care, accidents and injuries occur.”

Further, defendant contends, denying enforcement of such a release

“improperly elevates premises liability tort law above the freedom to contract, fails to take into account the countervailing policy interest of providing recreational opportunities to the public, fails to recognize that certain recreational activities are inherently dangerous and fails to consider the fact that the ski area operator has little, if any, control over the skier/snowboarder.”

Defendant’s arguments have some force. After all, skiing and snow boarding are activities whose allure and risks derive from a unique blend of factors that include natural features, artificial constructs, and human engagement. It may be difficult in such circumstances to untangle the causal forces that lead to an injury-producing accident. Moreover, defendant is correct that several relevant factors weigh in favor of enforcing the release. [*53] As discussed, the release was conspicuous and unambiguous, defendant’s alleged misconduct in this case was negligence, not more egregious conduct, and snowboarding is not a necessity of life.

That said, the release is very broad; it applies on its face to a multitude of conditions and risks, many of which (such as riding on a chairlift) leave defendant’s patrons vulnerable to risks of harm of defendant’s creation. Accepting as true the allegations in plaintiff’s complaint, defendant designed, created, and maintained artificial constructs, including the jump on which plaintiff was injured.20 Even in the context of expert snowboarding in defendant’s terrain park, defendant was in a better position than its invitees to guard against risks of harm created by its own conduct.

20 We reiterate that the issues of whether defendant actually was negligent in one or more of the particulars alleged by plaintiff, whether and the extent to which plaintiff was comparatively negligent, and the extent to which either party’s negligence actually caused plaintiff’s injuries, are not before us on review.

A final point deserves mention. It is axiomatic that public policy favors the deterrence of negligent conduct. [*54] 2 Farnsworth on Contracts § 5.2, 9-12 (“[i]n precedents accumulated over centuries,” courts have relied on policy “against the commission or inducement of torts and similar wrongs”). Although that policy of deterrence has implications in any case involving the enforceability of an anticipatory release of negligence liability, here, that policy bolsters the other considerations that weigh against enforcement of the release. As the parties readily agree, the activities at issue in this case involve considerable risks to life and limb. Skiers and snowboarders have important legal inducements to exercise reasonable care for their own safety by virtue of their statutory assumption of the inherent risks of skiing. By contrast, without potential exposure to liability for their own negligence, ski area operators would lack a commensurate legal incentive to avoid creating unreasonable risks of harm to their business invitees. See Alabama Great Southern Railroad Co. v. Sumter Plywood Corp., 359 So 2d 1140, 1145 (Ala 1978) (human experience shows that exculpatory agreements induce a lack of care). Where, as here, members of the public are invited to participate without restriction in risky activities on defendant’s business premises (and many do), and where the risks of harm posed by operator negligence [*55] are appreciable, such an imbalance in legal incentives is not conducive to the public interest.

Because the factors favoring enforcement of the release are outweighed by the countervailing considerations that we have identified, we conclude that enforcement of the release at issue in this case would be unconscionable.21 And, because the release is unenforceable, genuine issues of fact exist that preclude summary judgment in defendant’s favor. It follows that the trial court erred in granting defendant’s motion for summary judgment and in denying plaintiff’s cross-motion for partial summary judgment, and that the Court of Appeals erred in affirming the judgment dismissing plaintiff’s action.

21 By so concluding, we do not mean to suggest that a business owner or operator never may enforce an anticipatory release or limitation of negligence liability from its invitees. As explained, multiple factors may affect the analysis, including, among others, whether a legally significant disparity in the parties’ bargaining power existed that made the release or limitation unfairly adhesive, whether the owner/operator permitted a patron to pay additional reasonable fees to obtain protection against negligence, [*56] the extent to which the business operation is tied to the public interest, including whether the business is open to and serves large numbers of the general public without restriction, and the degree to which the personal safety of the invitee is subjected to the risk of carelessness by the owner/ operator.

The decision of the Court of Appeals is reversed. The judgment of the trial court is reversed and the case is remanded to that court for further proceedings.


Rare issue this case looked at a release signed by a minor that prevented a suit for his injuries after turning age 18

This decision was just overturned by the Oregon Supreme Court in Bagley v. Mt. Bachelor, Inc., dba Mt. Bachelor Ski and Summer Resort, 2014 Ore. LEXIS 994 on December 18, 20014

The term is disaffirm, the minor must disaffirm the release or contract after reaching age 18 or the release or contract is valid.

Date of the Decision: September 5, 2013

Plaintiff: Myles A. Bagley, individually, Plaintiff-Appellant, and Al Bagley, individually; and Lauren Bagley, individually, Plaintiffs

Defendant: Mt. Bachelor, Inc., dba Mt. Bachelor Ski and Summer Resort

Plaintiff Claims: (1) concluding that there was no genuine issue of material fact as to whether Bagley ratified, after reaching the age of majority, a release agreement entered into while he was a minor; (2) concluding that the release agreement was not contrary to public policy; and (3) concluding that the release agreement was neither substantively nor procedurally unconscionable.

Defendant Defenses: Release

Holding: for the defendant. The minor took advantage of the benefits of the contract (release) and did not disaffirm the contract upon reaching the age of majority (18).

This is a rare review of release or contract law because the odds are against it. A contract is voidable by the minor when the minor signs the contract. However, if the contract is in effect when the minor reaches the age of majority, the minor can either disaffirm the contract which puts the parties back in the position before the contract was signed or if he or she fails to do that he or she takes advantages of the benefits of the contract and continues to use it the contract is in force.

To determine the age of majority or the age a minor becomes an adult in each state see The age that minors become adults.

The minor signed a season pass release at the defendant ski area. His father signed a minor release and indemnity agreement. Two weeks later and before the plaintiff had started snowboarding he turned 18. Once he started snowboarding, after reaching age 18, he boarded at the defendant’s resort 26 different days and his pass was scanned 119 times.

Going through the terrain park where he seemed to spend most of his time, the plaintiff was injured on a jump which resulted in permanent paralysis.

The minor and his parents sued the resort. The trial court dismissed his complaints after the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment based on the release the minor had signed.

Summary of the case

The appellate court reviewed the facts and pointed several of the facts out repeatedly.

He was also an experienced snowboarder, had signed release agreements at other ski resorts in the past, and had purchased a season pass and signed a release agreement for each of the preceding three years that he spent snowboarding at Mt. Bachelor.

After reaching age 18 the plaintiff used the release 119 times over 26 days during a four month period. Once you affirm a contract, by using it and not disaffirming it, you cannot later disaffirm the contract. A contract is affirmed if the contract is not disaffirmed which requires an act on the part of the plaintiff. Meaning if the minor does not make an affirmative act to disaffirm the release then the release stands.

In Oregon, a former minor may disaffirm a contract within a “reasonable time” after reaching the age of majority, or, conversely, may ratify a contract after reaching the age of majority by manifesting an intent to let the contract stand, “[I]f an infant after reaching the age of majority engages in any conduct that objectively manifests an intent to regard the bargain as binding, the former minor will be held as a matter of law to have ratified the contract.”).

In this case the only disaffirmance occurred two years later when the plaintiff started his lawsuit.

The plaintiff then argued that because he had no knowledge of the power to disaffirm this release he should not be held to his failure to disaffirm. However the court shot this down with the standard statement. “However, we have previously stated that “[i]gnorance of the law is not a basis for not enforcing a contract.“”

The court then reviewed the requirements for a valid release under Oregon law. “[W]hen one party seeks to contract away liability for its own negligence in advance of any harm, the intent to do so must be ‘clearly and unequivocally expressed.”

The public policy argument was also shot down in a very common sense manner.

“[T]here are no public policy considerations that prevent a diving school from limiting liability for its own negligence. The diving school does not provide an essential public service[.]”). A ski resort, like a diving school, primarily offers “recreational activities” (with possible exceptions that do not apply here, e.g., training for search-and-rescue personnel) and does not provide an “essential public service.

The release was also found to not be unconscionable.

[T]he doctrine of unconscionability does not relieve parties from all unfavorable terms that result from the parties’ respective bargaining positions; it relieves them from terms that are unreasonably favorable to the party with greater bargaining power. Oregon courts have been reluctant to disturb agreements between parties on the basis of unconscionability, even when those parties do not come to the bargaining table with equal power. In those rare instances in which our courts have declared contractual provisions unconscionable, there existed serious procedural and substantive unfairness

The court followed up the public policy quote with “…albeit in dictum and in the context of addressing public-policy arguments, suggested that standard-form release agreements in the context of recreational activities are not impermissibly adhesive.”

A recreational activity is not subject to public policy arguments because the signer can:

“…simply walk away without signing the release and participating in the activity, and thus the contract signed under such circumstances is not unconscionable”

“[T]he release from liability is not invalid as a contract of adhesion, because [the] plaintiff voluntarily chose to ski at Mt. Bachelor and the ski resort does not provide essential public services.”

Because it was the plaintiff’s choice to board at the defendants ski area the release did not violate public policy.

When an individual enters a ski shop to buy ski equipment, s/he does not have a need for those goods and services, merely a desire. Should the seller demand exculpation as a condition for the sale of the equipment, the purchaser is free to walk away.

The one misstatement in my opinion which the court also pointed out was language that exempted the release for intentional acts. “THE ONLY CLAIMS NOT RELEASED ARE THOSE BASED UPON INTENTIONAL MISCONDUCT.” The capitalized print made this statement in the release even standout. The court, found this to be curious and probably was thinking the same way I did, why give the plaintiff’s a way out of the release.

The Oregon Court of Appeals upheld the release as a defense to the claims of the plaintiff.

So Now What?

When a guest enters their date of birth in the information form indicating they are under the age of majority, this always creates a problems because minor’s cannot sign releases. However, if the minor can read the release, even the release is voided by the minor, it can still be used to prove assumption of the risk by the minor.

If the minor is turning the age of majority during the term of the release you can have the minor reaffirm the release or sign a new release after his birthday.

The court repeatedly pointed out how many times the plaintiff had used the release, how many releases at this resort and other resorts the plaintiff had signed before and the experience of the plaintiff. Keep track of this information because it will be valuable in any case showing that the release was an accepted contract for the plaintiff.

Never write in your release the ways the plaintiff can sue you. Here the statement in the release that it was not effective for intentional misconduct is the same as telling the plaintiff to write their complaint to couch the injury as an intentional act on the part of the defendant.

On the good side, the ski area had the minor sign the release, even though the release at the time was of no value. A release signed by a minor might have value later as in this case or might be able to prove assumption of the risk.

The Oregon Supreme Court has just accepted this case for review of this decision. So please learn from this article but do not rely upon it yet. (http://rec-law.us/1jaw8g2)

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Bagley v. Mt. Bachelor, Inc., 258 Ore. App. 390; 310 P.3d 692; 2013 Ore. App. LEXIS 1080

This decision was just overturned by the Oregon Supreme Court in Bagley v. Mt. Bachelor, Inc., dba Mt. Bachelor Ski and Summer Resort, 2014 Ore. LEXIS 994 on December 18, 20014

Bagley v. Mt. Bachelor, Inc., 258 Ore. App. 390; 310 P.3d 692; 2013 Ore. App. LEXIS 1080

Myles A. Bagley, individually, Plaintiff-Appellant, and Al Bagley, individually; and Lauren Bagley, individually, Plaintiffs, v. Mt. Bachelor, Inc., dba Mt. Bachelor Ski and Summer Resort, Defendant-Respondent, and JOHN DOES 1-10, Defendants.

A148231

COURT OF APPEALS OF OREGON

258 Ore. App. 390; 310 P.3d 692; 2013 Ore. App. LEXIS 1080

September 6, 2012, Argued and Submitted

September 5, 2013, Filed

COUNSEL: Kathryn H. Clarke argued the cause for appellant. On the opening brief were Bryan W. Gruetter and Joseph S. Walsh. With her on the reply brief was Lisa T. Hunt.

Andrew C. Balyeat argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief was Balyeat & Eager, LLP.

JUDGES: Before Ortega, Presiding Judge, and Sercombe, Judge, and Hadlock, Judge.

OPINION BY: SERCOMBE

OPINION

[**694] [*392] SERCOMBE, J.

Plaintiff Bagley, after suffering serious injuries while snowboarding over a “jump” in defendant Mt. Bachelor, Inc.’s (Mt. Bachelor) “terrain park,” brought this action alleging negligence in the design, construction, maintenance, or inspection of that jump. 1 The trial court granted Mt. Bachelor’s motion for summary judgment, which was based on the affirmative defense of release, and denied Bagley’s cross-motion for partial summary judgment pertaining to that same issue. Bagley appeals, asserting that the trial court erred in (1) concluding that there was no genuine issue of material fact as to whether Bagley ratified, after reaching the age of majority, a release agreement entered into while he was a minor; (2) concluding that the release agreement was not contrary [***2] to public policy; and (3) concluding that the release agreement was neither substantively nor procedurally unconscionable. For the reasons that follow, we agree with the trial court and, accordingly, affirm.

1 For ease of reading, notwithstanding additional named parties (Bagley’s parents and “John Does 1-10”), we refer throughout this opinion to plaintiff “Bagley” and defendant “Mt. Bachelor.”

[HN1] In reviewing a grant of summary judgment, we view the facts, along with all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from them, in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party–here, Bagley on Mt. Bachelor’s motion and Mt. Bachelor on Bagley’s cross-motion. ORCP 47 C; Vaughn v. First Transit, Inc., 346 Ore. 128, 132, 206 P3d 181 (2009). On September 29, 2005, just under two weeks before his 18th birthday, Bagley purchased a “season pass” from Mt. Bachelor. Bagley was a skilled and experienced snowboarder, having purchased season passes from Mt. Bachelor for each of the preceding three years and having classified his skill level as of early 2006, immediately prior to the injury, as “advanced expert.” Upon purchasing the season pass, he executed [**695] a release agreement as required by Mt. Bachelor. That [***3] agreement read, in pertinent part:

“RELEASE AND INDEMNITY AGREEMENT

“IN CONSIDERATION OF THE USE OF A MT. BACHELOR PASS AND/OR MT. BACHELOR’S PREMISES, I/WE AGREE TO RELEASE AND INDEMNIFY MT. BACHELOR, [*393] INC., ITS OFFICERS AND DIRECTORS, OWNERS, AGENTS, LANDOWNERS, AFFILIATED COMPANIES, AND EMPLOYEES (HEREINAFTER ‘MT. BACHELOR, INC.’) FROM ANY AND ALL CLAIMS FOR PROPERTY DAMAGE, INJURY, OR DEATH WHICH I/WE MAY SUFFER OR FOR WHICH I/WE MAY BE LIABLE TO OTHERS, IN ANY WAY CONNECTED WITH SKIING, SNOWBOARDING, OR SNOWRIDING. THIS RELEASE AND INDEMNITY AGREEMENT SHALL APPLY TO ANY CLAIM EVEN IF CAUSED BY NEGLIGENCE. THE ONLY CLAIMS NOT RELEASED ARE THOSE BASED UPON INTENTIONAL MISCONDUCT.

“* * * * *

“THE UNDERSIGNED(S) HAVE CAREFULLY READ AND UNDERSTAND THIS AGREEMENT AND ALL OF ITS TERMS ON BOTH SIDES OF THIS DOCUMENT. THIS INCLUDES, BUT IS NOT LIMITED TO, THE DUTIES OF SKIERS, SNOWBOARDERS, OR SNOWRIDERS. THE UNDERSIGNED(S) UNDERSTAND THAT THIS DOCUMENT IS AN AGREEMENT OF RELEASE AND INDEMNITY WHICH WILL PREVENT THE UNDERSIGNED(S) OR THE UNDERSIGNEDS’ ESTATE FROM RECOVERING DAMAGES FROM MT. BACHELOR, INC. IN THE EVENT OF DEATH OR INJURY TO PERSON OR PROPERTY. THE UNDERSIGNED(S), NEVERTHELESS, [***4] ENTER INTO THIS AGREEMENT FREELY AND VOLUNTARILY AND AGREE IT IS BINDING ON THE UNDERSIGNED(S) AND THE UNDERSIGNEDS’ HEIRS AND LEGAL REPRESENTATIVES.

“BY MY/OUR SIGNATURE(S) BELOW, I/WE AGREE THAT THIS RELEASE AND INDEMNITY AGREEMENT WILL REMAIN IN FULL FORCE AND EFFECT AND I WILL BE BOUND BY ITS TERMS THROUGHOUT THIS SEASON AND ALL SUBSEQUENT SEASONS FOR WHICH I/WE RENEW THIS SEASON PASS.

“SEE REVERSE SIDE OF THIS SHEET * * * FOR DUTIES OF SKIERS, SNOWBOARDERS, OR SNOW RIDERS WHICH YOU MUST OBSERVE.”

(Underscoring and capitalization in original; emphases added.) The reverse side of the document detailed the “Duties of Skiers” pursuant to ORS 30.990 and ORS 30.985 and also included printed notification that “Skiers/Snowboarders/Snowriders [*394] Assume Certain Risks” under ORS 30.975–namely, the “inherent risks of skiing.” 2 In addition, because Bagley was not yet 18, his father executed a “minor release and indemnity agreement” (capitalization omitted) that read as follows:

“I HEREBY AGREE TO RELEASE AND INDEMNIFY MT. BACHELOR, INC., ITS OFFICERS AND DIRECTORS, OWNERS, AGENTS, LANDOWNERS, AFFILIATED COMPANIES, AND EMPLOYEES FROM ANY AND ALL CLAIMS FOR PROPERTY DAMAGE, INJURY, OR DEATH WHICH [***5] THE MINOR(S) NAMED BELOW MAY SUFFER OR FOR WHICH HE OR SHE MAY BE LIABLE TO OTHERS, IN ANY WAY CONNECTED WITH SKIING, SNOWBOARDING, OR SNOWRIDING. THIS RELEASE AND INDEMNITY AGREEMENT SHALL APPLY TO ANY CLAIM EVEN IF CAUSED BY [**696] NEGLIGENCE. THE ONLY CLAIMS NOT RELEASED ARE THOSE BASED UPON INTENTIONAL MISCONDUCT.

“BY MY SIGNATURE BELOW, I AGREE THAT THIS MINOR RELEASE AND INDEMNITY AGREEMENT WILL REMAIN IN FULL FORCE AND EFFECT AND I WILL BE BOUND BY ITS TERMS THROUGHOUT THIS SEASON AND ALL SUBSEQUENT SEASONS FOR WHICH THIS SEASON PASS IS RENEWED.

“I HAVE CAREFULLY READ AND UNDERSTAND THIS AGREEMENT AND ALL OF ITS TERMS.”

(Capitalization in original; emphasis added.)

2 Oregon has promulgated statutes specifically pertaining to skiing and ski areas. See ORS 30.970 – 30.990. Those statutes, inter alia, set forth the “duties” of skiers, require that ski area operators inform skiers of those duties, establish notice requirements and a statute of limitations pertaining specifically to injury or death while skiing, and provide that those who engage in the sport of skiing accept and assume the risks inherent in that activity.

Less than two weeks after purchasing the season pass and executing the [***6] above-quoted release agreement, Bagley reached the age of majority–turning 18 on October 12, 2005. Thereafter, on November 18, 2005, Bagley began using the pass, on which the crux of the release agreement was also printed:

[*395] “READ THIS RELEASE AGREEMENT

“IN CONSIDERATION FOR EACH LIFT RIDE, THE TICKET USER RELEASES AND AGREES TO HOLD HARMLESS AND INDEMNIFY MT. BACHELOR, INC., AND ITS EMPLOYEES AND AGENTS FROM ALL CLAIMS FOR PROPERTY DAMAGE, INJURY OR DEATH EVEN IF CAUSED BY NEGLIGENCE. THE ONLY CLAIMS NOT RELEASED ARE THOSE BASED UPON INTENTIONAL MISCONDUCT.”

(Capitalization in original; emphasis added.) Further, the following sign was posted at each of Mt. Bachelor’s ski lift terminals:

“YOUR TICKET IS A RELEASE

“The back of your ticket contains a release of all claims against Mt. Bachelor, Inc. and its employees or agents. Read the back of your ticket before you ride any lifts or use any of the facilities of Mt. Bachelor, Inc. If you purchase a ticket from someone else, you must provide this ticket release information to that person or persons.

“Skiers and lift passengers who use tickets at this resort release and agree to hold harmless and indemnify Mt. Bachelor, Inc., its employees and [***7] agents from all claims for property damage, injury or death which he/she may suffer or for which he/she may be liable to others, arising out of the use of Mt. Bachelor’s premises, whether such claims are for negligence or any other theory of recovery, except for intentional misconduct.

“If you do not agree to be bound by the terms and conditions of the sale of your ticket, please do not purchase the ticket or use the facilities at Mt. Bachelor.

“Presentation of this ticket to gain access to the premises and facilities of this area is an acknowledgment of your agreement to the terms and conditions outlined above.”

(Capitalization in original; emphases added.)

Ultimately, beginning on November 18, 2005, after his 18th birthday, Bagley used his season pass to ride Mt. Bachelor’s lifts at least 119 times over the course of 26 days spent snowboarding at the ski area. However, on February 16, 2006, while snowboarding over a manmade jump in Mt. Bachelor’s “air chamber” terrain park, Bagley sustained serious injuries resulting in permanent paralysis.

[*396] On June 16, 2006, approximately four months later, Bagley provided Mt. Bachelor with formal notice of his injury under ORS 30.980(1), which requires [***8] that “[a] ski area operator * * * be notified of any injury to a skier * * * within 180 days after the injury * * *.” Nearly two years after the injury, on February 15, 2008, Bagley brought this action–filing a complaint alleging negligence on Mt. Bachelor’s part in designing, constructing, maintaining, or inspecting the jump on which Bagley was injured. Mt. Bachelor answered, in part, by invoking the affirmative defense of release–pointing to the above-quoted release agreements signed by Bagley and his father prior to the date of injury.

Mt. Bachelor quickly moved for summary judgment on that ground, arguing before the trial court that, by failing to disaffirm the voidable release agreement within a reasonable [**697] period of time after reaching the age of majority, and by accepting the benefits of that agreement and “objectively manifest[ing] his intent to affirm” it (i.e., by riding Mt. Bachelor’s lifts 119 times over 26 days), Bagley had ratified the release and was therefore bound by it. Mt. Bachelor further noted that Bagley “admittedly understood that he [had] entered into a release agreement and was snowboarding under its terms on the date of [the] accident.” Accordingly, Mt. Bachelor [***9] argued, because Bagley had ratified a release agreement that unambiguously disclaimed liability for negligence, there was no material issue of fact as to whether that agreement barred Bagley’s action, and Mt. Bachelor was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. 3

3 Mt. Bachelor additionally argued, as pertinent to this appeal, that the release agreement was neither adhesionary nor contrary to public policy under Oregon law. Specifically, it argued that “skiers and snowboarders voluntarily choose to ski and snowboard and ski resorts do not provide essential public services.”

Bagley then filed a cross-motion for partial summary judgment as to Mt. Bachelor’s affirmative defense of release, arguing that “there [was] no genuine issue of material fact [as to whether] the release [was] void and unenforceable as a matter of law.” Specifically, Bagley argued that he timely disaffirmed the release agreement by (1) notifying Mt. Bachelor of the injury pursuant to ORS 30.980(1), (2) filing his complaint for negligence within the two-year statute of limitations “for injuries to a skier” established by ORS 30.980(3), [*397] and (3) “plead[ing] infancy as a defense to [Mt. Bachelor’s] First Affirmative Defense [***10] on the release executed by [Bagley] while an infant.” Additionally, in response to Mt. Bachelor’s motion, Bagley alternatively argued that “whether [he] disaffirmed the Release within a reasonable time should be determined by the jury as a question of fact” because a material issue of fact existed as to Bagley’s knowledge of both the scope of the release (namely, whether it covered claims for negligence) and “of his right to disaffirm” it (i.e., whether it was voidable). He further argued that the release was contrary to public policy and “both substantively and procedurally unconscionable.”

The trial court agreed with Mt. Bachelor, reasoning that Bagley’s “use of the pass following his eighteenth birthday constitute[d] an affirmation of the contract and release agreement each time the pass was used, a total of 119 times over a period of 26 different days, up to February 16, 2006[,]” and noting that, “[o]nce there [was] an affirmation, [Bagley could] no longer disaffirm the contract.” The court rejected Bagley’s public policy and unconscionability arguments, reasoning that “[s]now riding is not such an essential service which requires someone such as [Bagley] to be forced to sign a [***11] release in order to obtain the service.” Accordingly, having determined that Bagley ratified the release agreement after reaching the age of majority and that “there [was] no basis by which [it could] find the release invalid[,]” the trial court granted summary judgment in Mt. Bachelor’s favor and denied Bagley’s cross-motion for partial summary judgment. Bagley now appeals, reprising his arguments below.

[HN2] On appeal, we review the trial court’s ruling on summary judgment to determine whether we agree “that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to prevail as a matter of law.” ORCP 47 C; see O’Dee v. Tri-County Metropolitan Trans. Dist., 212 Ore. App. 456, 460, 157 P3d 1272 (2007). [HN3] No genuine issue of material fact exists if, “based upon the record before the court viewed in a manner most favorable to the adverse party, no objectively reasonable juror could return a verdict for the adverse party on the matter that is the subject of the motion for summary judgment.” ORCP 47 C.

[*398] In his first assignment of error, Bagley asserts that “[t]here is a genuine factual dispute as to whether [his] actions or omissions after reaching the age of majority [***12] were enough to disaffirm or affirm the contract he entered with [Mt. Bachelor] when he was a minor.” More specifically, Bagley argues that “[a] jury could reasonably infer from the facts that merely turning 18 years old and continuing to snowboard was not conclusive evidence of [his] intent to affirm the release [**698] and agree to waive all prospective claims for [Mt. Bachelor’s] negligence.” He argues that a jury “could just as easily find that he promptly disaffirmed the contract” by notifying Mt. Bachelor of the injury approximately four months after it occurred as required by ORS 30.980(1), by filing suit for negligence within the applicable statute of limitations, or by pleading infancy in response to Mt. Bachelor’s affirmative defense of release. 4

4 Bagley alternatively argues that, “even if there is no genuine dispute of material fact, the inferences arising from the facts in this case are susceptible to more than one reasonable conclusion precluding summary judgment.” However, Bagley does not identify any facts that purportedly give rise to inferences susceptible to more than one reasonable conclusion, and, ultimately, his generalized argument to that effect is not materially different [***13] from his argument in support of his first assignment of error. Accordingly, we reject that alternative argument without further discussion.

Mt. Bachelor likewise reprises its arguments below, asserting that Bagley admittedly knew that he was snowboarding under the terms of a release agreement, was aware of the inherent risks of snowboarding (particularly given his advanced, aerial style of snowboarding), and, “[u]nderstanding those risks,” made “an informed decision to execute the release agreement” and “an informed decision to honor the agreement after reaching the age of majority because he wanted to snowboard.” As noted, Mt. Bachelor points to Bagley’s use of the pass after reaching the age of majority–arguing that Bagley ratified the release agreement by riding the lifts “no less than 119 times on 26 days before the subject accident.”

[HN4] In Oregon, a former minor may disaffirm a contract within a “reasonable time” after reaching the age of majority, see Highland v. Tollisen, 75 Ore. 578, 587, 147 P 558 (1915), or, conversely, may ratify a contract after reaching the age of majority by manifesting an intent to let the contract stand, [*399] see Haldeman v. Weeks, 90 Ore. 201, 205, 175 P 445 (1918); [***14] see also Richard A. Lord, 5 Williston on Contracts § 9:17, 166-70 (4th ed 2009) (“[I]f an infant after reaching the age of majority engages in any conduct that objectively manifests an intent to regard the bargain as binding, the former minor will be held as a matter of law to have ratified the contract.”). Further, as particularly relevant here, although what constitutes a reasonable period of time after reaching the age of majority varies widely depending on the circumstances, it is well established that [HN5] ratification of a voidable contract abolishes a party’s power to later disaffirm it. See Brown et ux v. Hassenstab et ux, 212 Ore. 246, 256, 319 P2d 929 (1957) (“The two courses of action are inconsistent and the taking of one will preclude the other.”); Snyder v. Rhoads, 47 Ore. App 545, 553-54, 615 P2d 1058, rev den, 290 Ore. 157 (1980) (similar).

