Rothstein v. Snowbird Corporation (UT 2007)
In an amazing decision, the Utah Supreme Court ruled releases were no longer valid as a defense by Utah Ski Areas. With one statement, “We hold that the releases are contrary to the public policy of this state and are, therefore, unenforceable” place all outdoor recreation activities in Utah at risk.
In more confusing is the same Utah Supreme Court less than 90 days earlier had upheld a release signed by a skier in Berry v. Greater Park City Company, 2007 UT 87; 171 P.3d 442; 590 Utah Adv. Rep. 3; 2007 Utah LEXIS 192.
Yet 50 days later the same court upheld an injured skier’s right to sue, even though the skier had signed two different releases. In Rothstein the plaintiff had signed a release for his season pass at the defendant resort and a release for his Seven Summits Club Membership. Rothstein was injured when he skied into a retaining wall above where the wall had been roped off. There was a light dusting of snow which partially or did hide the retaining wall.
The court then analyzed the legislatures intention in creating the Utah’s Inherent Risks of Skiing Act, Utah Code Ann. §§ 78-27-51 to -54 (2002 & Supp. 2007) and concluded the act was enacted to help ski areas keep insurance costs down. In effect because the legislature had enacted an act to help the resorts, the resorts were limited solely to the defenses provided by the act.
For an analysis of this case see: Utah Supreme Court flip flop on releases for ski areas could have broader consequence (Subscription).