Applying those principles to these facts, we agree with Mt. Bachelor and conclude that no objectively reasonable juror could find that Bagley disaffirmed the release agreement within a reasonable time after turning 18. Rather, the record gives rise to only one reasonable conclusion: By using the season pass at least 119 times over the course [***15] of 26 days between November 18, 2005 and February 16, 2006, Bagley objectively manifested his intent to let the release stand–affirmatively electing to ride the lifts and snowboard under the terms of the agreement (i.e., to accept the benefits of the agreement). His actions after the date of injury–at which time the release had already been ratified and Bagley’s power to disaffirm it thereby defeated–are immaterial. Cf. Highland, 75 Ore. at 587 (former minor’s disaffirmance held valid under circumstances where she had neither taken any affirmative action on the contract nor received any benefit from it); see also Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 85 comment b (1981) (power of disaffirmance may be lost, inter alia, “by exercise of dominion over things received”); Lord, 5 Williston on Contracts § 9:17 at 170 ( [HN6] “[I]f the infant after attaining majority voluntarily receives performance in whole or in part from the other party to the contract, this will amount to a ratification.”). 5

5 Although existing Oregon case law on point is limited, several other states have similarly reasoned that a former minor’s acceptance of the benefits of a contract may constitute a ratification. See, e.g., Jones v. Dressel, 623 P2d 370, 372-74 (Colo 1981) [***16] (holding that a former minor, who had signed a release at age 17 in order to skydive, “ratified the contract, as a matter of law, by accepting the benefits of the contract when he used [the defendant’s] facilities” and further stating that the question whether that former minor’s subsequent actions constituted disaffirmance of the contract was “not relevant” because the former minor had already ratified the contract); Parsons ex rel Cabaniss v. American Family Insurance Co., 2007 WI App 211, 305 Wis 2d 630, 639, 740 NW2d 399, 403 (Wis Ct App 2007), rev den, 2008 WI 19, 307 Wis. 2d 294, 746 N.W.2d 811 (Wis 2008) (former minor ratified release agreement in connection with settlement by retaining funds given as consideration for that release).

[*400] [**699] In reaching that conclusion, we emphasize that Bagley was less than two weeks short of the age of majority when he signed the release agreement and did not begin snowboarding under its terms until well over a month after turning 18. He was also an experienced snowboarder, had signed release agreements at other ski resorts in the past, and had purchased a season pass and signed a release agreement for each of the preceding three years that he spent snowboarding at Mt. Bachelor. See [***17] Haldeman, 90 Ore. at 205 (considering former minor’s maturity and life experience in determining whether contract had been ratified). Moreover, the language of the release was unambiguous, as discussed further below, and that language was both heavily emphasized and omnipresent–having been reproduced on the back of the physical season pass that Bagley was required to carry at all times and in large part on signage at each of the lift terminals to which Bagley was exposed at least 119 times. Indeed, given the exculpatory language on Bagley’s pass and the signage directing his attention to it, it is not implausible that Bagley released Mt. Bachelor from liability for negligence each time that he rode one of the lifts.

Nevertheless, Bagley affirmatively chose to accept the benefits of the agreement after reaching the age of majority and, as noted, continued to do so until the date of injury notwithstanding the pass’s and signage’s continuing reminders of the existence of the agreement and provision of ample exposure to its terms. The following exchange, which occurred during Bagley’s deposition, is particularly illustrative:

“[Mt. Bachelor’s Counsel]: The reason you didn’t go to Mt. Bachelor [***18] and tell them ‘You know what, I signed this agreement when I was 17, now I’m 18, I want to void it, I don’t want to be subject to it,’ what I’m asking you to [*401] acknowledge is the reason you didn’t do that is because you wanted [to] continue [to snowboard] and did continue [to snowboard] under the terms of the season pass agreement.

“[Bagley]: Yes.”

Thus, as the trial court correctly reasoned, when Bagley used the season pass 119 times to gain access to Mt. Bachelor’s lifts, he objectively manifested his intent to regard the release agreement as binding in order to reap its benefits–thereby ratifying it.

However, although he concedes that he was “aware of the release” and “aware of the inherent risks of his sport[,]” Bagley further argues that he did not know that the agreement released Mt. Bachelor from claims related to its own negligence. Nor, he argues, did he know that he had the power to disaffirm the contract upon turning 18. We conclude that such knowledge was not a necessary prerequisite to ratification and, therefore, that Bagley’s arguments as to his subjective understanding of both the release agreement and the law do not affect our determination that “no objectively reasonable [***19] juror could [have] return[ed] a verdict for” Bagley on the issue of ratification. ORCP 47 C.

Oregon subscribes to the “objective theory of contracts.” Kabil Developments Corp. v. Mignot, 279 Ore. 151, 156-57, 566 P2d 505 (1977) (citation omitted); Newton/Boldt v. Newton, 192 Ore. App. 386, 392, 86 P3d 49, rev den, 337 Ore. 84, 93 P.3d 72 (2004), cert den, 543 U.S. 1173, 125 S. Ct. 1365, 161 L. Ed. 2d 153 (2005). Accordingly, although there is undisputed evidence in the record showing that, after reaching the age of majority, Bagley was exposed to language expressly disclaiming liability for negligence on the part of Mt. Bachelor, 6 his subjective understanding [*402] [**700] of that language and the terms of the release agreement is not relevant to the question of whether he ratified that agreement such that it could be enforced against him. See, e.g., NW Pac. Indem. v. Junction City Water Dist., 295 Ore. 553, 557 n 4, 668 P2d 1206 (1983), modified on other grounds, 296 Ore. 365, 677 P2d 671 (1984) ( [HN7] “[F]ailure to read an instrument is not a defense to enforcement.”).

6 For instance, as noted, the season pass that he was required to carry with him at all times expressly disclaimed liability for negligence and drew his attention to that language with the following [***20] heading: “READ THIS RELEASE AGREEMENT[.]” (Capitalization in original.) Further, during his deposition testimony, Bagley confirmed that he had read signage posted prominently on the mountain that stated, as pertinent here, that

“[s]kiers and lift passengers who use tickets at this resort release and agree to hold harmless and indemnify Mt. Bachelor, Inc., its employees and agents from all claims for property damage, injury or death which he/she may suffer or for which he/she may be liable to others, arising out of the use of Mt. Bachelor’s premises, whether such claims are for negligence or any other theory of recovery, except for intentional misconduct.”

(Emphasis added.)

We similarly reject Bagley’s argument regarding his lack of knowledge of the power to disaffirm the release agreement upon reaching the age of majority. In raising that issue, Bagley notes that, “[i]n some states, the former infant’s knowledge, or lack thereof, of his right to disaffirm a contract may be taken into consideration” in assessing whether there has been a ratification or disaffirmance. (Emphases added.) However, we have previously stated that [HN8] “[i]gnorance of [***21] the law is not a basis for not enforcing a contract.” Shea v. Begley, 94 Ore. App. 554, 558 n 3, 766 P2d 418 (1988), rev den, 307 Ore. 514, 770 P.2d 595 (1989) (citation omitted; emphasis added); see also Walcutt v. Inform Graphics, Inc., 109 Ore. App. 148, 152, 817 P2d 1353 (1991), rev den, 312 Ore. 589, 824 P.2d 418 (1992) (the plaintiff was not entitled to avoid contract due to her and her counsel’s “failure to take reasonable measures to inform themselves about her affairs”). Moreover, as Mt. Bachelor correctly points out, Bagley’s argument is drawn from the minority view among other jurisdictions. See Lord, 5 Williston on Contracts § 9:17 at 175-77 (former minor’s ignorance of legal defense of infancy treated as irrelevant in a majority of those jurisdictions that have considered the issue). As aptly stated by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court,

“[t]o require that one must have knowledge of a right to disaffirm in order to make an effective ratification of a voidable contract made in infancy would be inconsistent with the well-established rule that failure to disaffirm such contract within a reasonable time after coming of age terminates the privilege of disaffirmance.”

Campbell v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 307 Pa 365, 371, 161 A 310, 312 (1932).

In [***22] short, both of Bagley’s ancillary arguments are inconsistent with the objective theory of contracts to which Oregon adheres; we look to the parties’ objective conduct, [*403] and, here, after reaching the age of majority, Bagley objectively manifested his intent to let the contract stand because he “wanted to snowboard[.]”

As noted, in his second assignment of error, Bagley asserts that the release agreement was void as contrary to public policy–focusing primarily on the respective bargaining power of the parties and an asserted “public interest [in] protecting a large number of business invitees, including [Bagley], from the negligence of ski area operators.” 7 (Some capitalization omitted.) [HN9] In evaluating whether a contract disclaiming liability for negligence is contrary to public policy, we assess the language of the agreement under the circumstances in order to determine whether it violates public policy “as applied” to the facts of the particular case. Harmon v. Mt. Hood Meadows Ltd., 146 Ore. App. 215, 217-18, 222-24, 932 P2d 92 (1997) (upholding release agreement disclaiming “any and all liability (including claims based upon negligence) for damage or injury” because the plaintiff’s action [***23] pertained only to ordinary negligence and therefore did not implicate the release’s potential coverage of recklessness or intentional misconduct [**701] (capitalization and boldface omitted)). Specifically, we stated in Harmon that

[HN10] “[t]he question of whether a contract provision is unenforceable as against some general, uncodified public policy must be determined on an ‘as applied’ basis. * * * [A] party seeking to avoid contractual responsibility must demonstrate that enforcement of the contractual provision as to him or her will offend public policy. That is so regardless of whether enforcement of the same contractual provision against other parties in other circumstances would violate public policy.”

Id. at 222 (emphases added); see generally Young v. Mobil Oil Corp., 85 Ore. App. 64, 69, 735 P2d 654 (1987) ( [HN11] “Oregon requires that a public policy be clear and ‘overpowering’ before a court will interfere with the parties’ freedom to contract on the ground of public policy.” (Citation omitted.)).

7 We assume without deciding that the “void as contrary to public policy” doctrine pertaining to this type of case has not been superseded by later-evolved principles concerning substantive unconscionability. [***24] See Restatement at § 208 comment a (unconscionability analysis generally “overlaps” with public-policy analysis).

[*404] Again, the release agreement provided, as pertinent here:

“RELEASE AND INDEMNITY AGREEMENT

“IN CONSIDERATION OF THE USE OF A MT. BACHELOR PASS AND/OR MT. BACHELOR’S PREMISES, I/WE AGREE TO RELEASE AND INDEMNIFY MT. BACHELOR, INC., ITS OFFICERS AND DIRECTORS, OWNERS, AGENTS, LANDOWNERS, AFFILIATED COMPANIES, AND EMPLOYEES (HEREINAFTER ‘MT. BACHELOR, INC.’) FROM ANY AND ALL CLAIMS FOR PROPERTY DAMAGE, INJURY, OR DEATH WHICH I/WE MAY SUFFER OR FOR WHICH I/WE MAY BE LIABLE TO OTHERS, IN ANY WAY CONNECTED WITH SKIING, SNOWBOARDING, OR SNOWRIDING. THIS RELEASE AND INDEMNITY AGREEMENT SHALL APPLY TO ANY CLAIM EVEN IF CAUSED BY NEGLIGENCE. THE ONLY CLAIMS NOT RELEASED ARE THOSE BASED UPON INTENTIONAL MISCONDUCT.”

(Underscoring and capitalization in original; emphasis added.) Although that exculpatory language expressly excludes intentional misconduct from its purview, the same cannot be said with respect to gross negligence or recklessness. However, applying Harmon, because Bagley alleges only ordinary negligence, the failure to expressly exclude gross negligence or recklessness does [***25] not render the agreement contrary to public policy “as applied” to the negligence claim in this case. 146 Ore. App at 222.

Further, in assessing the language of the agreement, our decision in Steele v. Mt. Hood Meadows Oregon, Ltd., 159 Ore. App. 272, 974 P2d 794, rev den, 329 Ore. 10, 994 P.2d 119 (1999), provides substantial guidance. There, the plaintiff in a wrongful death action brought against a ski resort argued that the trial court had erred in granting summary judgment for the ski resort in part because “the terms of the release [were] ambiguous.” Id. at 276. We concluded that the agreement was ambiguous and stated that, [HN12] “[w]hen one party seeks to contract away liability for its own negligence in advance of any harm, the intent to do so must be ‘clearly and unequivocally expressed.'” Id. (quoting Estey v. MacKenzie Engineering Inc., 324 Ore. 372, 376, 927 P2d 86 (1996)). We further elaborated:

[*405] “In determining whether a contract provision meets that standard, the court has considered both the language of the contract and the possibility of a harsh or inequitable result that would fall on one party if the other were immunized from the consequences of its own negligence. The latter inquiry turns on the [***26] nature of the parties’ obligations and the expectations under the contract.”

Id. (citations and internal quotation marks omitted; emphasis added).

We conclude that the release agreement’s language “clearly and unequivocally” expressed Mt. Bachelor’s intent to disclaim liability for negligence. In reaching that conclusion, considering “the nature of the parties’ obligations and the expectations under the contract[,]” id., we note that Bagley admittedly understood that he was engaged in an inherently dangerous activity and that the agreement not only disclaimed liability [**702] for negligence but specifically stated that the “only” claims not released were those for intentional misconduct. Unlike the ambiguous release agreement in Steele, the above-quoted language expressly referred to negligence and was positioned prominently at the beginning of the release agreement; it was not obscured by unrelated provisions. See id. at 274-75 (exculpatory provision obscured by, inter alia, provision addressing skier’s duty to report injuries to the ski resort’s medical clinic). Indeed, we are hard-pressed to envision a more unambiguous expression of “the expectations under the contract”–namely, that in exchange [***27] for the right to use Mt. Bachelor’s facilities to participate in an inherently dangerous activity, Bagley was to release Mt. Bachelor from all claims related to anything other than intentional misconduct (including, of course, negligence).

Moreover, we have previously emphasized that [HN13] a release agreement disclaiming liability for negligence does not necessarily offend public policy where it pertains exclusively to “recreational activities,” and, most prominently, where the business seeking to relieve itself of such liability does “not provide an essential public service[.]” Mann v. Wetter, 100 Ore. App. 184, 187, 187 n 1, 785 P2d 1064, rev den, 309 Ore. 645, 789 P.2d 1387 (1990) (“[T]here are no public policy considerations that prevent a diving school from limiting liability for its own negligence. The diving school does not provide an [*406] essential public service[.]”). A ski resort, like a diving school, primarily offers “recreational activities” (with possible exceptions that do not apply here, e.g., training for search-and-rescue personnel) and does not provide an “essential public service[.]” Id.

Thus, bearing in mind the principles set forth in Mann and the recreational context of this particular case, [***28] 8 because the release agreement “clearly and unequivocally” disclaimed liability for negligence, and because Bagley’s claims relate only to ordinary negligence, under Oregon law the agreement was not contrary to public policy “as applied” to Bagley’s action. Steele, 159 Ore. App. at 276; Harmon, 146 Ore. App. at 222.

8 Regarding that recreational context, we further note that the legislature has enacted statutes indemnifying landowners from liability in connection with “use of the land for recreational purposes[.]” ORS 105.682; see ORS 105.672 – 105.696. Accordingly, we add that, as a general matter, it would be counterintuitive to hold that a contract with the same operative effect as that statutory scheme is void as contrary to public policy.

Finally, we reject Bagley’s third assignment of error, in which, as noted, he asserts that the release agreement was both procedurally and substantively unconscionable. At the outset, we emphasize the substantive rigor historically applied by Oregon courts in assessing claims of unconscionability:

[HN14] “‘[T]he doctrine of unconscionability does not relieve parties from all unfavorable terms that result from the parties’ respective bargaining positions; it [***29] relieves them from terms that are unreasonably favorable to the party with greater bargaining power. Oregon courts have been reluctant to disturb agreements between parties on the basis of unconscionability, even when those parties do not come to the bargaining table with equal power. In those rare instances in which our courts have declared contractual provisions unconscionable, there existed serious procedural and substantive unfairness.'”

Hatkoff v. Portland Adventist Medical Center, 252 Ore. App. 210, 217, 287 P3d 1113 (2012) (quoting Motsinger v. Lithia Rose-FT, Inc., 211 Ore. App. 610, 626-27, 156 P3d 156 (2007)) (emphasis in Motsinger). Further, “each case is decided on its own unique facts[,]” Vasquez-Lopez v. Beneficial Oregon, Inc., 210 Ore. App. 553, 567, 152 P3d 940 (2007), taking into account both the terms of the contract and the circumstances existing when the contract was signed.

[HN15] [*407] In assessing Bagley’s claim of procedural unconscionability, we focus on “the conditions of contract formation” and look to “two factors: oppression and surprise.” Id. at 566-67 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). More specifically, “[o]ppression arises from an inequality of bargaining power [***30] which results in no real negotiation and an absence of meaningful [**703] choice. Surprise involves the extent to which the supposedly agreed-upon terms of the bargain are hidden in a prolix printed form drafted by the party seeking to enforce the terms.” Id. at 566 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Bagley addresses only the former, advancing a generalized argument that the agreement “was a contract of adhesion and there was a disparity in bargaining power.” (Some capitalization omitted.)

As noted, we do not find the release agreement procedurally unconscionable under these circumstances. Although the parties indeed came to the bargaining table with unequal power insofar as Mt. Bachelor required that the release be signed in order to allow Bagley to purchase a season pass, we have, albeit in dictum and in the context of addressing public-policy arguments, suggested that standard-form release agreements in the context of recreational activities are not impermissibly adhesive. See Harmon, 146 Ore. App. at 219 n 4 (citing cases from other jurisdictions and noting their holdings “that exculpatory provisions in ski-related form agreements were not impermissibly adhesive”); Mann, 100 Ore. App. at 187-88 [***31] (noting that “customers have a multitude of alternatives” in dealing with providers of “non-essential service[s,]” even where such providers hold an “economic advantage”). 9 Although we limit our holding to these “unique facts,” we rely in part on those principles in addressing both “oppression” and “surprise” (as well as substantive unconscionability, as set forth below).

9 Many other states, as well as federal courts, have, as Mt. Bachelor points out, “reached the same conclusion.” See, e.g., Chepkevich v. Hidden Valley Resort, L. P., 607 Pa 1, 29, 2 A3d 1174, 1191 (2010) (noting that, in the recreational context, “[t]he signer is a free agent who can simply walk away without signing the release and participating in the activity, and thus the contract signed under such circumstances is not unconscionable”); Silva v. Mt. Bachelor, Inc., No CV 06-6330-AA, *2, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55942 (D Or July 21, 2008) (“[T]he release from liability is not invalid as a contract of adhesion, because [the] plaintiff voluntarily chose to ski at Mt. Bachelor and the ski resort does not provide essential public services.”); Grbac v. Reading Fair Co., Inc., 521 F Supp 1351, 1355 (WD Pa 1981), aff’d, 688 F2d 215 (3d Cir 1982) (stock-car [***32] racing company’s standard-form release provision not adhesionary).

[*408] Here, with respect to “oppression,” Bagley was free to choose not to snowboard at Mt. Bachelor, was less than two weeks short of the age of majority when he signed the agreement, was an experienced snowboarder who had previously signed release agreements required by at least two other ski resorts, had signed a release agreement in obtaining a season pass at Mt. Bachelor during each of the preceding three years, and was accompanied by his father (who, as noted, signed a nearly identical agreement disclaiming liability for negligence). Each of those facts contributes to our conclusion that, notwithstanding the parties’ unequal bargaining power, the circumstances of contract formation were not impermissibly oppressive. Bagley and his father were presented with a “meaningful choice[,]” Vasquez-Lopez, 210 Ore. App. at 566, particularly given that, as noted, snowboarding is a recreational activity and Bagley could have simply declined to sign the release without being denied access to an essential public service.

With respect to “surprise,” as evidenced by the unambiguous language of the release agreement, and particularly given [***33] its additional clarification after disclaiming liability for negligence (“THE ONLY CLAIMS NOT RELEASED ARE THOSE BASED UPON INTENTIONAL MISCONDUCT”), this was not a situation where the “terms of the bargain [were] hidden” by Mt. Bachelor. Id. To the contrary, the above quoted paragraph pertaining to the skier’s release of claims, including claims for negligence, appeared at the beginning of the release agreement and was highlighted by a centered and underlined introductory heading drawing the skier’s attention to the fact that he or she was signing a release (“RELEASE AND INDEMNITY AGREEMENT”). On those facts, we find no indication of surprise and, coupled with our conclusion above as to oppression, cannot say that the release agreement was procedurally unconscionable.

In further arguing that the release agreement was substantively unconscionable, Bagley asserts that “[t]he Release term of the contract in question is unreasonably [**704] favorable to [Mt. Bachelor], the drafter of the contract and more powerful party.” Further, Bagley argues, the terms of the release “unconscionably shift[ ] the burden to protect [skiers] from [Mt. Bachelor’s] negligent behavior to the public that it invites [***34] upon its premises, including [Bagley].” [HN16] [*409] In assessing a contract for substantive unconscionability, we focus on the terms of the contract itself in light of the circumstances of its formation; ultimately, “[t]he substantive fairness of the challenged terms” is the “essential issue.” Carey v. Lincoln Loan Co., 203 Ore. App. 399, 423, 125 P3d 814 (2005), aff’d on other grounds, 342 Ore. 530, 157 P3d 775 (2007); see Vasquez Lopez, 210 Ore. App. at 566-69.

On these facts, the provision in the release agreement disclaiming liability for negligence was not “unreasonably” favorable to Mt. Bachelor. Carey, 203 Ore. App. at 422. Indeed, the principal Oregon case touching on the issue upheld a provision–albeit on an “as applied” basis in the context of that particular plaintiff’s public-policy argument–that not only disclaimed liability for negligence in connection with skiing but for “any and all liability” (presumably including liability related to gross negligence or intentional misconduct on the part of the ski resort). Harmon, 146 Ore. App. at 217-22 (emphasis added). Moreover, as noted, in Harmon we specifically cited cases from other jurisdictions “holding that exculpatory provisions in ski-related form [***35] agreements were not impermissibly adhesive.” Id. at 219 n 4. Returning to the overarching notion that the terms at issue must be read in light of their recreational context, in one of those cases, the New Jersey Superior Court aptly reasoned as follows:

“When an individual enters a ski shop to buy ski equipment, s/he does not have a need for those goods and services, merely a desire. Should the seller demand exculpation as a condition for the sale of the equipment, the purchaser is free to walk away. This is not so with the consumer of automobile insurance, or the individual who cannot find a place to live during a housing shortage. Unlike the skier, these individuals must face an inability to use their automobile, or the prospect of becoming homeless, if they are not willing to sign on the dotted line and exculpate the provider. The skier merely faces the prospect of a ski-less weekend.”

McBride v. Minstar, Inc., 283 NJ Super 471, 491, 662 A2d 592, 602 (NJ Super Ct Law Div 1994), aff’d sub nom McBride v. Raichle Molitor, USA, 283 NJ Super 422, 662 A2d 567 (NJ Super Ct App Div), rev den, 143 N.J. 319, 670 A.2d 1061 (1995) (emphasis in original). As noted, similar release agreements [*410] in the [***36] context of recreational activities have been upheld (including against claims of unconscionability) in a number of other jurisdictions. See Or App at n 9 (slip op at 20 n 9). Finally, [HN17] ORS 105.682 establishes a public policy in favor of indemnification of landowners where the land is used for, inter alia, recreational purposes. We fail to see how a private contract to the same effect is substantively unfair as a matter of law.

Accordingly, given existing case law and the aforementioned substantive rigor that we apply in assessing claims of unconscionability, see Hatkoff, 252 Ore. App. at 217, we conclude that the terms of Mt. Bachelor’s release were not substantively unconscionable under these circumstances. That is, the inclusion of the release provision did not constitute one of “those rare instances” where the terms of the contract were so “unreasonably favorable” to Mt. Bachelor that they were unconscionable. Id. (emphasis in original); see also Restatement at § 208 comment b (a contract has traditionally been held unconscionable only where “it was such as no man in his senses and not under delusion would make” (citations and internal quotation marks omitted)).

In sum, we conclude [***37] that Bagley ratified the release agreement prior to the date of injury, nullifying his power to later disaffirm it (whether by notice, filing suit, or pleading infancy), and that the agreement–coupled with the language printed on the season pass and signage at the lift terminals–was sufficiently clear as to its application to claims for negligence. We further conclude that Bagley’s lack of knowledge regarding the scope of the unambiguous agreement did not preclude [**705] summary judgment, nor did his lack of knowledge of the power to disaffirm it upon reaching the age of majority. As to whether the release agreement was valid in the first instance, we conclude that, as applied, the release agreement was not contrary to public policy. Nor was the agreement substantively or procedurally unconscionable. Accordingly, no genuine issue of material fact exists as to Mt. Bachelor’s affirmative defense of release, and the trial court did not err in granting summary judgment for Mt. Bachelor and denying partial summary judgment to Bagley on that basis.

Affirmed.

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2013-2014 In bound ski/board fatalities

It is depressing to start working on this every year. I hope it at some point in time can provide answers rather than news.

This list is not guaranteed to be accurate. The information is found from web searches and news dispatches. Those references are part of the chart. If you have a source for information on any fatality please leave a comment or contact me. Thank you.

If this information is incorrect or incomplete please let me know.  This is up to date as of March 10, 2014. Thanks.

Skiing and Snowboarding are still safer than being in your kitchen or bathroom. This information is not to scare you away from skiing but to help you understand the risks.

Are non-skiing/boarding fatalities that occurred inbounds on the slopes

Fatality while sledding at the Resort is in Green

2013 – 2014 Ski Season Fatalities

Date State Resort Where Trail Difficulty How Cause Ski/ Board Age Sex Home Helmet Ref Ref
12/11 CO Telluride Pick’NGad struck a tree 60 M Norwood CO No http://rec-law.us/190al75 http://rec-law.us/1fchteM
12/12 VT Killington Great Northern Trail Found 21 F PA No http://rec-law.us/1csgWCg
12/16 WA Crystal Mountain Resort Tinkerbell Beginner Lost control and veered off the trail Blunt Force Trauma F Yes http://rec-law.us/Jc4MX3
1/1 WV skiing into a tree M Opp, AL http://rec-law.us/1a6nAkQ
12/19 CO Winter Park Butch’s Breezeway Beginner blunt force injury to the head 19 M Yes http://rec-law.us/1f3ekSy
12/21 CA Heavenly Resort colliding with a snowboarder and being knocked into a tree 56 F NV No http://rec-law.us/JRiP4c http://rec-law.us/1a7REMW
1/11 CO Aspen Belisimo Intermediate hitting a tree Skier 56 M CO Yes http://rec-law.us/1hNbHoz http://rec-law.us/JTr7sY
1/11 MT Whitefish Mountain Resort Gray Wolf and Bighorn Found in a tree well Skier 54 M CA http://rec-law.us/1kx1deP
1/11 VT Stratton Mountain Resort Lower Tamarac Sledding Sledding 45 M NJ No http://rec-law.us/19x4mXb http://rec-law.us/1aRlxS5
1/14 NV Mount Charlteston Terrain Park Fall in Terrain Park Blunt Force Trauma Boarder 20 M NV No http://rec-law.us/1dsDW8B http://rec-law.us/1dyT1Hc
1/17 VT Killington Mouse Trap Trail Striking a tree Boarder 23 M NY http://rec-law.us/1dFfY9j http://rec-law.us/1dKUf0v
1/25 NM Ski Apache Intermediate Struck a Tree Skier 23 F TX http://rec-law.us/1n3PCCM http://rec-law.us/M5qA85
1/25 WA Ski Bluewood Country Road run Beginner Found at top of trail blunt force abdominal injury Skier 14 M WA No http://rec-law.us/1eaGBUM http://rec-law.us/1b4oewr
1/28 UT Deer Valley Keno Ski Run Intermediate hit a tree Skier 65 M FL Yes http://rec-law.us/1eg70Ax http://rec-law.us/1hRbIVm
2/1 VT Sugarbush Ski Resort Lower Rim Run and Lower FIS trails went off the trail and hit a trail sign broken neck Skier 19 F http://rec-law.us/1aeVJ3V http://rec-law.us/1j4jIpF
2/4 ME Sugarloaf resort Hayburner Expert skiing off a trail into trees Skier 21 M NY Yes http://rec-law.us/1fQtrMz http://rec-law.us/1b1OkG0
2/4 CA Heavenly Ski resort upper Nevada Woods Expert Closed area blunt force trauma Boarder 18 M Kings Beach, CA Yes http://rec-law.us/1byr68d http://rec-law.us/1b5exDA

2/7 CO Beaver Creek lower section of Beaver Creek suffered trauma injuries Skier 64 M St Louis, Mo http://rec-law.us/1ns4Hvu
2/8 CO Keystone Ski Area Porcupine and Bighorn Intermediate crashed into a tree blunt-force trauma Skier 46 M Yes http://rec-law.us/Nph8Oa
2/16 MT Whitefish Mtn Resort between Hollwood & Silvertip fell into treewell Skier 48 M Calgary, Alberta http://rec-law.us/1nKj8eh http://rec-law.us/1clTCu3
2/17 WA Stevens Pass Corona Bowl Expert hit head on rock major trauma Boarder 31 M No http://rec-law.us/O48FQH http://rec-law.us/1oRNQFT
2/18 VT Stowe Upper Gondolier hit another skier before sliding into trail sign Skier 30 M Brooklyn, NY Yes http://rec-law.us/1fkn5pt
2/19 WA Crystal Mountain Found in tree well Boarder 35 M Seattle, WA http://rec-law.us/1ffs2kY
3/5 PA Heavenly Valley collided with a tree internal bleeding from blunt-force trauma Boarder 21 M Warren, PA Yes http://rec-law.us/PRTn2a http://rec-law.us/1k4m72J
3/10 CO Copper Mountain Vein Glory Beginner striking a tree Boarder 22 M Denver, CO No http://rec-law.us/1kJvtTc
3/16 NY Whiteface Mountain trail and hit a tree Boarder 22 M Hemlock, NY http://rec-law.us/1gFq34F http://rec-law.us/1mfoli0
3/18 CO Snowmass Gunner’s View trail intermediate collided with a tree hemorrhagic shock due to pelvic trauma Boarder 54 M Germany Yes http://rec-law.us/OAM3Hn
3/21 WA Mission Ridge Ski & Board Resort Kiwa run ski dislodged from its binding Ski 47 M Seattle, WA http://rec-law.us/1jreZv1
3/22 VT Stratton Mountain Ski Resort 91 Trail Veered off the trial & crashed into a sign boarding 16 M Boston, MA http://rec-law.us/1jBxxIX http://rec-law.us/1oZzuSX
3/27 CO Keystone Resort intermediate lost control & hit a tree blunt force trauma Skier 60 M Charlotte, NC Yes http://rec-law.us/1dV5lgV http://rec-law.us/O6FJ9R
3/28 CO Snowmass Elk Camp Chairlift at the top of Sandy Park collision with another skier that led to Cohen hitting a tree multiple injuries Skier 45 M Cincinnati, OH Yes http://rec-law.us/1dHi0co http://rec-law.us/1dHi0co
4/1 WY Jackson Hole Pair-a-Chutes ( The Parachutes) collided with a tree significant body trauma Skier 31 M Jackson Hole, WY & PA http://rec-law.us/1dN158G http://rec-law.us/1ebWibv
4/3 CO Snowmass Cirque Headwall multiple chest injuries Skier 47 M Yes http://rec-law.us/PyekPa http://rec-law.us/1lA1H1g
4/6 CA Northstar Rail Splitter Advanced crashing into a tree Skier 67 M Van Nuys, CA Yes http://rec-law.us/1fWUnLK
4/6 NY Lake Placid Excelsior lost control and struck a tree Boarder 22 M Canandaigua, NY No http://rec-law.us/PG1Hls http://rec-law.us/1mUlNpW

Our condolences go to the families of the deceased. Our thoughts extend to the families and staff at the areas who have to deal with these tragedies.

If you are unable to view the entire table click on the

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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

Copyright 2013 Recreation Law (720) Edit Law

jim@rec-law.us

Twitter: RecreationLaw

Facebook: Rec.Law.Now

Facebook Page: Outdoor Recreation & Adventure Travel Law

Blog:www.recreation-law.com

Mobile Site: http://m.recreation-law.com

#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, Skier, Snowboarder, Ski Area, Fatality, Telluride, Killington, Crystal Mountain Resort, Heavenly Resort, Winter Park, Aspen, Whitefish Mountain Resort, Stratton Mountain Resort, Mount Charleston, Killington, Ski Apache, Ski Bluewood, Sugarloaf ,

WordPress Tags: news,information,references,Thank,January,Thanks,kitchen,bathroom,Resort,Season,Fatalities,Date,State,Where,Trail,Cause,Board,Home,Helmet,Telluride,Pick,NGad,tree,Norwood,Killington,Great,Northern,Found,Crystal,Mountain,Tinkerbell,Beginner,Lost,Blunt,Force,Trauma,Winter,Park,Butch,Breezeway,injury,Aspen,Belisimo,Intermediate,Skier,Whitefish,Gray,Wolf,Bighorn,Stratton,Lower,Tamarac,Mount,Charlteston,Terrain,Fall,Boarder,Mouse,Trap,Apache,Struck,Bluewood,Country,Road,organs,abdomen,Deer,Valley,Keno,condolences,families,areas,tragedies,Leave,Twitter,LinkedIn,Recreation,Edit,RecreationLaw,Facebook,Page,Outdoor,Adventure,Travel,Blog,Mobile,Site,Outside,Moss,James,Attorney,Tourism,Risk,Management,Human,Rock,Ropes,Course,Challenge,Summer,Camp,Camps,Youth,Negligence,SkiLaw,OutdoorLaw,OutdoorRecreationLaw,AdventureTravelLaw,TravelLaw,JimMoss,JamesHMoss,AttorneyatLaw,AdventureTourism,RecLaw,RecLawBlog,RecreationLawBlog,RiskManagement,HumanPoweredRecreation,CyclingLaw,BicyclingLaw,FitnessLaw,RopesCourse,ChallengeCourse,SummerCamp,YouthCamps,Colorado,managers,accidents,Lawyer,Paddlesports,Recreational,Line,RecreationalLawyer,FitnessLawyer,RecLawyer,ChallengeCourseLawyer,RopesCourseLawyer,ZipLineLawyer,RockClimbingLawyer,AdventureTravelLawyer,OutsideLawyer,Snowboarder,Area,Charleston


2013-2014 In bound ski/board fatalities

It is depressing to start working on this every year. I hope it at some point in time can provide answers rather than news.

This list is not guaranteed to be accurate. The information is found from web searches and news dispatches. Those references are part of the chart. If you have a source for information on any fatality please leave a comment or contact me. Thank you.

If this information is incorrect or incomplete please let me know.  This is up to date as of February 10, 2014. Thanks.

Skiing and Snowboarding are still safer than being in your kitchen or bathroom. This information is not to scare you away from skiing but to help you understand the risks.

Are non-skiing/boarding fatalities that occurred inbounds on the slopes

Fatality while sledding at the Resort is in Green

2013 – 2014 Ski Season Fatalities

#

Date

State

Resort

Where

Trail Difficulty

How

Cause

Ski/ Board

Age

Sex

Home town

Helmet

Reference

Ref # 2

1

12/11 CO Telluride Pick’N Gad Left the ski run, struck a tree and suffered fatal injuries 60 M Norwood, CO No http://rec-law.us/190al75 http://rec-law.us/1fchteM

2

12/12 VT Killington Great Northern Trail Found 21 F PA No http://rec-law.us/1csgWCg

3

12/16 WA Crystal Mountain Resort Tinkerbell Beginner Lost control and veered off the trail Blunt Force Trauma F Yes http://rec-law.us/Jc4MX3
4 1/1/14 WV skiing into a tree M Opp, AL http://rec-law.us/1a6nAkQ
5 12/21 CA Heavenly Resort colliding with a snowboarder and being knocked into a tree 56 F NV No http://rec-law.us/JRiP4c http://rec-law.us/1a7REMW
6 12/19 CO Winter Park Butch’s Breezeway Beginner blunt force injury to the head 19 M Yes http://rec-law.us/1f3ekSy
7 1/11 CO Aspen Bellisimo Inter hitting a tree Ski 56 M CO Yes http://rec-law.us/1hNbHoz http://rec-law.us/JTr7sY
8 1/11 MT Whitefish Mountain Resort Gray Wolf and Bighorn Found in a tree well Ski 54 M CA http://rec-law.us/1kx1deP
9 1/11 VT Stratton Mountain Resort Lower Tamarac Sledding Sledding 45 M NJ No http://rec-law.us/19x4mXb http://rec-law.us/1aRlxS5
10 1/14 NV Mount Charleston Terrain Park Fall in terrain park blunt-force trauma Boarder 20 M NV No http://rec-law.us/1dsDW8B http://rec-law.us/1dyT1Hc
11 1/17 VT Killington Mouse Trap Trail striking a tree Boarder 23 M NY http://rec-law.us/1dFfY9j http://rec-law.us/1dKUf0v
12 1/25 NM Ski Apache Inter struck a tree Skier 23 F TX http://rec-law.us/1n3PCCM http://rec-law.us/M5qA85
13 1/25 WA Ski Bluewood Country Road run Beginner Found at top of trail blunt force abdominal injury Skier 14 M WA No http://rec-law.us/1eaGBUM http://rec-law.us/1b4oewr
14 1/28 UT Deer Valley Keno ski run Inter hit a tree Skier 65 M FL Yes http://rec-law.us/1eg70Ax http://rec-law.us/1hRbIVm
15 2/1 VT Sugarbush Ski Resort Lower Rim Run and Lower FIS trails went off the trail and hit a trail sign broken neck Skier 19 F Newport, RI http://rec-law.us/1aeVJ3V http://rec-law.us/1j4jIpF
16 2/4 ME Sugarloaf resort Hayburner Expert skiing off a trail into trees Skier 21 M Hoosick Falls, NY No http://rec-law.us/1fQtrMz http://rec-law.us/1b1OkG0
17 2/4 CA Heavenly Ski Resort upper Nevada Woods Expert Closed area blunt force trauma Boarder 18 M Kings Beach, CA Yes http://rec-law.us/1byr68d http://rec-law.us/1b5exDA
18 2/8 CO Keystone Resort Porcupine and Bighorn Intermediate crashed into a tree blunt-force trauma Skier 46 M Yes http://rec-law.us/Nph8Oa
19 1/31 PA Seven Springs Mountain Resort hit a fence closed-head injury and a cervical spine fracture Skier 52 F Westmoreland County, PA http://rec-law.us/1lWLt5C http://rec-law.us/1h4zhOc
20 2/7 CO Beaver Creek lower section of Beaver Creek suffered trauma injuries Skier 64 M St. Louis, Mo http://rec-law.us/1ns4Hvu

Our condolences go to the families of the deceased. Our thoughts extend to the families and staff at the areas who have to deal with these tragedies.

If you are unable to view the entire table Email me at Jim@Rec-law.us and put Ski Area Fatality Chart in the subject line. I’ll reply with a PDF of the chart.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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

Copyright 2014 Recreation Law (720) Edit Law

jim@rec-law.us

Twitter: RecreationLaw

Facebook: Rec.Law.Now

Facebook Page: Outdoor Recreation & Adventure Travel Law

Blog: www.recreation-law.com

Mobile Site: http://m.recreation-law.com

#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, Skier, Snowboarder, Ski Area, Fatality, Telluride, Killington, Crystal Mountain Resort, Heavenly Resort, Winter Park, Aspen, Whitefish Mountain Resort, Stratton Mountain Resort, Mount Charleston, Killington, Ski Apache, Ski Bluewood, Sugarloaf,
WordPress Tags: news,information,references,Thank,January,Thanks,kitchen,bathroom,Resort,Season,Fatalities,Date,State,Where,Trail,Cause,Board,Home,Helmet,Telluride,Pick,NGad,tree,Norwood,Killington,Great,Northern,Found,Crystal,Mountain,Tinkerbell,Beginner,Lost,Blunt,Force,Trauma,Winter,Park,Butch,Breezeway,injury,Aspen,Belisimo,Intermediate,Skier,Whitefish,Gray,Wolf,Bighorn,Stratton,Lower,Tamarac,Mount,Charlteston,Terrain,Fall,Boarder,Mouse,Trap,Apache,Struck,Bluewood,Country,Road,organs,abdomen,Deer,Valley,Keno,condolences,families,areas,tragedies,Leave,Twitter,LinkedIn,Recreation,Edit,RecreationLaw,Facebook,Page,Outdoor,Adventure,Travel,Blog,Mobile,Site,Outside,Moss,James,Attorney,Tourism,Risk,Management,Human,Rock,Ropes,Course,Challenge,Summer,Camp,Camps,Youth,Negligence,SkiLaw,OutdoorLaw,OutdoorRecreationLaw,AdventureTravelLaw,TravelLaw,JimMoss,JamesHMoss,AttorneyatLaw,AdventureTourism,RecLaw,RecLawBlog,RecreationLawBlog,RiskManagement,HumanPoweredRecreation,CyclingLaw,BicyclingLaw,FitnessLaw,RopesCourse,ChallengeCourse,SummerCamp,YouthCamps,Colorado,managers,accidents,Lawyer,Paddlesports,Recreational,Line,RecreationalLawyer,FitnessLawyer,RecLawyer,ChallengeCourseLawyer,RopesCourseLawyer,ZipLineLawyer,RockClimbingLawyer,AdventureTravelLawyer,OutsideLawyer,Snowboarder,Area,Charleston

2013-2014 In bound ski/board fatalities

It is depressing to start working on this every year. I hope it at some point in time can provide answers rather than news.

This list is not guaranteed to be accurate. The information is found from web searches and news dispatches. Those references are part of the chart. If you have a source for information on any fatality please leave a comment or contact me. Thank you.

If this information is incorrect or incomplete please let me know.  This is up to date as of January 13, 2014. Thanks.

Skiing and Snowboarding are still safer than being in your kitchen or bathroom. This information is not to scare you away from skiing but to help you understand the risks.

Are non-skiing/boarding fatalities that occurred inbounds on the slopes

Fatality while sledding at the Resort is in Green

2013 – 2014 Ski Season Fatalities

#

Date

State

Resort

Where

Trail Difficulty

How

Cause

Ski/ Board

Age

Sex

Home town

Helmet

Reference

 

 

1

12/11

CO

Telluride

Pick’N Gad

 

Left the ski run, struck a tree and suffered fatal injuries

 

 

60

M

Norwood, CO

No

http://rec-law.us/190al75

http://rec-law.us/1fchteM

 

2

12/12

VT

Killington

Great Northern Trail

 

Found

 

 

21

F

PA

No

http://rec-law.us/1csgWCg

 

 

3

12/16

WA

Crystal Mountain Resort

Tinkerbell

Beginner

Lost control and veered off the trail

Blunt Force Trauma

 

 

F

 

Yes

http://rec-law.us/Jc4MX3

 

 

4

1/1/14

WV

 

 

 

skiing into a tree

 

 

 

M

Opp, AL

 

http://rec-law.us/1a6nAkQ

 

 

5

12/21

CA

Heavenly Resort

 

 

colliding with a snowboarder and being knocked into a tree

 

 

56

F

NV

No

http://rec-law.us/JRiP4c

http://rec-law.us/1a7REMW

 

6

12/19

CO

Winter Park

Butch’s Breezeway

Beginner

 

blunt force injury to the head

 

19

M

 

Yes

http://rec-law.us/1f3ekSy

 

 

7

1/11

CO

Aspen

Bellisimo

Inter

hitting a tree

 

Ski

56

M

CO

Yes

http://rec-law.us/1hNbHoz

http://rec-law.us/JTr7sY

 

8

1/11

MT

Whitefish Mountain Resort

Gray Wolf and Bigho

 

Found in a tree well

 

Ski

54

M

CA

 

http://rec-law.us/1kx1deP

 

 

9

1/11

VT

Stratton Mountain Resort

Lower Tamarac

 

Sledding

 

Sledding

45

M

NJ

No

http://rec-law.us/19x4mXb

http://rec-law.us/1aRlxS5

 

10

1/14

NV

Mount Charleston

 

Terrain Park

Fall in terrain park

blunt-force trauma

Boarder

20

M

NV

No

http://rec-law.us/1dsDW8B

http://rec-law.us/1dyT1Hc

 

11

1/17

VT

Kilington

Mouse Trap Trail

 

striking a tree

 

Boarder

23

M

NY

 

http://rec-law.us/1dFfY9j

http://rec-law.us/1dKUf0v

 

12

1/25

NM

Ski Apache

 

Inter

struck a tree

 

Skier

23

F

TX

 

http://rec-law.us/1n3PCCM

http://rec-law.us/M5qA85

 

13

1/25

WA

Ski Bluewood

Country Road run

Beginner

Found at top of trail

 

Skier

14

M

WA

 No

http://rec-law.us/1eaGBUM

 http://rec-law.us/1b4oewr

 

Our condolences go to the families of the deceased. Our thoughts extend to the families and staff at the areas who have to deal with these tragedies.

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New Hampshire Skiers, Ski Area and Passenger Tramway Safety Act

New Hampshire Skiers, Ski Area and Passenger Tramway Safety Act

NEW HAMPSHIRE REVISED STATUTES ANNOTATED

TITLE XIX Public Recreation

CHAPTER 225-A Skiers, Ski Area and Passenger Tramway Safety

Go To New Hampshire Statutes Archive Directory

225-A:1 Declaration of Policy. 3

225-A:1-a Administratively Attached. 5

225-A:2 Definitions. 5

225-A:3 Passenger Tramway Safety Board. 8

225-A:3-a Passenger Tramway Safety Board. 8

225-A:4 Term of Office. 9

225-A:4-a Term of Office. 9

225-A:5 Removal. 9

225-A:5-a Removal. 9

225-A:6 Compensation. 10

225-A:6-a Compensation. 10

225-A:7 Records. 10

225-A:7-a Records. 10

225-A:8 Rulemaking. 11

225-A:9 Declaratory Judgment. 12

225-A:9-a Declaratory Judgment. 12

225-A:10 Inspections. 12

225-A:10-a Review of Plans and Specifications. 13

225-A:11 Operator to Pay Certain Costs. 13

225-A:12 Inspection Reports. 13

225-A:13 Complaints. 14

225-A:14 Registration Required. 14

225-A:15 Application for Registration. 15

225-A:16 Fees. 16

225-A:17 Registration. 16

225-A:18 Fees. 17

225-A:18-a Emergency Shut-Down. 17

225-A:19 Orders. 18

225-A:19-a Operation Forbidden. 19

225-A:20 Hearing. 20

225-A:21 Appeal. 20

225-A:23 Responsibilities of the Ski Area Operator. 21

225-A:24 Responsibilities of Skiers and Passengers. 24

225-A:25 Insurance; Limitations. 29

225-A:26 Penalty. 32

227:14 Reduced Rates. 33

225-A:1 Declaration of Policy.

The state of New Hampshire finds that the sports of skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, and snowshoeing are practiced by a large number of citizens of the state of New Hampshire, and also that skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, and snowshoeing attract to the state of New Hampshire large numbers of nonresidents significantly contributing to the economy of New Hampshire. Therefore, it shall be the policy of the state of New Hampshire to protect its citizens and visitors from unnecessary mechanical hazards in the operation of ski tows, lifts, nordic ski jumps and passenger tramways, to ensure that proper design and construction are used, that board accepted safety devices and sufficient personnel are provided for, and that periodic inspections and adjustments are made which are deemed essential to the safe operation of ski tows, ski lifts, nordic ski jumps and passenger tramways. The primary responsibility for operation, construction, maintenance and inspection rests with the operators of such passenger tramway devices. The state, through its passenger tramway safety board, as hereinafter provided, shall register all ski lift devices and nordic ski jumps, establish reasonable standards of design and operational practices, and make such independent inspections as may be necessary in carrying out this policy. Further, it shall be the policy of the state of New Hampshire to define the primary areas of responsibility of skiers and other users of alpine (downhill) and nordic (cross country and nordic ski jumps) areas, recognizing that the sport of skiing and other ski area activities involve risks and hazards which must be assumed as a matter of law by those engaging in such activities, regardless of all safety measures taken by the ski area operators.

225-A:1-a Administratively Attached.

The passenger tramway safety board shall be an administratively attached agency, under RSA 21-G:10, to the department of safety.

225-A:2 Definitions.

In this chapter:

“Board” means the passenger tramway safety board.

“Department” means the department of safety.

“Industry” means the activities of all those persons in the state who own or control the operation of ski areas.

“Nordic ski jump” means a facility constructed for the purpose of nordic ski jumping and built in accordance with appropriate standards and guidelines, and any facilities that are associated with the use or viewing of such a facility.

“Passenger” means any person, including skiers, while being transported or conveyed by a passenger tramway, or while waiting in the immediate vicinity for such transportation or conveyance, or while moving away from the disembarkation or unloading point of a passenger tramway to clear the way for the following passengers, or while in the act of boarding or embarking upon or disembarking from a passenger tramway.

“Passenger tramway” means a device used to transport passengers uphill on skis or other winter sports devices, 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 passenger tramway shall include the following:

Two-car aerial passenger tramway, a device used to transport passengers in 2 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.

Multi-car aerial passenger tramway, a device used to transport passengers in 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.

“Conveyor” means a class of outdoor transportation wherein skiers or passengers are transported uphill on a flexible moving element such as a conveyor belt.

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.

J bar, T bar or platter pull, so-called, and similar types of devices are 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.

Rope tow, a type of transportation which pulls the skier riding on skis as the skier grasps the rope manually, or similar devices.

Wire rope tow means a type of transportation by which skiers are pulled on skis while manually gripping a handle attached to a wire hauling cable. The hauling cable is maintained at a constant height range between the loading and unloading points, and there is only one span with no intermediate towers.

“Ski area operator” means a person who owns or controls the operation of a ski area. The word “operator” shall include the state or any political subdivision. An operator of a passenger tramway shall be deemed not to be operating a common carrier. Ski area operator is included in the term “operator” as used in this chapter.

“Ski areas” means all passenger tramways and all designated alpine and nordic trails, slopes, freestyle terrain, tubing terrain, and nordic ski jumps under the control of the alpine and nordic ski area operator and any other areas under the operator’s control open to the public for winter sports recreation or competition.

“Skier” means a person utilizing the ski area under the control of a ski area operator for ski, snowboard, and snow tube recreation and competition.

“Tubing terrain” means areas designated for sliding on inflatable tubes or other similar devices down a prepared course or lanes at a ski area.

“Winter sports” means the use of skis, snowboards, snow tubes, snowshoes, and any device being utilized by a disabled or adaptive participant for winter recreation or competition.

225-A:3 Passenger Tramway Safety Board.

[Repealed 1987, 124:26, IV, eff. July 1, 1987.]

225-A:3-a Passenger Tramway Safety Board.

There shall be a passenger tramway safety board of 4 appointive members. The appointive members shall be appointed by the governor, with the advice and consent of the council, from persons representing the following interests: one member who operates a “surface lift” as described in RSA 225-A:2, I(e)-(g) only and one member from the cable and other passenger carrying devices industry, and in making such appointments consideration shall be given to recommendations made by members of the industry, so that both the devices which pull skiers riding on skis and the devices which transport passengers in cars or chairs shall have proper representation; one member to represent the public at large; and one member to represent insurance companies which engage in insuring passenger tramway operations, and in appointing such member consideration shall be given to recommendations made by such insurance companies. The authority of such board shall not extend to any other matter relative to the operation of a ski area.

225-A:4 Term of Office.

[Repealed 1987, 124:26, IV, eff. July 1, 1987.]

225-A:4-a Term of Office.

Of the first appointments under this section one member shall be appointed for a term of one year, one for a term of 2 years, one for a term of 3 years and one for a term of 4 years, and until their successors are appointed and qualified, and thereafter each of the appointed members shall be appointed for a term of 4 years and until his successor is appointed and qualified. Vacancies in the board shall be filled for the unexpired term.

225-A:5 Removal.

[Repealed 1987, 124:26, IV, eff. July 1, 1987.]

225-A:5-a Removal.

The appointive members of the board may only be removed from office as provided in RSA 4:1.

225-A:6 Compensation.

[Repealed 1987, 124:26, IV, eff. July 1, 1987.]

225-A:6-a Compensation.

The appointive members of the board shall serve without compensation, but shall be reimbursed for their reasonable expenses incurred in official duties.

225-A:7 Records.

[Repealed 1987, 124:26, IV, eff. July 1, 1987.]

225-A:7-a Records.

The department shall provide the board with such office and clerical assistance as may be necessary to carry on the work of the board, in accordance with RSA 225-A:1-a. The department shall also preserve the records, codes, inspection reports, and business records of the board.

225-A:8 Rulemaking.

The board with the approval of the commissioner of safety shall adopt, under RSA 541-A, rules after public hearing, relating to public safety in the construction, operation and maintenance of passenger tramways. The rules shall be in accordance with established standards, if any, and shall not be discriminatory in their application to operators of passenger tramways. The board shall also give notice of any public hearing under RSA 541-A for such rules by first class mail to each registered operator at least 14 days before the hearing.

225-A:9 Declaratory Judgment.

[Repealed 1987, 124:26, IV, eff. July 1, 1987.]

225-A:9-a Declaratory Judgment.

The validity or reasonableness of any rule adopted by the board may be judicially determined upon a petition to the superior court for declaratory judgment, brought within 30 days after the effective date of such rule. The court shall hear the petition and render a declaratory judgment only when it appears that the rule, or its threatened application, interferes with or impairs or threatens to interfere with or impair the legal rights and privileges of the petitioner. In rendering judgment the court shall give effect to any pertinent constitutional limitations upon the powers of the board, the limits of the authority and jurisdiction of the board as conferred under this chapter, and the procedural requirements of this chapter.

225-A:10 Inspections.

The department may make such inspection of the construction, operation and maintenance of passenger tramways as the board may reasonably require. The department may, at its own expense, employ other qualified engineers to make such inspections.

225-A:10-a Review of Plans and Specifications.

Prior to the construction of a new, or the alteration of an existing, passenger tramway, the operator or prospective operator shall submit plans and specifications to the department. The department may make recommendations relative to safety of the layout and equipment, but such recommendation shall not relieve the operator or prospective operator of his primary responsibility as set forth in RSA 225-A:1.

225-A:11 Operator to Pay Certain Costs.

[Repealed 1973, 52:5, eff. May 23, 1973.]

225-A:12 Inspection Reports.

If, as the result of an inspection, it is found that a violation of the board’s rules, regulations or code exists, or a condition in passenger tramway construction, operation or maintenance exists endangering the safety of the public, an immediate report shall be made to the board for appropriate investigation and order.

225-A:13 Complaints.

Any person may make written complaint to the board setting forth any thing or act claimed to be done or omitted to be done by any registered operator which is alleged to be in violation of any rule, regulation or code adopted by the board, or setting forth any condition in passenger tramway construction, operation or maintenance which is alleged to endanger the safety of the public. Thereupon the board shall cause a copy of said complaint to be forwarded to the registered operator complained of, which may be accompanied by an order requiring that the matters complained of be answered in writing within a time to be specified by the board. The board may investigate the matter complained of if it shall appear to the board that there are reasonable grounds therefor.

225-A:14 Registration Required.

No passenger tramway shall be operated in this state unless the operator thereof was registered by the board.

225-A:15 Application for Registration.

On or before November 1 of each year every operator of a passenger tramway shall apply to the board, on forms prepared by it, for registration hereunder. The application shall contain such information as the board may reasonably require.

225-A:16 Fees.

The application for registration shall be accompanied by the applicable annual fees to cover the costs of administering this chapter. The fees for registration shall be set by the board by rule adopted pursuant to RSA 541-A.

225-A:17 Registration.

The board, if satisfied with the facts stated in the application, shall issue a registration certificate to the operator. Each registration shall expire on October 31 next following the day of its issue.

225-A:18 Fees.

All fees collected by the board hereunder shall be credited to the special appropriation for the department to be expended for purposes of this chapter.

225-A:18-a Emergency Shut-Down.

When facts are presented to the board, or to any member thereof, tending to show that an unreasonable hazard exists in the continued operation of a tramway, the board or member, after such verification of said facts as is practical under the circumstances and consistent with the public safety, may, by an emergency order require the operator of said tramway forthwith to cease using the same for the transportation of passengers. Such emergency order shall be in writing and notice thereof may be served by any person upon the operator or his agent immediately in control of said tramway by a true and attested copy of such order, the return of such service to be shown by an affidavit on the back thereof. Such emergency order shall be effective for a period not to exceed 48 hours from the time of service. Immediately after the issuance of an emergency order hereunder, the board shall conduct an investigation into the facts of the case as contemplated in RSA 225-A:19, and shall take such action under said RSA 225-A:19 as may be appropriate.

225-A:19 Orders.

If, after investigation, the commissioner of safety or the board finds that a violation of any of the rules exists, or that there is a condition in passenger tramway construction, operation or maintenance endangering the safety of the public, either the commissioner of safety or the board shall forthwith issue a written order setting forth his or its findings, the corrective action to be taken, and fixing a reasonable time for compliance therewith. Such order shall be served upon the operator involved by registered mail, and shall become final, unless the operator shall apply to the board for a hearing in the manner hereinafter provided.

225-A:19-a Operation Forbidden.

If in any such case the commissioner of safety or the board is of the opinion that the public safety would be endangered by the use of the tramway for the transportation of passengers prior to the taking of some or all of such corrective action, he or it shall so state in said order, and shall require in said order that the tramway shall not be so used until specified corrective action shall have been taken. From and after receipt of the order by the operator said tramway shall not be used for the transportation of passengers without the approval of the commissioner of safety or the board. Application for a hearing before the board shall not have the effect of suspending said order. Operation of the tramway following receipt of such order may be enjoined by the superior court.

225-A:20 Hearing.

Any such operator, who is aggrieved by any such order, may, within 10 days after the service of such order upon him as hereinbefore provided, apply to the board for a review of such order. It shall be the duty of the board to hear the same at the earliest convenient day. At such hearing the operator shall have the right to be heard personally or by counsel, to cross-examine witnesses appearing against him, and to produce evidence in his own behalf. After such hearing, the board shall report its findings in writing to the commissioner of safety and make such order as the facts may require.

225-A:21 Appeal.

Any such operator, who is aggrieved by any such post-hearing order of the board, may, within 14 days after the entry thereof, 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 make such decree as justice may require.

225-A:23 Responsibilities of the Ski Area Operator.

It shall be the responsibility of the operator to maintain the following signs and designations:

General Designations. The following color code is hereby established:

Green circle: On area’s easiest trails and slopes.

Black diamond: On area’s most difficult trails and slopes.

Blue square: On area’s trails and slopes that fall between the green circle and black diamond designation.

Yellow triangle with red exclamation point inside with a red band around the triangle: Extrahazardous.

Border around a black figure in the shape of a skier inside with a band running diagonally across the sign with the word “closed” beneath the emblem: Trail or slope closed.

Orange oval: On area’s designated freestyle terrain without respect to its degree of difficulty.

Base Area; Information to Skiers and Passengers. (a) A trail board shall be maintained at a prominent location listing the ski area’s network of ski trails, slopes, tubing terrain, and designated freestyle terrain in accordance with the aforementioned color code and containing a key to the code in accordance with the above designations; said trail board shall further designate which trails, slopes, and snow tube terrain are open or closed.

(b) The ski area operator shall warn skiers and passengers by use of the trail board, if applicable, that snow grooming or snow making operations are routinely in progress on the slopes and trails serviced by each tramway.

(c) A map shall be available at all ski areas to all skiers and passengers indicating the system of ski trails, slopes, tubing terrain, and designated freestyle terrain in accordance with the color code in paragraph I.

Ski Trails and Slopes; Information and Warning to Skiers and Other Persons. (a) The operator shall mark the beginning of each alpine and nordic ski trail or slope with the appropriate symbol for that particular trail’s or slope’s degree of difficulty in accordance with RSA 225-A:23, I.

(b) The beginning of each alpine ski trail or slope is defined as the highest point of the trail or slope. Lower trail junctions and intersections may be marked with a degree of difficulty symbol.

(c) The operator shall mark the beginning of, and designated access points to, each alpine trail or slope that is closed with a sign in accordance with RSA 225-A:23, I(e). For purposes of this subparagraph, “designated access points” means the beginning of a trail, slope, or any point where an open trail crosses or intersects the closed trail as shown on the ski area’s trail board and trail map.

(d) The operator shall mark the beginning of and designated access points to terrain with the appropriate symbol in accordance with RSA 225-A:23, I(f), which sign shall warn the skier that the use of the terrain is at the skier’s own risk. Further, a sign shall be placed at each lift depicting the symbols in RSA 225-A:23, I(a)-(f) describing the trail or slope that the skier may encounter by utilizing such lift.

Nordic Ski Jumps. The operator shall provide a sign in a prominent location at or near the nordic ski jump facility, which sign shall warn the ski jumper that the use of the nordic ski jump is entirely at the ski jumper’s own risk. Further, the ski area operator shall be responsible for the design, construction, and structural maintenance of all nordic ski jumps.

225-A:24 Responsibilities of Skiers and Passengers.

It is hereby recognized that, regardless of all safety measures which may be taken by the ski area operator, skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, and snowshoeing as sports, and the use of passenger tramways associated therewith may be hazardous to the skiers or passengers. Therefore:

Each person who participates in the sport of skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, and snowshoeing accepts as a matter of law, the dangers inherent in the sport, and to that extent may not maintain an action against the operator for any injuries which result from such inherent risks, dangers, or hazards. The categories of such risks, hazards, or dangers which the skier or passenger assumes as a matter of law include but are not limited to the following: variations in terrain, surface or subsurface snow or ice conditions; bare spots; rocks, trees, stumps and other forms of forest growth or debris; terrain, lift towers, and components thereof (all of the foregoing whether above or below snow surface); pole lines and plainly marked or visible snow making equipment; collisions with other skiers or other persons or with any of the categories included in this paragraph.

Each skier and passenger shall have the sole responsibility for knowing the range of his or her own ability to negotiate any slope, trail, terrain, or passenger tramway. Any passenger who boards such tramway shall be presumed to have sufficient knowledge, abilities, and physical dexterity to negotiate the lift, and no liability shall attach to any operator or attendant for failure to instruct persons on the use thereof.

Each skier or passenger shall conduct himself or herself, within the limits of his or her own ability, maintain control of his or her speed and course at all times both on the ground and in the air, while skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, and snowshoeing heed all posted warnings, and refrain from acting in a manner which may cause or contribute to the injury of himself, herself, or others.

Each passenger shall be the sole judge of his ability to negotiate any uphill track, and no action shall be maintained against any operator by reason of the condition of said track unless the board, upon appropriate evidence furnished to it, makes a finding that the condition of the track, at the time and place of an accident, did not meet the board’s requirements, provided however, that the ski area operator shall have had notice, prior to the accident, of the board’s requirements the violation of which is claimed to be the basis for any action by the passenger.

No skier, passenger or other person shall:

Embark or disembark upon a passenger tramway except at designated areas.

Throw or drop any object while riding on a passenger tramway nor do any act or thing which shall interfere with the running of said tramway.

Engage in any type of conduct which will contribute to cause injury to any other person nor shall he willfully place any object in the uphill ski track which may cause another to fall, while riding in a passenger tramway.

Ski or otherwise use a slope or trail which has been designated “closed” by the operator without written permission of said operator or designee.

Remove, alter, deface or destroy any sign or notice placed in the ski area or on the trail board by the operator.

Cross the uphill track of a J bar, T bar, rope tow, wire rope, or similar device except at locations approved by the board.

Ski or otherwise access terrain outside open and designated ski trails and slopes or beyond ski area boundaries without written permission of said operator or designee.

225-A:25 Insurance; Limitations.

Unless an operator of a passenger tramway is in violation of this chapter or the rules of the board, which violation is causal of the injury complained of, no action shall lie against any operator by any passenger or his or her representative; this prohibition shall not, however, prevent the maintenance of an action against an operator for negligent operation, construction, or maintenance of the passenger tramway itself.

Except as limited by paragraph III, each operator of a passenger tramway shall maintain liability insurance with limits of not less than $300,000 per accident.

The requirements of paragraph II shall not apply to an operator of a passenger tramway which is not open to the general public and operated without charge to users. Nonprofit ski clubs, outing clubs, or other similar organizations, which are operators of rope or wire rope tows shall also be excepted from the requirements of paragraph II if the organization’s bylaws so provide, each member of the organization is provided with a copy of such bylaws, and use of the rope or wire rope tows operated by the organization is restricted to members of that organization. This paragraph shall not relieve the state or any political subdivision operating a rope or wire rope tow from the requirement of maintaining liability insurance in accordance with paragraph II.

No action shall be maintained against any operator for injuries to any skier or passenger unless the same is commenced within 2 years from the time of injury provided, however, that as a condition precedent thereof the operator shall be notified by certified return receipt mail within 90 days of said injury. The venue of any action against an operator shall be in the county where the ski area is located and not otherwise.

No ski area operator shall be held responsible for ensuring the safety of, or for damages including injury or death resulting to, skiers or other persons who utilize the facilities of a ski area to access terrain outside open and designated ski trails. Ski areas shall not be liable for damages, including injury or death, to persons who venture beyond such open and designated ski trails.

A ski area operator owes no duty to anyone who trespasses on the ski area property.

225-A:26 Penalty.

Any person convicted of operating a passenger tramway without having been registered by the board, or violating this chapter or rules of the board shall be guilty of a violation if a natural person, or guilty of a misdemeanor if any other person. Any operator who operates after his registration has been suspended by the board, shall be guilty of a violation for each day of illegal operation.

227:14 Reduced Rates.

All season passes, including those for different age groups or military service, established by the department for the specific use of the winter facilities at Cannon Mountain aerial tramway and ski area shall be made available to any resident of this state at a 25 percent discount. For the purposes of this section, “resident of this state” means a person whose domicile is in this state. To qualify for the discount, a resident shall provide proof of residency and purchase the pass prior to December 15 of the year in which the pass becomes effective. Proof of residency shall include a state issued driver’s license; a state issued I.D. card with a photograph or information including name, sex, date of birth, height, weight and color of eyes; a United States passport; an affidavit certifying residency from the municipal clerk of the purchasers’ town or city of residence; or, for a person less than 18 years of age, proof of a parent’s or guardian’s residency provided by the resident parent or guardian. The commissioner of the department of resources and economic development shall make quarterly reports on season passes issued under this section to the senate president, the speaker of the house of representatives, and the governor and council.


Nevada Skier Safety Act

Nevada Skier Safety Act

1.1 NEVADA REVISED STATUTES ANNOTATED

TITLE 40. Public Health And Safety.

CHAPTER 455A. Safety of Participants in Outdoor Sports.

Skiers and Snowboarders

GO TO NEVADA STATUTES ARCHIVE DIRECTORY

Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 455A.023 (2012)

Table of Contents

Nevada Skier Safety Act 1

Table of Contents. 1

455A.010. Short title. 2

455A.020. Definitions. 2

455A.023. “Chair lift” defined. 3

455A.027. “Operator” defined. 3

455A.030. “Passenger” defined. 3

455A.035. “Patrol” defined. 3

455A.040. Transferred. 4

455A.050. Transferred. 4

455A.060. Transferred. 4

455A.070. “Skier” defined. 4

455A.075. “Skiing” defined. 4

455A.080. Transferred. 4

455A.083. “Snow recreation area” defined. 4

455A.085. “Snowboarder” defined. 5

455A.087. “Snowboarding” defined. 5

455A.090. “Surface lift” defined. 5

455A.100. Prohibited acts while on chair lift; skiing or snowboarding in area posted as closed prohibited. 5

455A.110. Duties of skiers and snowboarders. 6

455A.120. Prohibited acts. 7

455A.130. Signs at chair lifts: Requirements; inspection. 7

455A.140. Slopes, runs and trails: System of signs required; vehicles used by operator to be equipped with light. 8

455A.150. Illumination of signs at night. 8

455A.160. Skiers and snowboarders to notify operator or patrol of injury; limitation on liability of operator; duty of operator to minimize dangers. 9

455A.170. Prohibition against intoxication and use of controlled substances; duty to provide name and address to person injured in collision; penalty. 9

455A.180. Revocation of license or privilege to engage in skiing or snowboarding. 10

455A.190. County, city or unincorporated town may enact ordinance not in conflict with chapter. 10

455A.010. Short title.

NRS 455A.010 to 455A.190, inclusive, may be cited as the Skier and Snowboarder Safety Act.

455A.020. Definitions.

As used in NRS 455A.010 to 455A.190, inclusive, unless the context otherwise requires, the words and terms defined in NRS 455A.023 to 455A.090, inclusive, have the meanings ascribed to them in those sections.

455A.023. “Chair lift” defined.

“Chair lift” means a device, except for an elevator, that carries, pulls or pushes a person along a level or inclined path to, from or within a snow recreation area by means of a rope, cable or other flexible element that is driven by an essentially stationary source of power.

455A.027. “Operator” defined.

“Operator” means a person, or a governmental agency or political subdivision of this State, who controls or operates an area where persons engage in skiing or snowboarding.

455A.030. “Passenger” defined.

“Passenger” means a person who utilizes a chair lift for transportation.

455A.035. “Patrol” defined.

“Patrol” means agents or employees of an operator who patrol the snow recreation area.

455A.040. Transferred.

NOTES: Editor’s note. This section is now compiled as 455A.083.

455A.050. Transferred.

NOTES: Editor’s note. This section is now compiled as 455A.023.

455A.060. Transferred.

NOTES: Editor’s note. This section is now compiled as 455A.035.

455A.070. “Skier” defined.

“Skier” means a person who engages in skiing in a snow recreation area.

455A.075. “Skiing” defined.

“Skiing” means the act of using skis to move across snow-covered ground.

455A.080. Transferred.

NOTES: Editor’s note. This section is now compiled as 455A.027.

455A.083. “Snow recreation area” defined.

“Snow recreation area” means the slopes, trails, runs and other areas under the control of an operator that are intended to be used for skiing, snowboarding or for the observation of the sports.

455A.085. “Snowboarder” defined.

“Snowboarder” means a person who engages in snowboarding in a snow recreation area.

455A.087. “Snowboarding” defined.

“Snowboarding” means the act of using a snowboard to move across snow-covered ground.

455A.090. “Surface lift” defined.

“Surface lift” means a chair lift designed for skiers or snowboarders to remain in contact with the ground or snowy surface during transportation.

455A.100. Prohibited acts while on chair lift; skiing or snowboarding in area posted as closed prohibited.

A skier or snowboarder shall not:

1. Embark upon a chair lift:

(a) When the skier or snowboarder knows that he or she has insufficient knowledge or physical ability to use the chair lift safely; or

(b) That is posted as closed or not in operation;

2. Purposefully embark upon or disembark from a chair lift except at an area designated for such a purpose or at the direction and under the direct supervision of an authorized agent or employee of an operator;

3. Toss, throw or cast or intentionally drop, expel or eject an object from a chair lift;

4. Toss, throw or cast an object in the direction of a chair lift;

5. Fail or refuse to comply with:

(a) Reasonable instructions given to the skier or snowboarder by an authorized agent or employee of an operator regarding the use of a chair lift; or

(b) A sign posted pursuant to NRS 455A.130 or 455A.140;

6. Place any object in the uphill path of a surface lift;

7. Conduct himself or herself in a manner that interferes with the safe operation of a chair lift or with the safety of a passenger, skier or snowboarder; or

8. Engage in skiing or snowboarding in an area within the snow recreation area which is posted, as provided in NRS 207.200, as closed.

455A.110. Duties of skiers and snowboarders.

A skier or snowboarder shall, to the extent that the matter is within his or her control:

1. Locate and ascertain the meaning of signs in the vicinity of the skier or snowboarder posted pursuant to NRS 455A.130 and 455A.140;

2. Heed warnings and other information posted by an operator;

3. Remain a safe distance from vehicles, signs and equipment for grooming snow or for transportation;

4. Avoid skiers or snowboarders in motion when entering a slope, run or trail, and when commencing to engage in skiing or snowboarding from a stationary position;

5. Maintain a proper lookout and control of his or her speed to avoid downhill objects, skiers and snowboarders to the best of his or her ability; and

6. Conduct himself or herself in such a manner as to avoid injury to persons and property in a snow recreation area.

455A.120. Prohibited acts.

A skier or snowboarder shall not:

1. Use a ski or snowboard unless it is attached to the skier or snowboarder by a strap or equipped with a device capable of stopping the movement of the ski or snowboard when not attached to the skier or snowboarder;

2. Cross the uphill path of a surface lift except at locations designated by an operator; or

3. Willfully stop where the skier or snowboarder obstructs a slope, run or trail, or where he or she is not safely visible to uphill skiers or snowboarders.

455A.130. Signs at chair lifts: Requirements; inspection.

1. An operator shall prominently post and maintain signs in simple and concise language:

(a) By each chair lift, with information for the protection and instruction of passengers; and

(b) At or near the points where passengers are loaded on a chair lift, directing persons who are not familiar with the operation of the chair lift to ask an authorized agent or employee of the operator for assistance and instruction.

2. An operator shall prominently post and maintain signs with the following inscriptions at all chair lifts in the locations indicated:

(a) “Remove pole straps from wrists” at an area for loading skiers;

(b) “Safety gate” where applicable;

(c) “Stay on tracks” where applicable;

(d) “Keep ski tips or snowboard up” ahead of any point where a ski or snowboard can regain contact with the ground or snowy surface after a passenger departs from an area for loading skiers or snowboarders;

(e) “Prepare to unload” and “check for loose clothing and equipment” not less than 50 feet from an area for unloading skiers or snowboarders; and

(f) “Unload here” at an area for unloading skiers or snowboarders.

3. An operator shall inspect a snow recreation area for the presence and visibility of the signs required to be posted by this section each day before opening the snow recreation area for business.

455A.140. Slopes, runs and trails: System of signs required; vehicles used by operator to be equipped with light.

1. An operator shall post and maintain a system of signs:

(a) At the entrances to an established slope, run or trail to indicate:

(1) Whether any portion of the slope, run or trail is closed; and

(2) The relative degree of difficulty of the slope, run or trail;

(b) To indicate the boundary of the snow recreation area, except in heavily wooded areas or other terrain that cannot be skied or snowboarded readily; and

(c) To warn of each area within the boundary of the snow recreation area where there is a danger of avalanche by posting signs stating “Warning: Avalanche Danger Area.”

2. An operator shall equip vehicles it uses on or in the vicinity of a slope, run or trail with a light visible to skiers or snowboarders when the vehicle is in motion.

455A.150. Illumination of signs at night.

A sign required to be posted pursuant to NRS 455A.130; and 455A.140 must be adequately illuminated at night, if the snow recreation area is open to the public at night, and be readable and recognizable under ordinary conditions of visibility.

455A.160. Skiers and snowboarders to notify operator or patrol of injury; limitation on liability of operator; duty of operator to minimize dangers.

1. A skier or snowboarder who sustains a personal injury shall notify the operator or a member of the patrol of the injury as soon as reasonably possible after discovery of the injury.

2. An operator is not liable for the death or injury of a person or damages to property caused or sustained by a skier or snowboarder who knowingly enters an area which is not designated for skiing or snowboarding or which is outside the boundary of a snow recreation area.

3. An operator shall take reasonable steps to minimize dangers and conditions within the operator’s control.

455A.170. Prohibition against intoxication and use of controlled substances; duty to provide name and address to person injured in collision; penalty.

1. A skier or snowboarder shall not engage in skiing or snowboarding, or embark on a chair lift that is proceeding predominantly uphill, while intoxicated or under the influence of a controlled substance as defined in chapter 453 of NRS unless in accordance with a lawfully issued prescription.

2. A skier or snowboarder who is involved in a collision in which another person is injured shall provide his or her name and current address to the injured person, the operator or a member of the patrol:

(a) Before the skier or snowboarder leaves the vicinity of the collision; or

(b) As soon as reasonably possible after leaving the vicinity of the collision to secure aid for the injured person.

3. A person who violates a provision of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor.

455A.180. Revocation of license or privilege to engage in skiing or snowboarding.

An operator may revoke the license or privilege of a person to engage in skiing or snowboarding in a snow recreation area if the person violates any provision of NRS 455A.100, 455A.110, 455A.120 or 455A.170.

455A.190. County, city or unincorporated town may enact ordinance not in conflict with chapter.

The provisions of NRS 455A.010 to 455A.190, inclusive, do not prohibit a county, city or unincorporated town from enacting an ordinance, not in conflict with the provisions of NRS 455A.010 to 455A.190, inclusive, regulating skiers, snowboarders or operators.

 


Michigan Ski Safety Act

Michigan Ski Safety Act

MICHIGAN COMPILED LAWS SERVICE

CHAPTER 408 LABOR

SKI AREA SAFETY ACT OF 1962

Go to the Michigan Code Archive Directory

MCLS prec § 408.321 (2012)

MCL § 408.321

Table of Contents

Table of Contents. 1

Preceding § 408.321. 2

§ 408.321. Ski area safety act of 1962; short title. 2

§ 408.322. Definitions. 3

§ 408.323. Ski area safety board; creation; composition; qualifications; ex officio members. 5

§ 408.324. Ski area safety board; appointment and terms of members; vacancies. 5

§ 408.326. Rules; proposed legislation establishing fee schedule. 6

§ 408.326a. Duties of ski area operator. 6

§ 408.327. Promulgation of rules. 8

§ 408.328. Commissioner of labor; administration of act. 8

§ 408.329. Ski lifts; permits requirement, inspection. 8

§ 408.330. Ski lifts; temporary permits. 9

§ 408.331. Ski lifts; permits, issuance, expiration. 9

§ 408.332. Ski lifts; erection, alteration, moving, plans and specifications; rope tows. 9

§ 408.333. Ski lifts; order to cease operation. 10

§ 408.334. Ski lifts; existing installations. 10

§ 408.335. Ski lifts; rules and regulations, modification for hardship, record. 10

§ 408.336. Ski lifts; fees. 10

§ 408.337. Chief inspector; inspection service. 11

§ 408.338. Revenue; disbursements. 11

§ 408.339. Notice of public hearing. 12

§ 408.340. Violations; penalties; rules. 12

§ 408.341. Skier conduct; prohibited conduct in ski area. 13

§ 408.342. Duties of skier in ski area; acceptance of dangers. 13

§ 408.343. Accidents causing injury; notice; identification; misdemeanor; penalty. 16

§ 408.344. Violation of act; liability. 17

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.)

§ 408.321. Ski area safety act of 1962; short title.

Sec. 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the “ski area safety act of 1962”.

§ 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 a 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.

§ 408.323. Ski area safety board; creation; composition; qualifications; ex officio 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.

 

§ 408.324. Ski area safety board; appointment and terms of members; 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.

 

§ 408.325. Ski area safety board; conducting business at public meeting; notice; election of chairperson and other officers; quorum; meetings; compensation and expenses.

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.

§ 408.326. Rules; proposed legislation establishing fee schedule.

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.

§ 408.326a. Duties of ski area operator.

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 snow-making 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.

§ 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.

§ 408.328. Commissioner of labor; administration 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.

§ 408.329. Ski lifts; permits requirement, inspection.

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.

 

§ 408.330. Ski lifts; 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.

 

§ 408.331. Ski lifts; permits, 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.

 

§ 408.332. Ski lifts; erection, alteration, moving, plans and specifications; rope tows.

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.

 

§ 408.333. Ski lifts; order to cease operation.

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.

 

§ 408.334. Ski lifts; existing installations.

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.

 

§ 408.335. Ski lifts; rules and regulations, modification for hardship, record.

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.

 

§ 408.336. Ski lifts; fees.

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.

 

§ 408.337. Chief inspector; inspection service.

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.

 

§ 408.338. Revenue; disbursements.

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.

 

§ 408.339. Notice of public hearing.

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.

 

§ 408.340. Violations; penalties; rules.

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.

 

§ 408.341. Skier conduct; prohibited conduct in ski area.

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.

 

§ 408.342. Duties of skier in ski area; acceptance of 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.

 

 

 

 

 

§ 408.343. Accidents causing injury; notice; identification; misdemeanor; penalty.

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.

 

 

§ 408.344. Violation of act; liability.

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.

 


Idaho Ski Safety Act

Idaho Ski Safety Act

IDAHO CODE

CODE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE

TITLE 6. ACTIONS IN PARTICULAR CASES

CHAPTER 11. RESPONSIBILITIES AND LIABILITIES OF SKIERS AND SKI AREA OPERATORS

Go to the Idaho Code Archive Directory

Idaho Code § 6-1101 (2012)

§ 6-1101. Legislative purpose

The legislature finds that the sport of skiing is practiced by a large number of citizens of this state and also attracts a large number of nonresidents, significantly contributing to the economy of Idaho. Since it is recognized that there are inherent risks in the sport of skiing which should be understood by each skier and which are essentially impossible to eliminate by the ski area operation, it is the purpose of this chapter to define those areas of responsibility and affirmative acts for which ski area operators shall be liable for loss, damage or injury, and to define those risks which the skier expressly assumes and for which there can be no recovery.

HISTORY: I.C., § 6-1101, as added by 1979, ch. 270, § 1, p. 701.

NOTES:

ANALYSIS

When the legislature stated the legislative purpose of this chapter, it included the statement that “the sport of skiing is practiced by a large number of citizens of this state and also attracts a large number of nonresidents, significantly contributing to the economy of Idaho,” and since this was a legitimate legislative goal and satisfies the rational basis test, this chapter does not violate the equal protection clause of the constitution. Northcutt v. Sun Valley Co., 117 Idaho 351, 787 P.2d 1159 (1990).

In enacting this chapter, the legislature intended to limit rather than expand the liability of ski area operators. Northcutt v. Sun Valley Co., 117 Idaho 351, 787 P.2d 1159 (1990).

The government of Idaho clearly has a legitimate interest in promoting the sport of skiing, because the sport “significantly contribut[es] to the economy of Idaho.” This chapter bears a rational relationship to this interest because it clarifies the allocation of risks and responsibilities between ski area operators and skiers. Collins v. Schweitzer, Inc., 21 F.3d 1491 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 962, 115 S. Ct. 422, 130 L. Ed. 2d 337 (1994).

This chapter immunizes ski area operators only from liability arising from risks inherent in the sport of skiing. Northcutt v. Sun Valley Co., 117 Idaho 351, 787 P.2d 1159 (1990).

CITED IN: Kirkland ex rel. Kirkland v. Blain County Med. Ctr., 134 Idaho 464, 4 P.3d 1115 (2000).

§ 6-1102. Definitions

The following words and phrases when used in this chapter shall have, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise, the meanings given to them in this section.

(1) “Aerial passenger tramway” means any device operated by a ski area operator used to transport passengers, by single or double reversible tramway; chair lift or gondola lift; T-bar lift, J-bar lift, platter lift or similar device; or a fiber rope tow, which is subject to regulations adopted by the proper authority.

(2) “Passenger” means any person who is lawfully using an aerial passenger tramway, or is waiting to embark or has recently disembarked from an aerial passenger tramway and is in its immediate vicinity.

(3) “Ski area” means the property owned or leased and under the control of the ski area operator within the state of Idaho.

(4) “Ski area operator” means any person, partnership, corporation or other commercial entity and their agents, officers, employees or representatives, who has operational responsibility for any ski area or aerial passenger tramway.

(5) “Skiing area” means all designated slopes and trails but excludes any aerial passenger tramway.

(6) “Skier” means any person present at a skiing area under the control of a ski area operator for the purpose of engaging in the sport of skiing by utilizing the ski slopes and trails and does not include the use of an aerial passenger tramway.

(7) “Ski slopes and trails” mean those areas designated by the ski area operator to be used by skiers for the purpose of participating in the sport of skiing.

HISTORY: I.C., § 6-1102, as added by 1979, ch. 270, § 1, p. 701.

NOTES:

§ 6-1103. Duties of ski area operators with respect to ski areas

Every ski area operator shall have the following duties with respect to their operation of a skiing area:

(1) To mark all trail maintenance vehicles and to furnish such vehicles with flashing or rotating lights which shall be in operation whenever the vehicles are working or are in movement in the skiing area;

(2) To mark with a visible sign or other warning implement the location of any hydrant or similar equipment used in snowmaking operations and located on ski slopes and trails;

(3) To mark conspicuously the top or entrance to each slope or trail or area, with an appropriate symbol for its relative degree of difficulty; and those slopes, trails, or areas which are closed, shall be so marked at the top or entrance;

(4) To maintain one or more trail boards at prominent locations at each ski area displaying that area’s network of ski trails and slopes with each trail and slope rated thereon as to it [its] relative degree of difficulty;

(5) To designate by trail board or otherwise which trails or slopes are open or closed;

(6) To place, or cause to be placed, whenever snowgrooming or snowmaking operations are being undertaken upon any trail or slope while such trail or slope is open to the public, a conspicuous notice to that effect at or near the top of such trail or slope;

(7) To post notice of the requirements of this chapter concerning the use of ski retention devices. This obligation shall be the sole requirement imposed upon the ski area operator regarding the requirement for or use of ski retention devices;

(8) To provide a ski patrol with qualifications meeting the standards of the national ski patrol system;

(9) To post a sign at the bottom of all aerial passenger tramways which advises the passengers to seek advice if not familiar with riding the aerial passenger tramway; and

(10) Not to intentionally or negligently cause injury to any person; provided, that except for the duties of the operator set forth in subsections (1) through (9) of this section and in section 6-1104, Idaho Code, the operator shall have no duty to eliminate, alter, control or lessen the risks inherent in the sport of skiing, which risks include but are not limited to those described in section 6-1106, Idaho Code; and, that no activities undertaken by the operator in an attempt to eliminate, alter, control or lessen such risks shall be deemed to impose on the operator any duty to accomplish such activities to any standard of care.

HISTORY: I.C., § 6-1103, as added by 1979, ch. 270, § 1, p. 701.

NOTES: COMPILER’S NOTES. The national ski patrol provides training and education programs for emergency rescuers serving the outdoor recreation community. See http://www.nsp.org.

The bracketed word “its” in subsection (4) was inserted by the compiler.

When a skier ignores the ski area’s instructions to ski only on designated trails and embarks on an enterprise too difficult for someone of his ability, the ski area is not liable for his mishaps. Long v. Bogus Basin Recreational Ass’n, 125 Idaho 230, 869 P.2d 230 (1994).

Under this chapter, a ski area operator is not liable for the improper placement of a sign erected to eliminate, alter, control or lessen the inherent risks in skiing or for the improper design, construction or padding of a signpost that supported the sign. Northcutt v. Sun Valley Co., 117 Idaho 351, 787 P.2d 1159 (1990).

In personal injury action by skier injured when she tripped over a rope intended to guide people away from the exit ramp of a chair lift, summary judgment was properly granted to ski resort, as the rope was intended to eliminate, alter, control, or lessen the inherent risk of skiing. The accident was not caused by the construction, operation, maintenance or repair of the chairlift. Withers v. Bogus Basin Rec. Ass’n, 144 Idaho 78, 156 P.3d 579 (2007).

Setting up a NASTAR race course is a normal part of running a ski area, and thus, anything a ski area does to eliminate or lessen the inherent risks of skiing in connection with setting up the race course or protecting skiers from hazardous obstacles cannot be the basis of liability for negligence. Collins v. Schweitzer, Inc., 774 F. Supp. 1253 (D. Idaho 1991), aff’d, 21 F.3d 1491 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 962, 115 S. Ct. 422, 130 L. Ed. 2d 337 (1994).

Under § 6-1106, anyone who strikes a ski lift tower while skiing is considered to have expressly assumed the risk and legal responsibility for any injury which results, and in addition, under subsection (10) of this section, anything a ski area operator does to eliminate, alter, control or lessen the risks associated with lift towers — such as placing a fence around a tower or padding it — could not result in the operator being held liable for negligence. Collins v. Schweitzer, Inc., 774 F. Supp. 1253 (D. Idaho 1991), aff’d, 21 F.3d 1491 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 962, 115 S. Ct. 422, 130 L. Ed. 2d 337 (1994).

Ski area operator owed amateur race skier no duty to reduce the risk of his striking and injuring himself on a lift tower. Collins v. Schweitzer, Inc., 21 F.3d 1491 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 962, 115 S. Ct. 422, 130 L. Ed. 2d 337 (1994).

If a ski area operator has no duty to accomplish any activity undertaken in an attempt to eliminate, alter, control or lessen the inherent risks of skiing and if the duties described in this section and § 6-1104 are the only duties an operator has with regard to the inherent risks of skiing, then it necessarily follows that any activity of an operator to fulfill those duties may not be held to be negligence, since the operator had no duty to accomplish the activity to any standard of care. Northcutt v. Sun Valley Co., 117 Idaho 351, 787 P.2d 1159 (1990).

A ski area operator’s duty not to negligently cause injury refers to the failure to follow (1) any of the duties set forth in this section and § 6-1104 or (2) any duty that does not relate to eliminating, altering, controlling or lessening the inherent risks of skiing. Northcutt v. Sun Valley Co., 117 Idaho 351, 787 P.2d 1159 (1990).

While one of the duties imposed on ski area operators by this section is to mark conspicuously the top or entrance to each slope or trail or area, with an appropriate symbol for its relative degree of difficulty, even assuming that a ski area operator may not have properly located a sign or properly designed, constructed or padded the signpost, this chapter excludes any liability of ski area operator to the plaintiffs as a result of these activities; while subdivision (3) of this section did require ski area operator to mark the entrance to each of its slopes, trails or areas, subsection (10) of this section negates any duty to accomplish this marking to any standard of care. Northcutt v. Sun Valley Co., 117 Idaho 351, 787 P.2d 1159 (1990).

The duties described in this section and § 6-1104 are the only duties a ski area operator has with respect to the inherent risks of skiing and even anything an operator does to fulfill those duties cannot be held to be negligence because the operator had no duty to accomplish the activity to any standard of care, and in addition, anything else a ski area operator does to attempt to lessen the inherent risks of skiing cannot result in liability for negligence for that action. Collins v. Schweitzer, Inc., 774 F. Supp. 1253 (D. Idaho 1991), aff’d, 21 F.3d 1491 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 962, 115 S. Ct. 422, 130 L. Ed. 2d 337 (1994).

In conducting training sessions, the defendant foundation did not have the responsibility to fulfill the duties under this section; the mere fact that the defendant foundation set up the course within the ski area did not make them a “ski operator.” By setting up the course the defendant foundation was not engaged in any duties or activities of a “ski area operator.” By making use of the ski area for training, defendant foundation did not exercise “operational responsibility” for the ski area, and the court correctly denied defendant’s summary judgment on that basis. Davis v. Sun Valley Ski Educ. Found., Inc., 130 Idaho 400, 941 P.2d 1301 (1997).

A ski area operator does not have the duty to provide a ski patrol that will determine the identity of a skier who was involved in a ski accident with another skier. Northcutt v. Sun Valley Co., 117 Idaho 351, 787 P.2d 1159 (1990).

An injury to the body caused by falling while skiing in an unmarked, ungroomed area is an inherent risk of skiing and a ski resort had no duty to take some kind of affirmative steps to have prevented skier from being injured. Long v. Bogus Basin Recreational Ass’n, 125 Idaho 230, 869 P.2d 230 (1994).

§ 6-1104. Duties of ski area operators with respect to aerial passenger tramways

Every ski area operator shall have the duty to construct, operate, maintain and repair any aerial passenger tramway in accordance with the American national standards safety requirements for aerial passenger tramways.

HISTORY: I.C., § 6-1104, as added by 1979, ch. 270, § 1, p. 701.

NOTES: COMPILER’S NOTES. The American national standards institute’s current publication covering tramway safety is ANSI B77.1-2006, “Passenger Ropeway & Aerial Tramways, Aerial Lifts, Surface Lifts, Tows and Conveyors — Safety Requirement.”

ANALYSIS

In personal injury action by skier injured when she tripped over a rope intended to guide people away from the exit ramp of a chair lift, summary judgment was properly granted to ski resort, as the rope was intended to eliminate, alter, control, or lessen the inherent risk of skiing. The accident was not caused by the construction, operation, maintenance or repair of the chairlift. Withers v. Bogus Basin Rec. Ass’n, 144 Idaho 78, 156 P.3d 579 (2007).

If a ski area operator has no duty to accomplish any activity undertaken in an attempt to eliminate, alter, control or lessen the inherent risks of skiing and if the duties described in § 6-1103 and this section are the only duties an operator has with regard to the inherent risks of skiing, then it necessarily follows that any activity of an operator to fulfill those duties may not be held to be negligence, since the operator had no duty to accomplish the activity to any standard of care. Northcutt v. Sun Valley Co., 117 Idaho 351, 787 P.2d 1159 (1990).

A ski area operator’s duty not to negligently cause injury refers to the failure to follow (1) any of the duties set forth in § 6-1103 and this section or (2) any duty that does not relate to eliminating, altering, controlling or lessening the inherent risks of skiing. Northcutt v. Sun Valley Co., 117 Idaho 351, 787 P.2d 1159 (1990).

The duties described in § 6-1103 and this section are the only duties a ski area operator has with respect to the inherent risks of skiing and even anything an operator does to fulfill those duties cannot be held to be negligence because the operator had no duty to accomplish the activity to any standard of care; in addition, anything else a ski area operator does to attempt to lessen the inherent risks of skiing cannot result in liability for negligence for that action. Collins v. Schweitzer, Inc., 774 F. Supp. 1253 (D. Idaho 1991), aff’d, 21 F.3d 1491 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 962, 115 S. Ct. 422, 130 L. Ed. 2d 337 (1994).

§ 6-1104. Duties of ski area operators with respect to aerial passenger tramways

Every ski area operator shall have the duty to construct, operate, maintain and repair any aerial passenger tramway in accordance with the American national standards safety requirements for aerial passenger tramways.

HISTORY: I.C., § 6-1104, as added by 1979, ch. 270, § 1, p. 701.

NOTES: COMPILER’S NOTES. The American national standards institute’s current publication covering tramway safety is ANSI B77.1-2006, “Passenger Ropeway & Aerial Tramways, Aerial Lifts, Surface Lifts, Tows and Conveyors — Safety Requirement.”

In personal injury action by skier injured when she tripped over a rope intended to guide people away from the exit ramp of a chair lift, summary judgment was properly granted to ski resort, as the rope was intended to eliminate, alter, control, or lessen the inherent risk of skiing. The accident was not caused by the construction, operation, maintenance or repair of the chairlift. Withers v. Bogus Basin Rec. Ass’n, 144 Idaho 78, 156 P.3d 579 (2007).

If a ski area operator has no duty to accomplish any activity undertaken in an attempt to eliminate, alter, control or lessen the inherent risks of skiing and if the duties described in § 6-1103 and this section are the only duties an operator has with regard to the inherent risks of skiing, then it necessarily follows that any activity of an operator to fulfill those duties may not be held to be negligence, since the operator had no duty to accomplish the activity to any standard of care. Northcutt v. Sun Valley Co., 117 Idaho 351, 787 P.2d 1159 (1990).

A ski area operator’s duty not to negligently cause injury refers to the failure to follow (1) any of the duties set forth in § 6-1103 and this section or (2) any duty that does not relate to eliminating, altering, controlling or lessening the inherent risks of skiing. Northcutt v. Sun Valley Co., 117 Idaho 351, 787 P.2d 1159 (1990).

The duties described in § 6-1103 and this section are the only duties a ski area operator has with respect to the inherent risks of skiing and even anything an operator does to fulfill those duties cannot be held to be negligence because the operator had no duty to accomplish the activity to any standard of care; in addition, anything else a ski area operator does to attempt to lessen the inherent risks of skiing cannot result in liability for negligence for that action. Collins v. Schweitzer, Inc., 774 F. Supp. 1253 (D. Idaho 1991), aff’d, 21 F.3d 1491 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 962, 115 S. Ct. 422, 130 L. Ed. 2d 337 (1994).

§ 6-1105. Duties of passengers

Every passenger shall have the duty not to:

(1) Board or embark upon or disembark from an aerial passenger tramway except at an area designated for such purpose;

(2) Drop, throw or expel any object from an aerial passenger tramway;

(3) Do any act which shall interfere with the running or operation of an aerial passenger tramway;

(4) Use any aerial passenger tramway if the passenger does not have the ability to use it safely without instruction until the passenger has requested and received sufficient instruction to permit safe usage;

(5) Embark on an aerial passenger tramway without the authority of the ski area operator;

(6) Use any aerial passenger tramway without engaging such safety or restraining devices as may be provided.

HISTORY: I.C., § 6-1105, as added by 1979, ch. 270, § 1, p. 701.

NOTES:

§ 6-1106. Duties of skiers

It is recognized that skiing as a recreational sport is hazardous to skiers, regardless of all feasible safety measures which can be taken.

Each skier expressly assumes the risk of and legal responsibility for any injury to person or property which results from participation in the sport of skiing including any injury caused by the following, all whether above or below snow surface: variations in terrain; surface or subsurface snow or ice conditions; bare spots, rocks, trees, other forms of forest growth or debris, lift towers and components thereof; utility poles, and snowmaking and snowgrooming equipment which is plainly visible or plainly marked in accordance with the provisions of section 6-1103, Idaho Code. Therefore, each skier shall have the sole individual responsibility for knowing the range of his own ability to negotiate any slope or trail, and it shall be the duty of each skier to ski within the limits of the skier’s own ability, to maintain reasonable control of speed and course at all times while skiing, to heed all posted warnings, to ski only on a skiing area designated by the ski area operator and to refrain from acting in a manner which may cause or contribute to the injury of anyone. The responsibility for collisions by any skier while actually skiing, with any person, shall be solely that of the individual or individuals involved in such collision and not that of the ski area operator.

No person shall place any object in the skiing area or on the uphill track of any aerial passenger tramway which may cause a passenger or skier to fall; cross the track of any T-bar lift, J-bar lift, platter lift or similar device, or a fiber rope tow, except at a designated location; or depart when involved in a skiing accident, from the scene of the accident without leaving personal identification, including name and address, before notifying the proper authorities or obtaining assistance when that person knows that any other person involved in the accident is in need of medical or other assistance.

No skier shall fail to wear retention straps or other devices to help prevent runaway skis.

HISTORY: I.C., § 6-1106, as added by 1979, ch. 270, § 1, p. 701.

NOTES:

§ 6-1107. Liability of ski area operators

Any ski area operator shall be liable for loss or damages caused by its failure to follow the duties set forth in sections 6-1103 and 6-1104, Idaho Code, where the violation of duty is causally related to the loss or damage suffered. The ski area operators shall not be liable to any passenger or skier acting in violation of their duties as set forth in sections 6-1105 and 6-1106, Idaho Code, where the violation of duty is causally related to the loss or damage suffered; nor shall a ski area operator be liable for any injury or damage to a person who is not legally entitled to be in the ski area; or for any loss or damages caused by any object dropped, thrown or expelled by a passenger from an aerial passenger tramway.

HISTORY: I.C., § 6-1107, as added by 1979, ch. 270, § 1, p. 701.

NOTES:

When a skier ignores the ski area’s instructions to ski only on designated trails and embarks on an enterprise too difficult for someone of his ability, the ski area is not liable for his mishaps. Long v. Bogus Basin Recreational Ass’n, 125 Idaho 230, 869 P.2d 230 (1994).

This chapter immunizes ski area operators only from liability arising from risks inherent in the sport of skiing. Northcutt v. Sun Valley Co., 117 Idaho 351, 787 P.2d 1159 (1990).

In enacting this chapter, the legislature intended to limit rather than expand the liability of ski area operators. Northcutt v. Sun Valley Co., 117 Idaho 351, 787 P.2d 1159 (1990).

If a ski area operator has no duty to accomplish any activity undertaken in an attempt to eliminate, alter, control or lessen the inherent risks of skiing and if the duties described in §§ 6-1103 and 6-1104 are the only duties an operator has with regard to the inherent risks of skiing, then it necessarily follows that any activity of an operator to fulfill those duties may not be held to be negligence, since the operator had no duty to accomplish the activity to any standard of care. Northcutt v. Sun Valley Co., 117 Idaho 351, 787 P.2d 1159 (1990).

An injury to the body caused by falling while skiing in an unmarked, ungroomed area is an inherent risk of skiing and a ski resort had no duty to take some kind of affirmative steps to have prevented skier from being injured. Long v. Bogus Basin Recreational Ass’n, 125 Idaho 230, 869 P.2d 230 (1994).

§ 6-1108. Liability of passengers

Any passenger shall be liable for loss or damages resulting from violations of the duties set forth in section 6-1105, Idaho Code, and shall not be able to recover from the ski area operator for any losses or damages where the violation of duty is causally related to the loss or damage suffered.

HISTORY: I.C., § 6-1108, as added by 1979, ch. 270, § 1, p. 701.

NOTES:

§ 6-1109. Liability of skiers

Any skier shall be liable for loss or damages resulting from violations of the duties set forth in section 6-1106, Idaho Code, and shall not be able to recover from the ski area operator for any losses or damages where the violation of duty is causally related to the loss or damage suffered.

HISTORY: I.C., § 6-1109, as added by 1979, ch. 270, § 1, p. 701.

NOTES:

A.L.R.

Skier’s liability for injuries to or death of another person. 75 A.L.R.5th 583.


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


Georgia Ski Safety Act

Georgia Ski Safety Act

OFFICIAL CODE OF GEORGIA ANNOTATED

Copyright 2012 by The State of Georgia

TITLE 43. PROFESSIONS AND BUSINESSES

CHAPTER 43A. SNOW SKIING SAFETY

GO TO GEORGIA STATUTES ARCHIVE DIRECTORY

O.C.G.A. § 43-43A-1 (2012)

§ 43-43A-1. Definitions

As used in this chapter, the term:

(1) “Base area lift” means a passenger tramway to gain access to some other part of the ski area.

(2) “Competitor” means a skier engaging in competition or preparing for competition on a slope or trail designated by the ski area or used by the skier for the purpose of competition or training for competition.

(3) “Conditions of ordinary visibility” means all periods of daylight, and, when visibility is not restricted by weather or other atmospheric conditions, nighttime.

(4) “Inherent dangers and risks of skiing” means categories of danger or risks of skiing, or conditions of the sport of skiing that cause or can cause any injury, death, or property damage, including:

(A) Changing weather conditions;

(B) Surface and subsurface snow or ice conditions as they may exist or change from time to time, including variable conditions such as hard packed powder, packed powder, wind-blown snow, wind-packed snow, corn snow, crust slush, snow modified by skier use, or cut up snow; surface or subsurface snow or ice conditions as they exist or may change as the result of weather changes or skier use; snow created by or resulting from snow making or snow grooming operations; or collisions or falls resulting from such conditions;

(C) Surface or subsurface conditions other than those specified in subparagraph (B) of this paragraph, including dirt, grass, rocks, trees, stumps, other forms of forest or vegetative growth, stream beds, or other natural objects or debris; or collisions or falls resulting from such conditions;

(D) Collisions with: lift towers; components of lift towers; signs, posts, fences, mazes, or other enclosure devices; hydrants, pipes, or any other portions of snow making or snow delivery systems; snow grooming equipment or other over-snow vehicles marked or lighted as required by this chapter; or collisions with or falls resulting from any such structures or any other manmade structures or their components;

(E) Variations in surface, contour, or steepness of terrain, including, but not limited to, moguls, ski jumps, roads, depressions, water bars, and cat walks; other terrain changes or modifications which occur naturally or result from slope design or construction, snow making, snow grooming, maintenance operations, or skier use; or collisions with or falls resulting from such variations; and

(F) Collisions with other skiers unless such collisions are caused by the failure on the part of other skiers to conduct themselves in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.

(5) “Passenger” means a person who is lawfully being transported by a passenger tramway.

(6) “Passenger tramway” means any mechanical device used to transport passengers uphill, but such term does not include over-snow vehicles.

(7) “Ski area” means all snow ski slopes or trails and other places under the control of a ski area operator at a defined business location within this state.

(8) “Ski area operator” means an individual, partnership, corporation, or other commercial entity who owns, manages, or otherwise directs or has operational responsibility for any ski area.

(9) “Ski slopes or trails” means those areas open to the skiing public and designated by the ski area operator to be used by a skier. The designation may be generally set forth on trail maps and further designated by signage posted to indicate to the skiing public the intent that the areas be used by the skier for the purpose of skiing. Nothing in this paragraph implies that ski slopes or trails may not be restricted for use at the discretion of the ski area operator.

(10) “Skier” means any person who uses any part of a ski area for the purpose of skiing, snowboard skiing, or sliding or moving on any device other than a motorized device or any person except a passenger who uses any of the facilities of the ski area, including the ski slopes and trails.

(11) “Surface lift” means any passenger tramway that allows the skier’s sliding equipment to stay in contact with the skier and the snow during all of the uphill transportation.

§ 43-43A-2. Use of passenger tramway; passenger rules

(a) No passenger shall use a passenger tramway if the passenger does not have sufficient knowledge, ability, or physical dexterity to negotiate or use the facility safely unless and until the passenger has asked for and received information sufficient to enable the passenger to use the equipment safely. A passenger is required to follow any written, verbal, or other instructions that are given by ski area personnel regarding the use of the passenger tramway.

(b) No passenger shall:

(1) Attempt to enter, use, exit, or leave a passenger tramway except at a location designated by ski area signage for that purpose, except that, in the event of a stoppage of the passenger tramway, a passenger may exit under the supervision and direction of the operator or its representatives, or, in the event of an emergency, a passenger may exit in order to prevent an injury to the passenger or others;

(2) Throw, drop, or release any object from a passenger tramway except as directed by the operator or its representatives;

(3) Act in any manner that may interfere with the proper or safe operation of the passenger tramway or cause any risk, harm, or injury to any person;

(4) Place in an uphill track of any surface lift any object that may cause damage to property or injury to any person;

(5) Use or attempt to use any passenger tramway marked as closed; or

(6) Disobey any instructions posted in accordance with this chapter or any verbal or other instructions of the ski area operator or its lawful designee regarding the use of passenger tramways.

§ 43-43A-3. Sign system; inspection; explanation of signs and symbols; warning signs; degree of difficulty signs

(a) Each ski area operator shall maintain a sign system with information for the instruction of passengers and skiers. Signs must be in English and visible in conditions of ordinary visibility and, where applicable, lighted for nighttime passengers. Without limitation, the signs shall be posted:

(1) At or near the loading point of each passenger tramway, regardless of the type, advising all persons that if they are not familiar with the operation of the device, they must ask the operator of the device for assistance and instructions and that they must understand such instructions before they attempt to use the passenger tramway; and

(2) At or near the boarding area of each lift, setting forth the warning regarding inherent dangers and risks and duties as provided in this chapter.

(b) The ski area operator, before opening a passenger tramway to the public each day, shall inspect the passenger tramway for the presence and visibility of all required signs.

(c) The ski area operator shall post a sign visible to skiers who are proceeding to the uphill loading point of each base area lift which shall depict and explain the following signs and symbols that a skier may encounter at the ski area:

(1) A green circle and the word “easier” designating the ski area’s least difficult trails and slopes;

(2) A blue square and the words “more difficult” designating the ski area’s trails and slopes that have a degree of difficulty that lies between the least difficult and most difficult trails and slopes;

(3) A black diamond and the words “most difficult” designating the ski area’s most difficult trails and slopes;

(4) Two black diamonds and the words “most difficult” designating a slope or trail which meets the description of “most difficult” but which is particularly challenging; and

(5) Crossed poles or other images clearly indicating that a trail or slope is closed and may not be used by skiers.

(d) If applicable, a warning sign shall be placed at or near the loading point of a passenger tramway indicating that it provides access to only “most difficult” or “more difficult” slopes or trails.

(e) The ski area operator shall place a sign at or near the beginning of each trail or slope indicating the relative degree of difficulty of that particular trail or slope.

§ 43-43A-4. Warning notice

(a) The ski area operator shall post and maintain signs that contain the following warning notice:

“WARNING: Under Georgia law, every skier accepts the risk of any injury or death and damage to property resulting from any of the inherent dangers or risks of skiing. The inherent dangers or risks of skiing, or conditions of the sport of skiing that cause or can cause injury, death, or property damage, include:

(1) Changing weather conditions;

(2) Surface and subsurface snow or ice conditions as they may exist or change from time to time, including variable conditions such as hard packed powder, packed powder, wind-blown snow, wind-packed snow, corn snow, crust slush, snow modified by skier use, or cut up snow; surface or subsurface snow or ice conditions as they exist or may change as the result of weather changes or skier use; snow created by or resulting from snow making or snow grooming operations; or collisions or falls resulting from such conditions;

(3) Surface or subsurface conditions other than those specified in paragraph (2), including dirt, grass, rocks, trees, stumps, other forms of forest or vegetative growth, stream beds, or other natural objects or debris; or collisions or falls resulting from such conditions;

(4) Collisions with: lift towers; components of lift towers; signs, posts, fences, mazes, or other enclosure devices; hydrants, pipes, or any other portions of snow making or snow delivery systems; snow grooming equipment or other over-snow vehicles marked or lighted as required by this chapter; or collisions with or falls resulting from any such structures or any other manmade structures or their components;

(5) Variations in surface, contour, or steepness of terrain, including, but not limited to, moguls, ski jumps, roads, depressions, water bars, and cat walks; other terrain changes or modifications which occur naturally or result from slope design or construction, snow making, snow grooming, maintenance operations, or skier use; or collisions with or falls resulting from such variations; and

(6) Collisions with other skiers.”

(b) A warning sign as described in subsection (a) of this Code section shall be placed:

(1) At the ski area in the location where lift tickets or ski school lessons are sold;

(2) In the vicinity of the uphill loading point of each base area lift; and

(3) At such other places as the ski area operator may select.

(c) Each sign required by subsection (a) of this Code section shall be no smaller than 3 feet by 3 feet and shall be white or yellow with black and red letters as specified in this subsection. The word “WARNING” shall appear on the sign in red letters. The warning notice specified in subsection (a) of this Code section shall appear on the sign in black letters with each letter being a minimum of one inch in height.

(d) Every passenger tramway ticket sold may contain the warning notice specified in subsection (a) of this Code section.

§ 43-43A-6. Revocation of skiing privileges

Each ski area operator, upon finding a person skiing in violation of any posted regulations governing skiing conduct, may revoke that person’s skiing privileges. This Code section shall not in any way be construed to create an affirmative duty on the part of the ski area operator to protect skiers from their own or other skiers’ careless or reckless behavior, including any skier’s violation of any duties set forth in this chapter.

§ 43-43A-7. Duties and responsibilities of each skier; assumption of risk

Any other provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding:

(1) Each individual skier has the responsibility for knowing the range of his or her own ability to negotiate any ski slope or trail or any portion thereof and must ski within the limits of his or her ability. Each skier expressly accepts and assumes the risk of any injury or death or damage to property resulting from any of the inherent dangers and risks of skiing, as set forth in this chapter; provided, however, that injuries sustained in a collision with another skier are not an inherent risk of the sport for purposes of this Code section;

(2) Each skier has the duty to maintain control of his or her speed and course at all times and to maintain a proper lookout so as to be able to avoid other skiers and objects, natural or manmade. The skier shall have the primary duty to avoid colliding with any persons or objects below him or her on the trail;

(3) No skier shall ski on a ski slope or trail that has been posted as closed in accordance with the provisions of this chapter;

(4) Each skier shall stay clear of all snow grooming or snow making equipment, vehicles, lift towers, signs, and any other equipment at the ski area;

(5) Each skier shall obey all posted information, warnings, and requirements and shall refrain from acting in any manner that might cause or contribute to the injury of the skier or any other person. Each skier shall be charged with having seen and understood all information posted as required or permitted in this chapter. Each skier shall locate and ascertain the meaning of all signs posted in accordance with this chapter;

(6) Each sliding device used by a skier shall be equipped with a strap or other device designed to help reduce the risk of any runaway equipment should it become unattached from the skier;

(7) No skier shall cross the uphill track of any surface lift device except at locations designated by the operator, nor shall any person place any object in the uphill track of such a device;

(8) Before beginning to ski from a stationary position, or before entering a ski slope or trail, the skier shall have the duty of yielding to moving skiers already using the slope or trail;

(9) No skier shall stop where he or she obstructs a trail or is not visible from higher on the slope or trail; and

(10) No skier shall board or use or attempt to board or use any passenger tramway of any type or use any ski slope or trail while that skier’s ability to do so is impaired by alcohol, drugs, or any controlled substance.


Connecticut Ski Safety Act

Connecticut Skier Safety Act

Sec. 29-201. (Formerly Sec. 19-418a). Definitions. 1
Sec. 29-202. (Formerly Sec. 19-418b). Requirements for passenger tramways in use. 3
Sec. 29-203. (Formerly Sec. 19-418c). Regulations, standards. 4
Sec. 29-204. (Formerly Sec. 19-418d). Plans and specifications, submission, fee. Approval. Final inspection. 4
Sec. 29-205. (Formerly Sec. 19-418e). Registration of each passenger tramway required. 5
Sec. 29-206. (Formerly Sec. 19-418f). Operating certificate, inspections, fees. 5
Sec. 29-207. (Formerly Sec. 19-418g). Order to discontinue operation. Permission for resumption. 6
Sec. 29-208. (Formerly Sec. 19-418h). Complaints. 6
Sec. 29-209. (Formerly Sec. 19-418i). Judicial review of commissioner’s decisions. 7
Sec. 29-210. (Formerly Sec. 19-418j). Penalties. 7
Sec. 29-211. (Formerly Sec. 19-418k). Duties of operator of passenger tramway or ski area. 8
Sec. 29-212. (Formerly Sec. 19-418l). Assumption of risk of injury caused by hazards inherent in the sport of skiing. 10
Sec. 29-213. (Formerly Sec. 19-418m). Prohibited conduct by skiers. 18
Sec. 29-214. (Formerly Sec. 19-418n). Special defense to civil action against operator by skier. (Repealed) 19
Secs. 29-215 to 29-220. [Reserved] 19

Title 29 Public Safety and State Police
Chapter 538a Passenger Tramways
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 29-201 (2014)

Sec. 29-201. (Formerly Sec. 19-418a). Definitions.
As used in this chapter, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:
(1) “Passenger tramway” means a device used to transport passengers in cars on tracks or suspended in the air, or uphill on skis, by the use of steel cables, chains or belts or by ropes, and usually supported by trestles or towers with one or more spans, but shall not include any such device not available for public use and not subject to a fee for use of same. The term “passenger tramway” includes the following: (A) Two-car aerial passenger tramways, which are devices 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; (B) multicar aerial passenger tramways, which are devices 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; (C) skimobiles, which are devices in which a passenger car running on steel or wooden tracks is attached to and pulled by a steel cable, or similar devices; (D) chair lifts, which are devices which carry passengers 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; (E) J bars, T bars, platter pulls and similar types of devices, which are means of transportation that 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; and (F) rope tows, which are devices that pull the skiers riding on skis as the skier grasps the rope manually, or similar devices.
(2) “Operator” means a person who owns or controls the operation of a passenger tramway or ski area. An operator of a passenger tramway shall be deemed not to be operating a common carrier.
(3) “Department” means the Department of Administrative Services.
(4) “Commissioner” means the Commissioner of Administrative Services.
(5) “Skier” includes the following: (A) A person utilizing the ski area under control of the operator for the purpose of skiing, whether or not he or she is utilizing a passenger tramway; and (B) a person utilizing the passenger tramway whether or not such person is a skier, including riders on a passenger tramway operating during the nonskiing season.
(6) “Restraint device” means a restraining bar on a passenger tramway, as defined in subparagraph (D) of subdivision (1) of this section, that does not yield to forward pressure by a skier.

Sec. 19-418c transferred to Sec. 29-203 in 1983.
Sec. 29-204. (Formerly Sec. 19-418d). Plans and specifications, submission, fee. Approval. Final inspection.
No new passenger tramway shall be erected or installed and no passenger tramway shall be relocated or altered until detailed plans and specifications of the proposed construction or other work have been submitted in duplicate to the department for approval. A fee of two hundred dollars payable to the Department of Administrative Services shall accompany each such proposal. Notice that such plans are approved or disapproved shall be given within a reasonable time, and final inspection of the passenger tramway, when installed, relocated or altered, shall be made before final approval for operating is given by the department.

Sec. 29-206. (Formerly Sec. 19-418f). Operating certificate, inspections, fees.
The department shall enforce the regulations adopted pursuant to section 29-203, and shall inspect the construction, operation and maintenance of passenger tramways to determine whether such regulations have been complied with by the operators. Each passenger tramway shall be thoroughly inspected by a qualified inspector approved by the department at least once every twelve months. More frequent inspections of any passenger tramway may be made if the condition thereof indicates that additional inspections are necessary or desirable. As soon as the department inspects and approves any passenger tramway as being fit for operation, it shall issue to the operator, upon receipt of a fee of two hundred dollars, a certificate of operation with such conditions and limitations as the commissioner shall prescribe. Such certificate shall be valid for twelve months and shall be renewed yearly, if the department approves the passenger tramway, upon payment of a renewal fee of one hundred dollars. No passenger tramway may be operated without such operating certificate.

Sec. 29-207. (Formerly Sec. 19-418g). Order to discontinue operation. Permission for resumption.
If any passenger tramway is found to be, in the judgment of the department, dangerous to public safety or is being operated without the operating certificate required in section 29-204 or is being operated in violation of any regulation adopted under this chapter, the department may require the operator of such passenger tramway to discontinue its operation forthwith. When a passenger tramway has been placed out of service pursuant to this section, the operator of such tramway shall not again operate such tramway until repairs have been made, an operating certificate has been obtained, or the violation is discontinued and permission given by the commissioner or his authorized agent to resume operation of such tramway.

Sec. 29-208. (Formerly Sec. 19-418h). Complaints.
Any person may make a written complaint to the commissioner setting forth any alleged violation of this chapter or of any regulation promulgated under the authority of this chapter, or setting forth any condition in a passenger tramway which is alleged to endanger the safety of the public.

Sec. 29-209. (Formerly Sec. 19-418i). Judicial review of commissioner’s decisions.
Any person aggrieved by any decision or order of the commissioner or department under the provisions of this chapter may appeal therefrom in accordance with the provisions of section 4-183, except venue for such appeal shall be in the judicial district wherein such passenger tramway is situated.

Sec. 29-210. (Formerly Sec. 19-418j). Penalties.
Any person who violates any of the provisions of this chapter or any of the regulations adopted hereunder shall, for the first offense, be fined not less than twenty-five dollars or more than one hundred dollars, and for each subsequent offense, shall be guilty of a class C misdemeanor.

Sec. 29-211. (Formerly Sec. 19-418k). Duties of operator of passenger tramway or ski area.
In the operation of a passenger tramway or ski area, each operator shall have the obligation to perform certain duties including, but not limited to: (1) Conspicuously marking all trail maintenance vehicles and furnishing the vehicles with flashing or rotating lights which shall be operated whenever the vehicles are working or moving within the skiing area; (2) conspicuously marking the entrance to each trail or slope with a symbol, adopted or approved by the National Ski Areas Association, which identifies the relative degree of difficulty of such trail or slope or warns that such trail or slope is closed; (3) ensuring that any lift tower that is located on a trail or slope is padded or otherwise protected; (4) maintaining one or more trail boards, at prominent locations within the ski area, displaying such area’s network of ski trails and slopes, designating each trail or slope in the same manner as provided in subdivision (2) of this section and notifying each skier that the wearing of ski retention straps or other devices used to prevent runaway skis is required by section 29-213, as amended by this act; (5) in the event maintenance personnel or equipment are being employed on any trail or slope during the hours at which such trail or slope is open to the public, conspicuously posting notice thereof at the entrance to such trail or slope; (6) conspicuously marking trail or slope intersections; (7) ensuring that passenger tramways, as defined in subparagraph (D) of subdivision (1) of section 29-201, as amended by this act, are equipped with restraint devices; (8) at the entrance of a passenger tramway, as defined in subparagraph (D) of subdivision (1) of section 29-201, as amended by this act, conspicuously posting instructions regarding the proper use of a restraint device on such passenger tramway and notice that the use of a restraint device on such passenger tramway is required by section 29-213, as amended by this act; and (9) ensuring that any hydrant, snow-making equipment and pipes that are located within the borders of a designated slope, trail or area that is approved and open for skiing by the operator and regularly groomed as part of the operator’s normal maintenance activities are padded or marked by portable fencing or a similar device.

Sec. 29-212. (Formerly Sec. 19-418l). Assumption of risk of injury caused by hazards inherent in the sport of skiing.
(a) For the purposes of this section:
(1) “Skier” includes any person who is using a ski area for the purpose of skiing or who is on the skiable terrain of a ski area as a spectator or otherwise, but does not include (A) any person using a snow tube provided by a ski area operator, and (B) any person who is a spectator while in a designated spectator area during any event;
(2) “Skiing” means sliding downhill or jumping on snow or ice using skis, a snowboard, snow blades, a snowbike, a sit-ski or any other device that is controllable by its edges on snow or ice or is for the purpose of utilizing any skiable terrain, but does not include snow tubing operations provided by a ski area operator; and
(3) “Ski area operator” means a person who owns or controls the operation of a ski area and such person’s agents and employees.
(b) Each skier shall assume the risk of and legal responsibility for any injury to his or her person or property caused by the hazards inherent in the sport of skiing. Such hazards include, but are not limited to: (1) Variations in the terrain of the trail or slope which is marked in accordance with subdivision (2) of section 29-211, as amended by this act, or variations in surface or subsurface snow or ice conditions, except that no skier assumes the risk of variations which are caused by the ski area operator unless such variations are caused by snow making, snow grooming or rescue operations; (2) bare spots which do not require the closing of the trail or slope; (3) conspicuously placed or, if not so placed, conspicuously marked lift towers; (4) trees or other objects not within the confines of the trail or slope; (5) loading, unloading or otherwise using a passenger tramway without prior knowledge of proper loading and unloading procedures or without reading instructions concerning loading and unloading posted at the base of such passenger tramway or without asking for such instructions; and (6) collisions with any other person by any skier while skiing, except that collisions with on-duty employees of the ski area operator who are skiing and are within the scope of their employment at the time of the collision shall not be a hazard inherent in the sport of skiing.
(c) The provisions of this section shall not apply in any case in which it is determined that a claimant’s injury was not caused by a hazard inherent in the sport of skiing.

Sec. 29-213. (Formerly Sec. 19-418m). Prohibited conduct by skiers.
No skier shall: (1) Intentionally drop, throw or expel any object from a passenger tramway; (2) do any act which shall interfere with the running or operation of a passenger tramway; (3) use a passenger tramway without the permission of the operator; (4) place any object in the skiing area or on the uphill track of a passenger tramway which may cause a skier to fall; (5) cross the track of a J bar lift, T bar lift, platter pull or similar device or a rope tow, except at a designated location; (6) depart from the scene of a skiing accident when involved in the accident without leaving personal identification, including name and address, or before notifying the proper authorities and obtaining assistance when such skier knows that any other skier involved in the accident is in need of medical or other assistance; (7) fail to wear retention straps or other devices used to prevent runaway skis; or (8) fail to close the restraint device except when embarking and disembarking the passenger tramway, as defined in subparagraph (D) of subdivision (1) of section 29-201, as amended by this act.

Sec. 29-214. (Formerly Sec. 19-418n). Special defense to civil action against operator by skier. (Repealed)
Section 29-214 is repealed, effective October 1, 2005.


Arizona Ski Safety Statutes

Arizona Ski Safety Statutes

ARIZONA REVISED STATUTES

TITLE 5. Amusements and Sports

Chapter 7. Skiing

Article 1. General Provisions

Go to the Arizona Code Archive Directory

A.R.S. § 5-701 (2012)

§ 5-701. Definitions

In this chapter, unless the context otherwise requires:

1. “Base area lift” means a passenger tramway that skiers ordinarily use without first using another passenger tramway.

2. “Chair lift” means 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.

3. “Competitor” means a skier actually engaged in competition or in practice for competition with the permission of a ski area operator on any slope or trail or portion of any slope or trail designated for competition by the ski area operator.

4. “Conditions of ordinary visibility” means daylight and, if applicable, nighttime in nonprecipitating weather.

5. “Inherent dangers and risks of skiing” means those dangers or conditions that are an integral part of the sport of skiing, excluding acts of ordinary or gross negligence, or reckless or intentional conduct on the part of the ski area operator. Inherent dangers and risks of skiing include:

(a) Changing weather conditions.

(b) Existing and changing snow surface conditions, such as ice, hard pack, powder, packed powder, wind pack, corn, crust, slush, cut-up and machine-made snow.

(c) Surface or subsurface conditions, whether marked or unmarked, such as bare spots, forest growth, rocks, stumps, streambeds, trees or other natural objects.

(d) Impacts with lift towers, signs, posts, fences or other enclosures, hydrants, water pipes or other man-made structures and their components, whether marked or unmarked.

(e) Variations in steepness or terrain, including roads, catwalks and other terrain modifications, whether natural or as a result of slope design, snowmaking or grooming operations.

(f) Collisions with other skiers.

(g) The failure of skiers to ski within their own abilities.

6. “Passenger tramway” means 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, belts or ropes, usually supported by trestles or towers with one or more spans.

7. “Rope tow” means a mode of transportation that pulls a skier riding on skis as the skier grasps the rope with the skier’s hands.

8. “Ski area” means all ski slopes and trails or other places within the boundary of a ski area operator’s property, administered as a single enterprise in this state.

9. “Ski area operator” means any corporation, company, partnership, firm, association or other commercial entity, including a natural person, and its employees, agents, members, successors in interest, affiliates and assigns that have responsibility for the operations of a ski area.

10. “Ski Slopes and Trails” means those areas designated by a ski area operator for use by skiers for any of the purposes listed in paragraph 11.

11. “Skier” means a person using a ski area for the purpose of skiing or sliding downhill on snow or ice on skis, a toboggan, sled, tube, skibob or snowboard or any other device, using any of the facilities of a ski area, including ski slopes and trails, or observing any activities in a ski area as a sightseer or visitor.

12. “Surface lift” means a mode of transportation that pulls skiers riding on skis by means of attachment to an overhead cable supported by trestles or towers. Surface lift includes a J-bar, a T-bar, a platter pull and any similar device.

History: Last year in which legislation affected this section: 1997

§ 5-702. Posting passenger information signs

A. A ski area operator shall maintain a sign system with concise, simple and pertinent information for the protection and instruction of people on a passenger tramway.

B. A ski area operator shall prominently display signs that are readable in conditions of ordinary visibility and, if applicable, that are adequately lighted for nighttime passengers, as follows:

1. At or near the loading point of each passenger tramway, rope tow and surface lift advising that any person not familiar with the operation of the tramway, rope tow or surface lift should ask ski area personnel for assistance and instruction.

2. In a conspicuous place at the loading area of each two-car or multicar passenger tramway that states the maximum capacity in pounds of the car and the maximum number of persons allowed in the car.

3. In the interior of each car in a two-car or multicar passenger tramway that states the maximum capacity in pounds of the car and the maximum number of persons allowed in the car and that gives instructions for procedures in the case of emergencies.

4. At all chair lifts stating the following:

(a) “Check for loose clothing and equipment”, which shall be posted ahead of the “prepare to unload” sign described in subdivision (c) of this paragraph.

(b) “Keep ski tips up” or “keep tips up”, which shall be posted ahead of any point where skis may come in contact with a platform or the snow surface while a skier is seated in the chair lift.

(c) “Prepare to unload”, which shall be posted at least fifty feet ahead of the unloading area.

(d) “Remove pole straps from wrists”, which shall be posted where applicable.

(e) “Stop gate”, which shall be posted where applicable.

(f) “Unload here”, which shall be posted at the point designated for unloading.

5. At all rope tows and surface lifts stating the following:

(a) “Check for loose clothing and equipment”, which shall be posted ahead of the “prepare to unload” sign described in subdivision (b) of this paragraph.

(b) “Prepare to unload”, which shall be posted at least fifty feet ahead of each unloading area.

(c) “Remove pole straps from wrists”, which shall be posted where applicable.

(d) “Safety gate”, “stay in tracks” or “stop gate”, which shall be posted where applicable.

(e) “Unload here”, which shall be posted at the point designated for unloading or where applicable.

C. At the operator’s discretion a ski area operator may post additional signs not required by subsection B.

D. Before opening a passenger tramway to the public each day, a ski area operator shall inspect the tramway for the presence of the signs required by subsection B or that are posted pursuant to subsection C.

E. The extent of the responsibility of a ski area operator under this section is to post and maintain the signs required by subsection B and to maintain any signs posted pursuant to subsection C. It is a rebuttable presumption that all passengers and skiers saw and understood the signs if evidence exists that the signs required by subsection B or that are posted pursuant to subsection C were posted and the signs were maintained.

History: Last year in which legislation affected this section: 1997

§ 5-703. Posting ski information signs

A. A ski area operator shall maintain a sign and marking system with concise, simple and pertinent information for the protection and instruction of skiers. The signs required by this section shall be readable in conditions of ordinary visibility and, if applicable, that are adequately lighted for nighttime skiers.

B. A ski area operator shall place a sign that depicts and explains signs and symbols that skiers may encounter in the ski area in a position where all skiers who are proceeding to the uphill loading point of each base area lift will see the sign. The sign shall depict and explain at least the following signs and symbols:

1. A green circle and the word “easier”, which designates the least difficult ski slopes and trails of the ski area.

2. A blue square and the words “more difficult”, which designates the ski slopes and trails of the ski area that have a degree of difficulty between the least difficult and most difficult slopes and trails.

3. A black diamond and the words “most difficult”, which designates the most difficult ski slopes and trails of the ski area.

4. A figure in the shape of a skier with a band running diagonally from corner to corner of the sign with the word “closed” printed beneath the emblem.

C. If applicable, a ski area operator shall place a sign at or near the loading point of a passenger tramway that states one of the following:

1. If the tramway transports passengers only to the more difficult or most difficult ski slopes and trails in the ski area, the sign shall state: “WARNING: This lift services ‘more difficult’ (blue square emblem) and ‘most difficult’ (black diamond emblem) slopes and trails only.”.

2. If the tramway transports passengers only to the most difficult ski slopes and trails in the ski area, the sign shall state: “WARNING: This lift services ‘most difficult’ (black diamond emblem) slopes and trails only.”.

D. If a ski area operator closes a ski slope or trail or a portion of a ski slope or trail to the public, the operator shall place a sign notifying skiers that the slope or trail or portion of the slope or trail is closed at each identified entrance to the slope or trail or closed portion of the slope or trail. In lieu of placing a sign at each identified entrance, the ski area operator may close off the entrance with rope or fences.

E. A ski area operator shall place a sign at or near the beginning of each ski slope or trail that contains the appropriate symbol of the relative degree of difficulty of that slope or trail as set forth in subsection B. The requirements of this subsection do not apply to a ski slope or trail that is designated “easier” if a skier may substantially view the slope or trail in its entirety before beginning to ski the slope or trail.

F. A ski area operator shall mark the ski area boundaries that are designated on the trail map.

G. A ski area operator shall mark all ski lift tickets and season passes that the operator sells or makes available to skiers with the following in clearly readable print:

WARNING: Under Arizona law, a skier accepts the risk of any injury to person or property resulting from any of the inherent dangers and risks of skiing, including changing weather conditions, existing and changing snow surface conditions, surface or subsurface conditions, whether marked or unmarked, collisions with natural or man-made objects, whether marked or unmarked and the failure of skiers to ski within their own abilities.

H. A ski area operator shall post and maintain signs where ski lift tickets and ski school lessons are sold and in a location that is clearly visible to skiers who are proceeding to the uphill loading point of each base area lift that state the following in clearly readable print:

WARNING—IMPORTANT: Under Arizona law, a skier accepts the risk of any injury to person or property resulting from any of the inherent dangers and risks of skiing. Some of these risks are listed on your lift ticket or season pass. Please review your ticket or pass and ask the ski area personnel for more information.

History: Last year in which legislation affected this section: 1997

§ 5-704. Additional duties of ski area operators

A. If maintenance equipment is being used to maintain or groom any ski slope or trail that a ski area operator has not designated as closed pursuant to section 5-703, subsection D, the ski area operator shall place a conspicuous notice at or near the beginning of the slope or trail and at any entrance points to the slope or trail that notifies skiers about the presence of the equipment.

B. All snowmobiles operated on the ski slopes or trails of a ski area shall be equipped with at least the following:

1. One lighted head lamp.

2. One lighted red tail lamp.

3. A red or orange flag that is at least forty square inches in size and that is mounted at least five feet above the bottom of the tracks.

C. A ski area operator has no duties to any skier who skis beyond the designated boundaries of the ski area.

History: Last year in which legislation affected this section: 1997

§ 5-705. Duties of skiers in any action against the ski area operator

In any civil action brought by a skier against a ski area operator, the duties of a skier shall be as follows:

1. At all times a skier has the sole responsibility to know the range of the skier’s own ability to negotiate a ski slope or trail and to ski within the limits of that ability. A skier expressly accepts the total risk of and all legal responsibility for injury to person or property resulting from any of the inherent dangers and risks of skiing.

2. Before using a chair lift, passenger tramway, rope tow or surface lift, a skier shall have the knowledge and ability to safely load, ride and unload from the device.

3. A skier shall maintain control of the skier’s speed and course at all times when skiing and shall maintain a proper lookout to enable the skier to avoid collisions with other skiers and with natural and man-made objects, whether marked or unmarked.

4. A skier shall avoid snow maintenance and grooming equipment, vehicles, lift towers, signs and other equipment located on ski slopes and trails.

5. A skier shall heed all posted information, signs and other warnings and shall refrain from acting in a manner that may cause or contribute to the injury of the skier or other persons or property. A skier is presumed to have seen and understood all signs and notices posted pursuant to sections 5-702, 5-703 and 5-704. Under conditions of decreased visibility, the duty rests on the skier to locate and ascertain the meaning of all the signs and notices.

6. A skier shall only use skis, snowboards and other equipment that have been equipped with a functional strap or other device designed to reduce the risk of runaway equipment.

7. A skier shall not ski on a ski slope or trail or a portion of a ski slope or trail that a ski area operator has designated as closed pursuant to section 5-703, subsection D.

8. A skier shall not begin to ski from a stationary position or enter a ski slope or trail from the side unless the skier is able to avoid colliding with moving skiers already on the ski slope or trail.

9. A skier shall not cross the uphill track or place any object in the uphill track of a rope tow or surface lift except at locations that have been designated for crossing by a ski area operator.

10. A skier shall not move uphill on any passenger tramway or use any ski slope or trail while the skier’s ability to do so is impaired by the consumption of alcohol or by the use of any narcotic or other drug.

11. A skier involved in a collision with another skier that results in an injury shall not leave the vicinity of the collision before giving the skier’s name and current address to an employee of the ski area operator or a member of a paid or voluntary ski patrol. This paragraph does not prohibit a skier from leaving the scene of a collision to secure first aid for a person who is injured in the collision. If a skier leaves the scene of a collision to secure first aid, the skier shall leave the skier’s name and current address as required by this paragraph after securing the first aid.

12. A skier shall not knowingly enter the public or private lands of an adjoining ski area if the owner of that land has closed that land to skiers and the landowner or the ski area operator has designated the adjoining land as closed.

History: Last year in which legislation affected this section: 1997

§ 5-706. Release of liability

In any action brought by a skier against a ski area operator, if the ski area operator proves that the skier signed a valid release, the ski area operator’s liability shall be determined by the terms of the release.

History: Last year in which legislation affected this section: 1997

§ 5-707. Competition

A. Before the beginning of any competition, a ski area operator shall allow any competitor a reasonable visual inspection of the course or area where the competition is to be held.

B. A competitor accepts the risk of all course conditions, including weather and snow conditions, course construction or layout and obstacles that a visual inspection immediately before the run could have revealed.

C. In any action brought by a competitor against any ski area operator, if the ski area operator proves that the participant in the competition signed a valid release, the ski area operator’s liability shall be determined by the terms of the release.

HISTORY: Last year in which legislation affected this section: 1997


Alaska Ski Safety Statute

Alaska Ski Safety Statute

TITLE 5. AMUSEMENTS AND SPORTS

CHAPTER 45. SKI LIABILITY, SAFETY, AND RESPONSIBILITY

Go to the Alaska Code Archive Directory

Alaska Stat. § 05.45.010 (2013)

Sec. 05.45.010. Limitation on actions arising from skiing

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a person may not bring an action against a ski area operator for an injury resulting from an inherent danger and risk of skiing.

History: (§ 2 ch 63 SLA 1994)

Notes Applicable To Entire Title

Revisor’s Notes.—The provisions of this title were redrafted in 1985 to remove personal pronouns pursuant to § 4, ch. 58, SLA 1982, and in 1981, 1985, 1989, 1994, and 2004 to make other minor word changes.

Notes Applicable To Entire Chapter

Cross References.—For safety, inspection and regulation of recreational devices, see AS 05.20; for legislative findings and purpose in connection with the enactment of this chapter, see § 1, ch. 63, SLA 1994 in the Temporary and Special Acts.

Sec. 05.45.020. Effect of violations

(a) A ski area operator or other person who violates a requirement of this chapter, a provision of a plan of operation prepared under AS 05.45.040, or a regulation adopted by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development under AS 05.20.070 is negligent and civilly liable to the extent the violation causes injury to a person or damage to property.

(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of AS 09.17.080,

(1) the limitation of liability described under AS 05.45.010 is a complete defense in an action against a ski area operator for an injury if an inherent danger or risk of skiing is determined to be a contributory factor in the resulting injury, unless the ski area operator has violated a requirement of this chapter, a provision of a plan of operation prepared under AS 05.45.040, or a regulation adopted by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development under AS 05.20.070;

(2) a violation of the passenger duties imposed under AS 05.45.030 or skier duties imposed under AS 05.45.100 is a complete defense in an action against a ski area operator if the violation is determined to be a contributory factor in the resulting injury, unless the ski area operator has violated a requirement of this chapter, a provision of a plan of operation prepared under AS 05.45.040, or a regulation adopted by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development under AS 05.20.070.

(c) If the ski area operator is determined to have violated a requirement of this chapter, a provision of a plan of operation prepared under AS 05.45.040, or a regulation adopted by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development under AS 05.20.070, the provisions of AS 09.17.080 apply in an action against a ski area operator for an injury resulting from the violation.

History: (§ 2 ch 63 SLA 1994)

Notes: Revisor’s Notes.—In 1999, “Department of Labor” was changed to “Department of Labor and Workforce Development” in each subsection in accordance with § 90, ch. 58, SLA 1999.

User Note: For more generally applicable notes, see notes under the first section of this article, chapter or title.

Sec. 05.45.030. Duties of passengers

(a) A passenger may not board a tramway if the passenger does not have

(1) sufficient physical dexterity or ability and knowledge to negotiate or use the facility safely; or

(2) the assistance of a person authorized by the ski area operator to assist a skier.

(b) A passenger may not

(1) embark upon or disembark from a tramway except at a designated area unless reasonably necessary to prevent injury to the passenger or others; this paragraph does not apply if the tramway stops and the operator assists the passengers to disembark from the tramway;

(2) intentionally throw or expel an object from a tramway while riding on the tramway, except as permitted by the operator;

(3) act while riding on a tramway in a manner that may interfere with proper or safe operation of the tramway;

(4) engage in conduct that may contribute to or cause injury to a person;

(5) intentionally place in an uphill track of a J-bar, T-bar, platter pull, rope tow, or another surface lift an object that could cause another skier to fall;

(6) embark upon a tramway marked as closed;

(7) disobey instructions posted in accordance with this chapter or oral instructions by the ski area operator regarding the proper or safe use of a tramway unless the oral instructions are contrary to this chapter or contrary to posted instructions.

History: (§ 2 ch 63 SLA 1994)

User Note: For more generally applicable notes, see notes under the first section of this article, chapter or title.

Sec. 05.45.040. Required plan and patrol by ski area operators

(a) A ski area operator shall prepare a plan of operation for each ski season and shall implement the plan throughout the ski season. A plan of operation must include written provisions for ski patrol, avalanche control, avalanche rescue, grooming procedures, tramway evacuation, hazard marking, missing person procedures, and first aid. Before the operation of the ski area for that season, the plan shall be reviewed and approved by the commissioner of natural resources except that if an agency of the United States manages the land on which the ski area operates, the plan shall be reviewed and approved by that agency. The commissioner of natural resources may require a ski area operator to pay a fee not to exceed the department’s cost of reviewing the plan, and may adopt regulations to implement this subsection.

(b) A ski area operator shall provide a ski patrol whose members meet or exceed the training standards of the National Ski Patrol System, Inc. This subsection does not apply to a ski area if the operator transports skiers using only a single tramway consisting of a rope tow, the rope tow does not transport skiers more than 500 vertical feet, and the ski area is operated by a nonprofit corporation or a municipality. In this subsection, “nonprofit corporation” means a corporation that qualifies for exemption from taxation under 26 U.S.C. 501(c)(3) or (4) (Internal Revenue Code).

(c) Notwithstanding any other law, the state and the commissioner of natural resources are not civilly liable for damages resulting from an act or omission in reviewing, approving, or disapproving a plan of operation under (a) of this section.

History: (§ 2 ch 63 SLA 1994)

User Note: For more generally applicable notes, see notes under the first section of this article, chapter or title.

Sec. 05.45.050. Required signs for tramways; duties of operators

(a) A ski area operator who operates a tramway shall maintain a sign system with concise, simple, and pertinent information for the protection and instruction of passengers. Signs shall be prominently placed on each tramway, readable in conditions of ordinary visibility, and where applicable adequately lighted for nighttime passengers. Signs shall be posted

(1) at or near the loading point of each tramway, regardless of the type, advising that a person not familiar with the operation of the device must ask the operator of the device for assistance and instruction;

(2) in the interior of each two-car and multicar tramway showing

(A) the maximum capacity in pounds of the car and the maximum number of passengers allowed;

(B) instructions for procedures in emergencies;

(3) in a conspicuous place at each loading area of two-car and multicar tramways stating the maximum capacity in pounds of the car and the maximum number of passengers allowed;

(4) at all chair lifts stating the following:

(A) “Prepare to Unload,” which shall be located not less than 50 feet ahead of the unloading area;

(B) “Keep Ski Tips Up,” which shall be located ahead of any point where the skis may come in contact with a platform or the snow surface;

(C) “Unload Here,” which shall be located at the point designated for unloading;

(D) “Stop Gate,” which shall be located where applicable;

(E) “Remove Pole Straps from Wrists,” which shall be located prominently at each loading area;

(F) “Check for Loose Clothing and Equipment,” which shall be located before the “Prepare to Unload” sign;

(5) at all J-bars, T-bars, platter pulls, rope tows, and any other surface lift, stating the following:

(A) “Remove Pole Straps from Wrists,” which shall be placed at or near the loading area;

(B) “Stay in Tracks,” “Unload Here,” and “Safety Gate,” which shall be located where applicable;

(C) “Prepare to Unload,” which shall be located not less than 50 feet ahead of each unloading area;

(6) near the boarding area of all J-bars, T-bars, platter pulls, rope tows, and any other surface lift, advising passengers to check to be certain that clothing, scarves, and hair will not become entangled with the lift;

(7) at or near the boarding area of all lifts, stating the skier’s duty set out in AS 05.45.100(c)(2).

(b) Signs not specified by (a) of this section may be posted at the discretion of the ski area operator.

(c) A ski area operator, before opening the tramway to the public each day, shall inspect the tramway for the presence and visibility of the signs required by (a) of this section.

(d) A ski area operator shall post and maintain signs that are required by (a) of this section in a manner that they may be viewed during conditions of ordinary visibility.

HISTORY: (§ 2 ch 63 SLA 1994)JHMoss

USER NOTE: For more generally applicable notes, see notes under the first section of this article, chapter or title.

Sec. 05.45.060. Required signs for trails and slopes; duties of operators

(a) A ski area operator shall maintain a sign and marking system as required in this section in addition to that required by AS 05.45.050. All signs required by this section shall be maintained so as to be readable and recognizable under conditions of ordinary visibility.

(b) A ski area operator shall post a sign recognizable to skiers proceeding to the uphill loading point of each base area lift that depicts and explains signs and symbols that the skier may encounter at the ski area. The sign must include the following:

(1) the least difficult trails and slopes, designated by a green circle and the word “easier”;

(2) the most difficult trails and slopes, designated by a black diamond and the words “most difficult”; trails intended for expert skiers may be marked with a double black diamond and the words “expert only”;

(3) the trails and slopes that have a degree of difficulty that falls between the green circle and the black diamond designation, designated by a blue square and the words “more difficult”;

(4) danger areas designated by a red exclamation point inside a yellow triangle with a red band around the triangle and the word “danger” printed beneath the emblem;

(5) closed trails or slopes designated by a sign with a circle or octagon around a figure in the shape of a skier with a band running diagonally across the sign from the upper right-hand side to the lower left-hand side and with the word “closed” printed beneath the emblem.

(c) If applicable, a sign shall be placed at or near the loading point of each tramway as follows:

WARNING: This lift services (most difficult) or (most difficult and more difficult) or (more difficult) slopes only.

(d) If a particular trail or slope or portion of a trail or slope is closed to the public by a ski area operator, the operator shall place a sign notifying the public of that fact at each identified entrance of each portion of the trail or slope involved. A slope without an entrance defined by terrain or forest growth may be closed with a line of signs in a manner readily visible to skiers under conditions of ordinary visibility. This subsection does not apply if the trail or slope is closed with ropes or fences.

(e) A ski area operator shall

(1) place a sign at or near the beginning of each trail or slope, which must contain the appropriate symbol of the relative degree of difficulty of that particular trail or slope as described in (b) of this section; this paragraph does not apply to a slope or trail designated “easier” that to a skier is substantially visible in its entirety under conditions of ordinary visibility before beginning to ski the slope or trail;

(2) mark the ski area boundaries in a fashion readily visible to skiers under conditions of ordinary visibility;

(3) mark that portion of the boundary with signs as required by (b)(5) of this section if the owner of land adjoining a ski area closes all or part of the land and notifies the ski area operator of the closure;

(4) mark hydrants, water pipes, and all other man-made structures on slopes and trails that are not readily visible to skiers under conditions of ordinary visibility from a distance of at least 100 feet and adequately and appropriately cover man-made structures that create obstructions with a shock absorbent material that will lessen injuries; any type of marker is sufficient, including wooden poles, flags, or signs, if the marker is visible from a distance of 100 feet and if the marker itself does not constitute a serious hazard to skiers; in this paragraph, “man-made structures” does not include variations in steepness or terrain, whether natural or as a result of slope design, snow making, grooming operations, roads and catwalks, or other terrain modifications;

(5) mark exposed forest growth, rocks, stumps, streambeds, trees, or other natural objects that are located on a slope or trail that is regularly used by skiers or that is regularly packed and prepared by a ski area operator using a snow vehicle and attached implements and that are not readily visible to skiers under conditions of ordinary visibility from a distance of at least 100 feet;

(6) mark roads, catwalks, cliffs, or other terrain modifications that are not readily visible to skiers under conditions of ordinary visibility from a distance of at least 100 feet;

(7) post and maintain signs that contain the warning notice specified in (g) of this section; the notice shall be placed in a clearly visible location at the ski area where lift tickets and ski school lessons are sold and in a position to be recognizable as a sign to skiers proceeding to the uphill loading point of each base area lift; the signs may not be smaller than three feet by three feet and must be white with black and red letters as specified in this paragraph; the word “WARNING” must appear on the sign in red letters; the warning notice specified in this paragraph must appear on the sign in black letters with each letter to be a minimum of one inch in height.

(f) A ski lift ticket sold or made available for sale to skiers by a ski area operator must contain in clearly readable print the warning notice specified in (g) of this section.

(g) The signs described in (e)(7) of this section and the lift tickets described in (f) of this section must contain the following warning notice:

WARNING

Under Alaska law, the risk of an injury to person or property resulting from any of the inherent dangers and risks of skiing rests with the skier. Inherent dangers and risks of skiing include changing weather conditions; existing and changing snow conditions; bare spots, rocks, stumps and trees; collisions with natural objects, man-made objects, or other skiers; variations in terrain; and the failure of skiers to ski within their own abilities.

HISTORY: (§ 2 ch 63 SLA 1994)

USER NOTE: For more generally applicable notes, see notes under the first section of this article, chapter or title.

Sec. 05.45.070. Other duties of ski area operators

(a) A ski area operator shall equip a motorized snow-grooming vehicle with a light visible at any time the vehicle is moving on or in the vicinity of a ski slope or trail.

(b) When maintenance equipment is being employed to maintain or groom a ski slope or trail while the ski slope or trail is open to the public, the ski area operator shall place a conspicuous notice regarding the maintenance or grooming at or near the top of that ski slope or trail.

(c) A motor vehicle operated on the ski slope or trails of a ski area shall be equipped with at least

(1) one lighted head lamp;

(2) one lighted red tail lamp;

(3) a brake system maintained in operable condition; and

(4) a fluorescent flag at least 40 square inches mounted at least six feet above the bottom of the tracks.

(d) A ski area operator shall make available at reasonable fees, instruction and education regarding the inherent danger and risk of skiing and the duties imposed on skiers under this chapter. Notice of the availability of the instruction and education required under this subsection shall be placed in a clearly visible location at the ski area where lift tickets and ski school lessons are sold, in a position to be recognizable as a sign to skiers proceeding to the uphill loading point of each base area lift, and printed on equipment rental agreements.

HISTORY: (§ 2 ch 63 SLA 1994)

USER NOTE: For more generally applicable notes, see notes under the first section of this article, chapter or title.

Sec. 05.45.080. Skiers outside marked boundaries

A ski area operator does not have a duty arising out of the operator’s status as a ski area operator to a skier skiing beyond the area boundaries if the boundaries are marked as required by AS 05.45.060(e)(2).

HISTORY: (§ 2 ch 63 SLA 1994)

USER NOTE: For more generally applicable notes, see notes under the first section of this article, chapter or title.

Sec. 05.45.090. Reckless skiers; revocation of skiing privileges

(a) A ski area operator shall develop and maintain a written policy covering situations involving reckless skiers, including a definition of reckless skiing, procedures for approaching and warning skiers regarding reckless conduct, and procedures for taking action against reckless skiers, including revocation of ski privileges. A ski area operator shall designate ski patrol personnel responsible for implementing the ski area operator’s policy regarding reckless skiers.

(b) A ski area operator, upon finding a person skiing in a careless and reckless manner, may revoke that person’s skiing privileges. This section may not be construed to create an affirmative duty on the part of the ski area operator to protect skiers from their own or from another skier’s carelessness or recklessness.

HISTORY: (§ 2 ch 63 SLA 1994)

USER NOTE: For more generally applicable notes, see notes under the first section of this article, chapter or title.

Sec. 05.45.100. Duties and responsibilities of skiers

(a) A skier is responsible for knowing the range of the skier’s own ability to negotiate a ski slope or trail and to ski within the limits of the skier’s ability. A skier is responsible for an injury to a person or property resulting from an inherent danger and risk of skiing, except that a skier is not precluded under this chapter from suing another skier for an injury to person or property resulting from the other skier’s acts or omissions. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the risk of a skier’s collision with another skier is not an inherent danger or risk of skiing in an action by one skier against another.

(b) A skier has the duty to maintain control of the skier’s speed and course at all times when skiing and to maintain a proper lookout so as to be able to avoid other skiers and objects. However, a person skiing downhill has the primary duty to avoid collision with a person or object below the skier.

(c) A skier may not

(1) ski on a ski slope or trail that has been posted as “closed” under AS 05.45.060(b)(5) and (d);

(2) use a ski unless the ski is equipped with a strap or other device capable of stopping the ski should the ski become unattached from the skier;

(3) cross the uphill track of a J-bar, T-bar, platter pull, or rope tow except at locations designated by the operator, or place an object in an uphill track;

(4) move uphill on a tramway or use a ski slope or trail while the skier’s ability is impaired by the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance as defined in AS 11.71.900 or other drug;

(5) knowingly enter upon public or private land from an adjoining ski area when the land has been closed by an owner and is posted by the owner or by the ski area operator under AS 05.45.060(e)(3).

(d) A skier shall stay clear of snow grooming equipment, vehicles, lift towers, signs, and other equipment on the ski slopes and trails.

(e) A skier has the duty to heed all posted information and other warnings and to refrain from acting in a manner that may cause or contribute to the injury of the skier or others. Evidence that the signs required by AS 05.45.050 and 05.45.060 were present, visible, and readable at the beginning of a given day creates a presumption that all skiers using the ski area on that day have seen and understood the signs.

(f) Before beginning to ski from a stationary position or before entering a ski slope or trail from the side, a skier has the duty to avoid moving skiers already on the ski slope or trail.

(g) Except for the purpose of securing aid for a person injured in the collision, a skier involved in a collision with another skier or person that results in an injury may not leave the vicinity of the collision before giving the skier’s name and current address to the other person involved in the collision and to an employee of the ski area operator or a member of the voluntary ski patrol. A person who leaves the scene of a collision to obtain aid shall give the person’s name and current address as required by this subsection after obtaining aid.

(h) A person who violates a provision of (c) or (g) of this section is guilty of a violation as defined in AS 11.81.900. The commissioner of natural resources, a person designated by the ski area operator who is authorized by the commissioner, or an employee of the Department of Natural Resources authorized by the commissioner may issue a citation in accordance with the provisions of AS 41.21.960 to a person who violates (c) or (g) of this section within a ski area.

(i) The supreme court shall establish by rule or order a schedule of bail amounts that may be forfeited without a court appearance for a violation of (c) or (g) of this section.

HISTORY: (§ 2 ch 63 SLA 1994; am §§ 1, 2 ch 64 SLA 2004)

NOTES: EFFECT OF AMENDMENTS.—The 2004 amendment, effective September 14, 2004, deleted “over which the state has jurisdiction” at the end of subsection (h), and added subsection (i).

USER NOTE: For more generally applicable notes, see notes under the first section of this article, chapter or title.

Sec. 05.45.110. Competition; immunity for ski area operator

(a) The ski area operator shall, before the beginning of a ski competition, allow an athlete who will ski in the competition a reasonable visual inspection of the course or area where the competition is to be held.

(b) An athlete skiing in competition assumes the risk of all course or area conditions, including weather and snow conditions, course construction or layout, and obstacles that a visual inspection would have revealed. A ski area operator is not liable for injury to an athlete who skis in competition and who is injured as a result of a risk described in this subsection.

HISTORY: (§ 2 ch 63 SLA 1994)

USER NOTE: For more generally applicable notes, see notes under the first section of this article, chapter or title.

Sec. 05.45.120. Use of liability releases

(a) A ski area operator may not require a skier to sign an agreement releasing the ski area operator from liability in exchange for the right to ride a ski area tramway and ski in the ski area. A release that violates this subsection is void and may not be enforced.

(b) Notwithstanding (a) of this section, a ski area operator may

(1) require a special event coach, participant, helper, spectator, or rental customer to sign an agreement releasing the ski area operator from liability in exchange for the right to coach, participate, assist in, or observe the special event; or

(2) use a release agreement required by a third party as a condition of operating a rental program or special event at the ski area.

(c) In this section, “special event” means an event, pass, race, program, rental program, or service that offers competition or other benefits in addition to a ticket representing the right to ride a ski area tramway and ski on the ski slopes or trails, whether or not additional consideration is paid.

HISTORY: (§ 2 ch 63 SLA 1994)

USER NOTE: For more generally applicable notes, see notes under the first section of this article, chapter or title.

Sec. 05.45.200. Definitions

In this chapter,

(1) “base area lift” means a tramway that skiers ordinarily use without first using some other tramway;

(2) “conditions of ordinary visibility” means daylight or, where applicable, nighttime, in nonprecipitating weather;

(3) “inherent danger and risk of skiing” means a danger or condition that is an integral part of the sport of skiing, including changing weather conditions; snow conditions as they exist or may change, including ice, hard pack, powder, packed powder, wind pack, corn, crust, slush, cut-up snow, and machine-made snow; surface or subsurface conditions including bare spots, forest growth, rocks, stumps, streams, streambeds, and trees, or other natural objects, and collisions with natural objects; impact with lift towers, signs, posts, fences or enclosures, hydrants, water pipes, other man-made structures, and their components; variations in steepness or terrain, whether natural or as a result of slope design, snowmaking or grooming operations, including roads and catwalks or other terrain modifications; collision with other skiers; and the failure of skiers to ski within their own abilities; the term “inherent danger and risk of skiing” does not include the negligence of a ski area operator under AS 05.45.020, or acts or omissions of a ski area operator involving the use or operation of ski lifts;

(4) “injury” means property damage, personal injury, or death;

(5) “passenger” means a person who is lawfully using a tramway;

(6) “ski area” means all downhill ski slopes or trails and other places under the control of a downhill ski area operator; “ski area” does not include a cross-country ski trail;

(7) “ski area operator” means a person having operational responsibility for a downhill ski area, and includes an agency of the state or a political subdivision of the state;

(8) “skier” means an individual using a downhill ski area for the purpose of

(A) skiing;

(B) sliding downhill on snow or ice on skis, a toboggan, a sled, a tube, a ski-bob, a snowboard, or another skiing or sliding device; or

(C) using any of the facilities of a ski area, including ski slopes and trails;

(9) “ski slopes or trails” means those areas designated by a ski area operator to be used by a skier;

(10) “tramway” means a device that is a passenger tramway, aerial or surface lift, ski lift, or rope tow regulated under AS 05.20.

HISTORY: (§ 2 ch 63 SLA 1994)

USER NOTE: For more generally applicable notes, see notes under the first section of this article, chapter or title.


Colorado Ski Safety Act

ARTICLE 44
SKI SAFETY AND LIABILITY

33-44-101. Short title. 1

33-44-102. Legislative declaration. 1

33-44-103. Definitions. 1

33-44-104. Negligence – civil actions. 3

33-44-105. Duties of passengers. 3

33-44-106. Duties of operators – signs. 4

33-44-107. Duties of ski area operators – signs and notices required for skiers’ information. 5

33-44-108. Ski area operators – additional duties. 7

33-44-109. Duties of skiers – penalties. 8

33-44-110. Competition and freestyle terrain. 9

33-44-111. Statute of limitation. 9

33-44-112. Limitation on actions for injury resulting from inherent dangers and risks of skiing. 10

33-44-113. Limitation of liability. 10

33-44-114. Inconsistent law or statute. 10

33-44-101. Short title.

This article shall be known and may be cited as the “Ski Safety Act of 1979”.

33-44-102. Legislative declaration.

The general assembly hereby finds and declares that it is in the interest of the state of Colorado to establish reasonable safety standards for the operation of ski areas and for the skiers using them. Realizing the dangers that inhere in the sport of skiing, regardless of any and all reasonable safety measures which can be employed, the purpose of this article is to supplement the passenger tramway safety provisions of part 7 of article 5 of title 25, C.R.S.; to further define the legal responsibilities of ski area operators and their agents and employees; to define the responsibilities of skiers using such ski areas; and to define the rights and liabilities existing between the skier and the ski area operator and between skiers.

33-44-103. Definitions.

As used in this article, unless the context otherwise requires:

(1) “Base area lift” means any passenger tramway which skiers ordinarily use without first using some other passenger tramway.

(2) “Competitor” means a skier actually engaged in competition, a special event, or training or practicing for competition or a special event on any portion of the area made available by the ski area operator.

(3) “Conditions of ordinary visibility” means daylight and, where applicable, nighttime in nonprecipitating weather.

(3.1) “Extreme terrain” means any place within the ski area boundary that contains cliffs with a minimum twenty-foot rise over a fifteen-foot run, and slopes with a minimum fifty-degree average pitch over a one-hundred-foot run.

(3.3) “Freestyle terrain” includes, but is not limited to, terrain parks and terrain park features such as jumps, rails, fun boxes, and all other constructed and natural features, half-pipes, quarter-pipes, and freestyle-bump terrain.

(3.5) “Inherent dangers and risks of skiing” means those dangers or conditions that are part of the sport of skiing, including changing weather conditions; snow conditions as they exist or may change, such as ice, hard pack, powder, packed powder, wind pack, corn, crust, slush, cut-up snow, and machine-made snow; surface or subsurface conditions such as bare spots, forest growth, rocks, stumps, streambeds, cliffs, extreme terrain, and trees, or other natural objects, and collisions with such natural objects; impact with lift towers, signs, posts, fences or enclosures, hydrants, water pipes, or other man-made structures and their components; variations in steepness or terrain, whether natural or as a result of slope design, snowmaking or grooming operations, including but not limited to roads, freestyle terrain, jumps, and catwalks or other terrain modifications; collisions with other skiers; and the failure of skiers to ski within their own abilities. The term “inherent dangers and risks of skiing” does not include the negligence of a ski area operator as set forth in section 33-44-104 (2). Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit the liability of the ski area operator for injury caused by the use or operation of ski lifts.

(4) “Passenger” means any person who is lawfully using any passenger tramway.

(5) “Passenger tramway” means a device as defined in section 25-5-702 (4), C.R.S.

(6) “Ski area” means all ski slopes or trails and all other places within the ski area boundary, marked in accordance with section 33-44-107 (6), under the control of a ski area operator and administered as a single enterprise within this state.

(7) “Ski area operator” means an “area operator” as defined in section 25-5-702 (1), C.R.S., and any person, partnership, corporation, or other commercial entity having operational responsibility for any ski areas, including an agency of this state or a political subdivision thereof.

(8) “Skier” means any person using a ski area for the purpose of skiing, which includes, without limitation, sliding downhill or jumping on snow or ice on skis, a toboggan, a sled, a tube, a snowbike, a snowboard, or any other device; or for the purpose of using any of the facilities of the ski area, including but not limited to ski slopes and trails.

(9) “Ski slopes or trails” means all ski slopes or trails and adjoining skiable terrain, including all their edges and features, and those areas designated by the ski area operator to be used by skiers for any of the purposes enumerated in subsection (8) of this section. Such designation shall be set forth on trail maps, if provided, and designated by signs indicating to the skiing public the intent that such areas be used by skiers for the purpose of skiing. Nothing in this subsection (9) or in subsection (8) of this section, however, shall imply that ski slopes or trails may not be restricted for use by persons using skis only or for use by persons using any other device described in subsection (8) of this section.

33-44-104. Negligence – civil actions.

(1) A violation of any requirement of this article shall, to the extent such violation causes injury to any person or damage to property, constitute negligence on the part of the person violating such requirement.

(2) A violation by a ski area operator of any requirement of this article or any rule or regulation promulgated by the passenger tramway safety board pursuant to section 25-5-704 (1) (a), C.R.S., shall, to the extent such violation causes injury to any person or damage to property, constitute negligence on the part of such operator.

(3) All rules adopted or amended by the passenger tramway safety board on or after July 1, 1979, shall be subject to sections 24-4-103 (8) (c) and (8) (d) and 24-34-104 (9) (b) (II), C.R.S.

33-44-105. Duties of passengers.

(1) No passenger shall board a passenger tramway if he does not have sufficient physical dexterity, ability, and knowledge to negotiate or use such facility safely or until such passenger has asked for and received information sufficient to enable him to use the equipment safely. A passenger is required to follow any written or verbal instructions that are given to him regarding the use of the passenger tramway.

(2) No passenger shall:

(a) Embark upon or disembark from a passenger tramway except at a designated area except in the event of a stoppage of the passenger tramway (and then only under the supervision of the operator) or unless reasonably necessary in the event of an emergency to prevent injury to the passenger or others;

(b) Throw or expel any object from any passenger tramway while riding on such device, except as permitted by the operator;

(c) Act, while riding on a passenger tramway, in any manner that may interfere with proper or safe operation of such passenger tramway;

(d) Engage in any type of conduct that may contribute to or cause injury to any person;

(e) Place in an uphill track of a J-bar, T-bar, platter pull, rope tow, or any other surface lift any object that could cause another skier to fall;

(f) Embark upon a passenger tramway marked as closed;

(g) Disobey any instructions posted in accordance with this article or any verbal instructions by the ski area operator regarding the proper or safe use of a passenger tramway unless such verbal instructions are contrary to this article or the rules promulgated under it, or contrary to posted instructions.

33-44-106. Duties of operators – signs.

(1) Each ski area operator shall maintain a sign system with concise, simple, and pertinent information for the protection and instruction of passengers. Signs shall be prominently placed on each passenger tramway readable in conditions of ordinary visibility and, where applicable, adequately lighted for nighttime passengers. Signs shall be posted as follows:

(a) At or near the loading point of each passenger tramway, regardless of the type, advising that any person not familiar with the operation of the device shall ask the operator of the device for assistance and instruction;

(b) At the interior of each two-car and multicar passenger tramway, showing:

(I) The maximum capacity in pounds of the car and the maximum number of passengers allowed;

(II) Instructions for procedures in emergencies;

(c) In a conspicuous place at each loading area of two-car and multicar passenger tramways, stating the maximum capacity in pounds of the car and the maximum number of passengers allowed;

(d) At all chair lifts, stating the following:

(I) “Prepare to Unload”, which shall be located not less than fifty feet ahead of the unloading area;

(II) “Keep Ski Tips Up”, which shall be located ahead of any point where the skis may come in contact with a platform or the snow surface;

(III) “Unload Here”, which shall be located at the point designated for unloading;

(IV) “Safety Gate”, which shall be located where applicable;

(V) “Remove Pole Straps from Wrists”, which shall be located prominently at each loading area;

(VI) “Check for Loose Clothing and Equipment”, which shall be located before the “Prepare to Unload” sign;

(e) At all J-bars, T-bars, platter pulls, rope tows, and any other surface lift, stating the following:

(I) “Remove Pole Straps from Wrists”, which shall be placed at or near the loading area;

(II) “Stay in Tracks”, “Unload Here”, and “Safety Gate”, which shall be located where applicable;

(III) “Prepare to Unload”, which shall be located not less than fifty feet ahead of each unloading area;

(f) Near the boarding area of all J-bars, T-bars, platter pulls, rope tows, and any other surface lift, advising passengers to check to be certain that clothing, scarves, and hair will not become entangled with the lift;

(g) At or near the boarding area of all lifts, regarding the requirements of section 33-44-109 (6).

(2) Other signs not specified by subsection (1) of this section may be posted at the discretion of the ski area operator.

(3) The ski area operator, before opening the passenger tramway to the public each day, shall inspect such passenger tramway for the presence and visibility of the signs required by subsection (1) of this section.

(4) The extent of the responsibility of the ski area operator under this section shall be to post and maintain such signs as are required by subsection (1) of this section in such condition that they may be viewed during conditions of ordinary visibility. Evidence that signs required by subsection (1) of this section were present, visible, and readable where required at the beginning of the passenger tramway operation on any given day raises a presumption that all passengers using said devices have seen and understood said signs.

33-44-107. Duties of ski area operators – signs and notices required for skiers’ information.

(1) Each ski area operator shall maintain a sign and marking system as set forth in this section in addition to that required by section 33-44-106. All signs required by this section shall be maintained so as to be readable and recognizable under conditions of ordinary visibility.

(2) A sign shall be placed in such a position as to be recognizable as a sign to skiers proceeding to the uphill loading point of each base area lift depicting and explaining signs and symbols which the skier may encounter at the ski area as follows:

(a) The ski area’s least difficult trails and slopes, designated by a green circle and the word “easiest”;

(b) The ski area’s most difficult trails and slopes, designated by a black diamond and the words “most difficult”;

(c) The ski area’s trails and slopes which have a degree of difficulty that falls between the green circle and the black diamond designation, designated by a blue square and the words “more difficult”;

(d) The ski area’s extreme terrain shall be signed at the commonly used access designated with two black diamonds containing the letters “E” in one and “X” in the other in white and the words “extreme terrain”. The ski area’s specified freestyle terrain areas shall be designated with an orange oval.

(e) Closed trails or slopes, designated by an octagonal-shaped sign with a red border around a white interior containing a black figure in the shape of a skier with a black band running diagonally across the sign from the upper right-hand side to the lower left-hand side and with the word “Closed” printed beneath the emblem.

(3) If applicable, a sign shall be placed at or near the loading point of each passenger tramway, as follows:

“WARNING: This lift services (most difficult) or (most difficult and more difficult) or (more difficult) slopes only.”

(4) If a particular trail or slope or portion of a trail or slope is closed to the public by a ski area operator, such operator shall place a sign notifying the public of that fact at each identified entrance of each portion of the trail or slope involved. Alternatively, such a trail or slope or portion thereof may be closed with ropes or fences.

(5) The ski area operator shall place a sign at or near the beginning of each trail or slope, which sign shall contain the appropriate symbol of the relative degree of difficulty of that particular trail or slope as set forth by subsection (2) of this section. This requirement shall not apply to a slope or trail designated “easiest” which to a skier is substantially visible in its entirety under conditions of ordinary visibility prior to his beginning to ski the same.

(6) The ski area operator shall mark its ski area boundaries in a fashion readily visible to skiers under conditions of ordinary visibility. Where the owner of land adjoining a ski area closes all or part of his land and so advises the ski area operator, such portions of the boundary shall be signed as required by paragraph (e) of subsection (2) of this section. This requirement shall not apply in heavily wooded areas or other nonskiable terrain.

(7) The ski area operator shall mark hydrants, water pipes, and all other man-made structures on slopes and trails which are not readily visible to skiers under conditions of ordinary visibility from a distance of at least one hundred feet and shall adequately and appropriately cover such obstructions with a shock-absorbent material that will lessen injuries. Any type of marker shall be sufficient, including but not limited to wooden poles, flags, or signs, if the marker is visible from a distance of one hundred feet and if the marker itself does not constitute a serious hazard to skiers. Variations in steepness or terrain, whether natural or as a result of slope design or snowmaking or grooming operations, including but not limited to roads and catwalks or other terrain modifications, are not man-made structures, as that term is used in this article.

(8) (a) Each ski area operator shall post and maintain signs which contain the warning notice specified in paragraph (c) of this subsection (8). Such signs shall be placed in a clearly visible location at the ski area where the lift tickets and ski school lessons are sold and in such a position to be recognizable as a sign to skiers proceeding to the uphill loading point of each base area lift. Each sign shall be no smaller than three feet by three feet. Each sign shall be white with black and red letters as specified in this paragraph (a). The words “WARNING” shall appear on the sign in red letters. The warning notice specified in paragraph (c) of this subsection (8) shall appear on the sign in black letters, with each letter to be a minimum of one inch in height.

(b) Every ski lift ticket sold or made available for sale to skiers by any ski area operator shall contain in clearly readable print the warning notice specified in paragraph (c) of this subsection (8).

(c) The signs described in paragraph (a) of this subsection (8) and the lift tickets described in paragraph (b) of this subsection (8) shall contain the following warning notice:

WARNING

Under Colorado law, a skier assumes the risk of any injury to person or property resulting from any of the inherent dangers and risks of skiing and may not recover from any ski area operator for any injury resulting from any of the inherent dangers and risks of skiing, including: Changing weather conditions; existing and changing snow conditions; bare spots; rocks; stumps; trees; collisions with natural objects, man-made objects, or other skiers; variations in terrain; and the failure of skiers to ski within their own abilities.

33-44-108. Ski area operators – additional duties.

(1) Any motorized snow-grooming vehicle shall be equipped with a light visible at any time the vehicle is moving on or in the vicinity of a ski slope or trail.

(2) Whenever maintenance equipment is being employed to maintain or groom any ski slope or trail while such ski slope or trail is open to the public, the ski area operator shall place or cause to be placed a conspicuous notice to that effect at or near the top of that ski slope or trail. This requirement shall not apply to maintenance equipment transiting to or from a grooming project.

(3) All snowmobiles operated on the ski slopes or trails of a ski area shall be equipped with at least the following: One lighted headlamp, one lighted red tail lamp, a brake system maintained in operable condition, and a fluorescent flag at least forty square inches mounted at least six feet above the bottom of the tracks.

(4) The ski area operator shall have no duty arising out of its status as a ski area operator to any skier skiing beyond the area boundaries marked as required by section 33-44-107 (6).

(5) The ski area operator, upon finding a person skiing in a careless and reckless manner, may revoke that person’s skiing privileges. This subsection (5) shall not be construed to create an affirmative duty on the part of the ski area operator to protect skiers from their own or from another skier’s carelessness or recklessness.

33-44-109. Duties of skiers – penalties.

(1) Each skier solely has the responsibility for knowing the range of his own ability to negotiate any ski slope or trail and to ski within the limits of such ability. Each skier expressly accepts and assumes the risk of and all legal responsibility for any injury to person or property resulting from any of the inherent dangers and risks of skiing; except that a skier is not precluded under this article from suing another skier for any injury to person or property resulting from such other skier’s acts or omissions. Notwithstanding any provision of law or statute to the contrary, the risk of a skier/skier collision is neither an inherent risk nor a risk assumed by a skier in an action by one skier against another.

(2) Each skier has the duty to maintain control of his speed and course at all times when skiing and to maintain a proper lookout so as to be able to avoid other skiers and objects. However, the primary duty shall be on the person skiing downhill to avoid collision with any person or objects below him.

(3) No skier shall ski on a ski slope or trail that has been posted as “Closed” pursuant to section 33-44-107 (2) (e) and (4).

(4) Each skier shall stay clear of snow-grooming equipment, all vehicles, lift towers, signs, and any other equipment on the ski slopes and trails.

(5) Each skier has the duty to heed all posted information and other warnings and to refrain from acting in a manner which may cause or contribute to the injury of the skier or others. Each skier shall be presumed to have seen and understood all information posted in accordance with this article near base area lifts, on the passenger tramways, and on such ski slopes or trails as he is skiing. Under conditions of decreased visibility, the duty is on the skier to locate and ascertain the meaning of all signs posted in accordance with sections 33-44-106 and 33-44-107.

(6) Each ski or snowboard used by a skier while skiing shall be equipped with a strap or other device capable of stopping the ski or snowboard should the ski or snowboard become unattached from the skier. This requirement shall not apply to cross country skis.

(7) No skier shall cross the uphill track of a J-bar, T-bar, platter pull, or rope tow except at locations designated by the operator; nor shall a skier place any object in such an uphill track.

(8) Before beginning to ski from a stationary position or before entering a ski slope or trail from the side, the skier shall have the duty of avoiding moving skiers already on the ski slope or trail.

(9) No person shall move uphill on any passenger tramway or use any ski slope or trail while such person’s ability to do so is impaired by the consumption of alcohol or by the use of any controlled substance, as defined in section 12-22-303 (7), C.R.S., or other drug or while such person is under the influence of alcohol or any controlled substance, as defined in section 12-22-303 (7), C.R.S., or other drug.

(10) No skier involved in a collision with another skier or person in which an injury results shall leave the vicinity of the collision before giving his or her name and current address to an employee of the ski area operator or a member of the ski patrol, except for the purpose of securing aid for a person injured in the collision; in which event the person so leaving the scene of the collision shall give his or her name and current address as required by this subsection (10) after securing such aid.

(11) No person shall knowingly enter upon public or private lands from an adjoining ski area when such land has been closed by its owner and so posted by the owner or by the ski area operator pursuant to section 33-44-107 (6).

(12) Any person who violates any of the provisions of subsection (3), (9), (10), or (11) of this section is guilty of a class 2 petty offense and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine of not more than three hundred dollars.

33-44-110. Competition and freestyle terrain.

(1) The ski area operator shall, prior to use of any portion of the area made available by the ski area operator, allow each competitor an opportunity to reasonably visually inspect the course, venue, or area.

(2) The competitor shall be held to assume the risk of all course, venue, or area conditions, including, but not limited to, weather and snow conditions; obstacles; course or feature location, construction, or layout; freestyle terrain configuration and conditions; and other courses, layouts, or configurations of the area to be used. No liability shall attach to a ski area operator for injury or death to any competitor caused by course, venue, or area conditions that a visual inspection should have revealed or by collisions with other competitors.

33-44-111. Statute of limitation.

All actions against any ski area operator or its employees brought to recover damages for injury to person or property caused by the maintenance, supervision, or operation of a passenger tramway or a ski area shall be brought within two years after the claim for relief arises and not thereafter.

33-44-112. Limitation on actions for injury resulting from inherent dangers and risks of skiing.

Notwithstanding any judicial decision or any other law or statute to the contrary, including but not limited to sections 13-21-111 and 13-21-111.7, C.R.S., no skier may make any claim against or recover from any ski area operator for injury resulting from any of the inherent dangers and risks of skiing.

33-44-113. Limitation of liability.

The total amount of damages which may be recovered from a ski area operator by a skier who uses a ski area for the purpose of skiing or for the purpose of sliding downhill on snow or ice on skis, a toboggan, a sled, a tube, a ski-bob, a snowboard, or any other device and who is injured, excluding those associated with an injury occurring to a passenger while riding on a passenger tramway, shall not exceed one million dollars, present value, including any derivative claim by any other claimant, which shall not exceed two hundred fifty thousand dollars, present value, and including any claim attributable to noneconomic loss or injury, as defined in sections 13-21-102.5 (2), C.R.S., whether past damages, future damages, or a combination of both, which shall not exceed two hundred fifty thousand dollars. If, upon good cause shown, the court determines that the present value of the amount of lost past earnings and the present value of lost future earnings, or the present value of past medical and other health care costs and the present value of the amount of future medical and other health care costs, or both, when added to the present value of other past damages and the present value of other future damages, would exceed such limitation and that the application of such limitation would be unfair, the court may award damages in excess of the limitation equal to the present value of additional future damages, but only for the loss of such excess future earnings, or such excess future medical and other health care costs, or both. For purposes of this section, “present value” has the same meaning as that set forth in section 13-64-202 (7), C.R.S., and “past damages” has the same meaning as that set forth in section 13-64-202 (6), C.R.S. The existence of the limitations and exceptions thereto provided in this section shall not be disclosed to a jury.

33-44-114. Inconsistent law or statute.

Insofar as any provision of law or statute is inconsistent with the provisions of this article, this article controls.


Heavenly (Vail) being sued for off duty employee hitting a skier

Lawsuit claims heavenly is liable for not teaching the employee how to board?

What appears to be a beginner skier was hit by a snowboarder at Heavenly Ski Resort. Heavenly is owned by Vail Resorts. The article refers to

English: Heavenly Ski Resort ski lift, with ba...

both resorts interchangeably. The snowboarder was an off duty Heavenly employee. The employee was working as a temporary seasonal employee and from Brazil.

The lawsuit claims that Heavenly is liable because:

…Heavenly solicits foreign employees, offers free season ski passes for use when they’re off duty, discounted merchandise, food and beverage, and low-cost housing that the company is responsible for their presence on the slopes.

Sullivan argues that the resort doesn’t provide adequate training to the employees on skiing and boarding skills and the need to follow the resort’s responsibility code.

I think that is a stretch. I think that claim has been stretched to Brazil and back. If Vail is liable for not teaching an employee how to ski, McDonald’s is in big trouble for not teaching its employees how to i.

See Gardnerville couple suing ski resort in accident or Second skier sues Vail Resorts claiming a Heavenly employee injured him while snowboarding out of control.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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Upky v. Marshall Mountain, Llc, 2008 MT 90; 342 Mont. 273; 180 P.3d 651; 2008 Mont. LEXIS 94

Upky v. Marshall Mountain, Llc, 2008 MT 90; 342 Mont. 273; 180 P.3d 651; 2008 Mont. LEXIS 94

CHAD UPKY, Plaintiff, v. MARSHALL MOUNTAIN, LLC, Defendant, and MARSHALL MOUNTAIN, LLC, Third-Party Plaintiff and Appellant, v. BOARD OF MISSOULA, INC. and BOARD OF MISSOULA, LLC, Third-Party Defendants and Appellees.
DA 06-0109
SUPREME COURT OF MONTANA
2008 MT 90; 342 Mont. 273; 180 P.3d 651; 2008 Mont. LEXIS 94
May 16, 2007, Submitted on Briefs
March 18, 2008, Decided
April 3, 2008, Released for Publication
PRIOR HISTORY:
APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, In and For the County of Missoula, Cause No. DV 02-112. Honorable John W. Larson, Presiding Judge.
Upky v. Marshall Mt., 2004 Mont. Dist. LEXIS 3716 (2004)
CASE SUMMARY:
PROCEDURAL POSTURE: Plaintiff accident victim brought a negligence suit against defendant ski area owner, which in turn filed a complaint against third-party defendant ski jump builder for contribution or indemnification. After a jury trial on the third-party complaint, the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, County of Missoula (Montana), entered judgment in favor of the builder. The owner appealed.
OVERVIEW: After the ski area owner and the accident victim came to a settlement, the ski jump builder was allowed to amend its answer to the owner’s complaint, pursuant to M.R. Civ.P. 15(a), to include a claim that the victim’s negligence, in combination with that of the owner, caused his injuries. The supreme court held that the trial court did not err when it permitted the builder to amend its answer, and that even if there was error, it was harmless because: (1) the jury, in determining that the builder was not negligent, did not reach the question whether the victim was negligent; and (2) thus there was no prejudice to the owner. The supreme court also held that the record demonstrated that substantial credible evidence supported the jury’s verdict that the builder was not negligent; because the evidence was conflicting; the supreme court deferred to the jury’s determination as to which evidence was more credible.
OUTCOME: The trial court’s judgment was affirmed.
CORE TERMS: jump, amend, bamboo, poles, jury verdict, comparative negligence, skiers, ski, credible evidence, constructed, prejudiced, snowboard, morning, jury’s decision, conflicting evidence, unfinished, harmless, ski area, snowboarders, patrol, verdict form, responsive pleading, reasonable mind, inspected, non-party, apportion, predicate, credible, manager, marked
COUNSEL: For Appellant: Gig A. Tollefsen, Berg, Lilly & Tollefsen, P.C., Bozeman, Montana.
For Appellees: Maxon R. Davis, Davis, Hatley, Haffeman & Tighe, Great Falls, Montana.
JUDGES: JOHN WARNER. We Concur: JIM RICE, JAMES C. NELSON, PATRICIA COTTER, BRIAN MORRIS.
OPINION BY: John Warner
OPINION
[***652] [**274] Justice John Warner delivered the Opinion of the Court. [*P1] Third-party plaintiff Marshall Mountain, LLC (Marshall Mountain) appeals from a judgment entered in the Fourth Judicial District Court, Missoula County, in favor of third-party defendants Board of Missoula, Inc. and Board of Missoula, LLC (Board of Missoula), dismissing its third party complaint after a jury verdict in Board of Missoula’s favor.
[*P2] We restate and address the issues on appeal as follows:
[*P3] 1. Did the District Court err when it granted Board of Missoula’s motion to amend its answer to allege comparative negligence by Chad Upky?
[*P4] 2. Was the jury’s verdict that Board of Missoula was not negligent supported by substantial credible evidence?
BACKGROUND
[*P5] On February 12, 1999, eighteen year old Chad Upky was rendered a paraplegic in a skiing accident at Marshall Mountain ski area. The injuries occurred when Upky skied over a ski jump ramp constructed at Marshall Mountain for use in an upcoming snowboard competition. Upky became inverted when he skied over the jump and was injured when he landed.
[**275] [*P6] Board of Missoula was a local snowboard shop that in the years before Upky’s accident had worked with Marshall Mountain to construct jumps for use in snowboard competitions at the ski area. In prior years, the jumps had been constructed up to two weeks before the competition and had remained open for use by skiers at Marshall Mountain. In 1999, Marshall Mountain’s [***653] owner, Bruce Doering, and Board of Missoula’s co-owner, Wright Hollingsworth, agreed to construct a jump for use in that year’s competition. The ski jump on which Upky was injured was constructed two days before the accident. Doering later claimed, on behalf of Marshall Mountain, that he understood the jump would be open for use before the February 1999 competition. To the contrary, Hollingsworth asserted that he and Doering had agreed the jump would be closed prior to the 1999 competition.
[*P7] On Wednesday, February 10, 1999, before the snowboard competition scheduled for the next Saturday, Hollingsworth went to Marshall Mountain after the ski area closed for the evening and built the jump with the help of Marshall Mountain’s snowcat operator, Tyson Miller. Miller and Hollingsworth worked on the jump from about 10:00 p.m. Wednesday night until 2:00 a.m. the next morning. Hollingsworth later said that he wanted to hand finish the jump in the daylight using shovels. It was his opinion that the jump should not be opened for use until it was finished. He said that before he left early Thursday morning he laid bamboo poles across the jump to indicate that it was closed. Hollingsworth said that he believed the ski patrol would see the bamboo poles when they inspected the area in the morning and would keep the jump closed. Later, members of the ski patrol and other employees of Marshall Mountain disagreed about whether there were bamboo poles across the jump on Thursday morning.
[*P8] No matter whether Hollingsworth had marked the jump as closed with bamboo poles, the jump was open for use by skiers and snowboarders that Thursday and again on Friday. Doering and the ski patrol examined the jump, and it was left open for skiers and snowboarders. Doering stated that he had ultimate authority on whether or not to allow Marshall Mountain patrons to use the jump. Several employees of Marshall Mountain used the jump with no problem.
[*P9] On Friday, the day of Upky’s accident, the jump was open throughout the day. Late in the day, a Marshall Mountain employee suggested to Doering that they close the jump due to changing snow [**276] and lighting conditions. However, Doering decided to keep the jump open. Chris Laws, Board of Missoula’s retail manager, was at Marshall Mountain on Friday. He noticed the jump was open, even though he understood it was supposed to be closed.
[*P10] On Friday evening, Upky and some friends approached the jump. Upky claimed that he tried to slow himself going into the jump by snowplowing with his skis and went over the jump at a controlled speed. Other witnesses to the accident, including Doering and Laws, stated the Upky “bombed” the jump by going into it extremely fast. Upky suffered severe injuries as a result of his fall, including a broken neck that resulted in his paraplegia.
[*P11] In 2002, Upky brought suit against Marshall Mountain, alleging that its negligence was the cause of his injuries. Upky made no claim against Board of Missoula. In its answer, Marshall Mountain denied any negligence and asserted affirmative defenses, including Upky’s comparative negligence. Marshall Mountain filed a third-party complaint against Board of Missoula seeking contribution or indemnification, asserting that Board of Missoula was responsible for any negligence in the construction of the jump. In its answer, Board of Missoula denied it had been negligent and went on to claim that the jump was unfinished when Upky used it and that it had cordoned off the jump to prevent its use prior to the competition, but Marshall Mountain negligently allowed the use of the jump on the day of Upky’s accident. Subsequently, Board of Missoula, in response to a request for admission, admitted that it had left the jump in an unfinished condition and that it was dangerous. However, it qualified the admission to state that the actions of Marshall Mountain in removing the bamboo poles marking the jump closed and allowing its patrons to use the jump were careless and caused Upky’s injuries.
[*P12] Following discovery, Board of Missoula moved for summary judgment, arguing that it was not negligent as a matter of law. The District Court denied the motion for summary judgment in November 2003.
[***654] [*P13] In December 2003, Marshall Mountain and Upky settled Upky’s claim. In March 2004, the District Court noted that because of the settlement only Marshall Mountain’s claims against Board of Missoula remained to be litigated; Upky’s claims against Marshall Mountain were later dismissed.
[*P14] In July 2004, Board of Missoula moved to amend its answer, pursuant to M. R. Civ. P. 15(a), to include a claim that Upky’s negligence, in combination with that of Marshall Mountain, caused his [**277] injuries, and to have the jury determine the extent of his negligence as a non-party under § 27-1-703, MCA. Board of Missoula’s amended answer reasserted the claim in the original answer that Board of Missoula was not negligent and Marshall Mountain was negligent for allowing skiers to use the unfinished jump. The amended answer only added the assertion that both Upky and Marshall Mountain caused or contributed to the damages alleged by Upky. Board of Missoula did not attempt to withdraw its admission that the jump was dangerous. Marshall Mountain opposed the motion, arguing that it came too late and the amendment adding a claim of comparative negligence by Upky would be unfairly prejudicial. The District Court granted the motion to amend.
[*P15] A jury trial on the third-party complaint began December 5, 2005. At trial, numerous witnesses provided conflicting evidence on the events surrounding Upky’s injuries. The witnesses’ testimony varied widely on whether Doering and Hollingsworth had agreed to close the jump prior to the competition, whether Hollingsworth placed bamboo poles on the jump, and how dangerous, if at all, the jump was for skiers and snowboarders. There was also conflicting evidence regarding the exact circumstances of Upky’s fall, specifically how far away he was when he began approaching the jump and how fast he went over the jump.
[*P16] The special verdict form submitted to the jury first instructed it to determine if Board of Missoula was negligent. Only if the jury found that Board of Missoula was negligent was it to decide if Upky and Marshall Mountain were also negligent and fix the percentages of negligence. The jury returned its verdict finding that Board of Missoula was not negligent. Thus, it did not apportion fault. The District Court entered a final judgment in favor of Board of Missoula. Marshall Mountain appeals.
DISCUSSION
[*P17] Issue 1: Did the District Court err when it granted Board of Missoula’s motion to amend its answer to allege comparative negligence by Chad Upky?
[*P18] The Montana Rules of Civil Procedure provide for amendments to pleadings:
[HN1] A party may amend the party’s pleading once as a matter of course at any time before a responsive pleading is served or, if the pleading is one to which no responsive pleading is permitted and the action has not been placed upon the trial calendar, the party [**278] may so amend it at any time within 20 days after it is served. Otherwise a party may amend the party’s pleading only by leave of court or by written consent of the adverse party; and leave shall be freely given when justice so requires.
M. R. Civ. P. 15(a). [HN2] While amendments are not permitted in every circumstance, we have emphasized that, as Rule 15(a) states, leave to amend should be “freely given” by district courts. Loomis v. Luraski, 2001 MT 223, P 41, 306 Mont. 478, P 41, 36 P.3d 862, P 41. District courts should permit a party to amend the pleadings when, inter alia, allowing an amendment would not cause undue prejudice to the opposing party. Prentice Lumber Co. v. Hukill, 161 Mont. 8, 17, 504 P.2d 277, 282 (1972) (quoting Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182, 83 S. Ct. 227, 230, 9 L. Ed. 2d 222 (1962)).
[*P19] Marshall Mountain claims it was prejudiced by the amendment to the pleadings which allowed the jury to consider Upky’s negligence. However, the jury heard all of the evidence concerning the actions of Board of Missoula presented by Marshall Mountain, which included the admission that the jump was dangerous, and nevertheless determined that Board of Missoula was not negligent. Thus, it did not reach the question [***655] of whether Upky was negligent. As the jury did not consider any negligence on the part of Upky in reaching its verdict, there was no prejudice to Marshall Mountain. [HN3] When a special verdict requires a jury to answer a question only if it first determines that a predicate question is answered in the affirmative, and the jury answers the predicate question in the negative, we have consistently held that the party objecting to the submission of the second, unanswered question is not prejudiced. Under such circumstances we consider any error harmless, and decline to interfere with the jury’s decision. See e.g. Payne v. Knutson, 2004 MT 271, PP 17-18, 323 Mont. 165, PP 17-18, 99 P.3d 200, PP 17-18 (concluding there was no prejudice to the plaintiff where the jury was not instructed to apportion negligence among the defendants because the jury found the plaintiff was more than 50% negligent and thus could not recover); Peschke v. Carroll College, 280 Mont. 331, 343, 929 P.2d 874, 881 (1996) (concluding that although a district court erred in admitting a videotape, it went to the issue of causation, which the jury did not reach, and the error was thus harmless); Drilcon, Inc. v. Roil Energy Corp., 230 Mont. 166, 173, 749 P.2d 1058, 1062 (1988) (declining to address appellant’s argument that the special verdict form erroneously included non-parties because the jury apportioned negligence only among the parties to the action and appellant was not prejudiced).
[**279] [*P20] We affirm the District Court’s order allowing Board of Missoula to amend the pleadings to allege Upky’s comparative negligence because Marshall Mountain was not prejudiced by it and any error was harmless.
[*P21] Issue 2: Was the jury’s verdict that Board of Missoula was not negligent supported by substantial credible evidence?
[*P22] [HN4] This Court does not review a jury verdict to determine if it was correct. We review a jury’s decision only to determine if substantial credible evidence in the record supports the verdict. Campbell v. Canty, 1998 MT 278, P 17, 291 Mont. 398, P 17, 969 P.2d 268, P 17; Wise v. Ford Motor Co., 284 Mont. 336, 343, 943 P.2d 1310, 1314 (1997). Substantial evidence is “evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion” and may be less than a preponderance of the evidence but must be more than a “mere scintilla.” Campbell, P 18.
[*P23] [HN5] It is the role of the jury to determine the weight and credibility of the evidence, and this Court will defer to the jury’s role. Seeley v. Kreitzberg Rentals, LLC, 2007 MT 97, P 21, 337 Mont. 91, P 21, 157 P.3d 676, P 21, overruled on other grounds, Giambra v. Kelsey, 2007 MT 158, P 27, 338 Mont. 19, P 27, 162 P.3d 134, P 27. [HN6] We view the evidence in the light most favorable to the prevailing party. Where conflicting evidence exists, we will not overturn a jury’s decision to believe one party over another. Samson v. State, 2003 MT 133, P 11, 316 Mont. 90, P 11, 69 P.3d 1154, P 11.
[*P24] The record before us demonstrates that substantial credible evidence supports the jury’s verdict that Board of Missoula was not negligent. Hollingsworth testified that he and Doering agreed the jump would be closed prior to the competition. Hollingsworth also testified that he had marked the jump closed with bamboo poles the night it was constructed, and other testimony supported this assertion. There was also evidence that only Marshall Mountain had the ultimate decision-making authority to open or close the jump. Marshall Mountain’s manager, Doering, testified he inspected the jump and thought it was safe. This evidence, which does not include the testimony describing Upky’s actions, provided the jury with an adequate basis to support its decision that Board of Missoula was not negligent. Campbell, P 18.
[*P25] There is also evidence which would tend to show Board of Missoula was negligent. However, because the evidence is conflicting we defer to the jury’s determination as to which evidence is more credible. Seeley, P 21. We conclude that the record contains sufficient [**280] evidence for reasonable minds to conclude that Board of Missoula was not negligent.
[***656] CONCLUSION
[*P26] The District Court did not err when it permitted Board of Missoula to amend its answer, and the jury verdict is supported by substantial credible evidence.
[*P27] Affirmed.
/S/ JOHN WARNER
We Concur:
/S/ JIM RICE
/S/ JAMES C. NELSON
/S/ PATRICIA COTTER
/S/ BRIAN MORRIS