185 Mile Running Race release was clear and under Washington, law was sufficient to beat a Public Policy & ambiguous argument by plaintiff

Decision clearly sets forth the requirements for the plaintiff to prove her claims which she failed to do.

Johnson et al., v. Spokane to Sandpoint, LLC, et al., 176 Wn. App. 453; 309 P.3d 528; 2013 Wash. App. LEXIS 1696

State: Washington, Court of Appeals of Washington, Division Three

Plaintiff: Robin Johnson and Craig Johnson

Defendant: Spokane to Sandpoint, LLC, et al.

Plaintiff Claims: Negligence & Gross Negligence

Defendant Defenses: Release

Holding: for the defendant

Year: 2013

The plaintiff, an attorney signed up for the Spokane to Sandpoint race. The race is a team race run over two days and nights. The race is 185 miles long and an open course, meaning there is traffic on the course.

Spokane to Sandpoint promotes a long-distance relay race from the Spokane area to Sandpoint, Idaho, involving teams running a 185-mile course over two days, day and night. The course is open, meaning it is not closed to public traffic.

The racers sign up online and sign an electronic release. The racers also receive a race handbook. The handbook explains the race and includes sections on crossing roads, highways and train tracks.

The plaintiff was crossing a highway, and she was hit by a car. The driver of the car stated the plaintiff walked out in front of her without looking. The plaintiff settled with the driver before this appeal.

As Ms. Johnson was crossing U.S. Route 2, Madilyn Young was driving about 63 miles per hour southbound in the outside lane on U.S. Route 2, approaching the Colbert Road intersection. Ac-cording to Ms. Young’s statement to the police, she saw Ms. Johnson crossing the northbound lanes of U.S. Route 2 and saw her continue into the southbound lanes without looking for cars. Ms. Young was unable to stop in time to avoid a collision. Ms. Johnson suffered severe injuries.

The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, which was granted and this appeal followed.

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

The appellate court first looked at the requirements for the plaintiff to survive and proceed to trial.

To prevail on a negligence claim against Spokane to Sandpoint, the Johnsons must establish Spokane to Sandpoint owed them a duty. Whether such a duty exists is a question of law. Id. The parties may, subject to certain exceptions, expressly agree in advance that one party is under no obligation of care to the other, and shall not be held liable for ordinary negligence.

The court then looked at the requirements for releases to be valid under Washington’s law. (Of note, the court calls the exculpatory clause a waiver clause. However, the court refers to the agreement as a release.)

The function of a waiver provision is “to deny an injured party the right to recover damages from the person negligently causing the injury.” The general rule in Washington is that a waiver provision is enforceable unless (1) it violates public policy, (2) the negligent act falls greatly below the legal standard for protection of others, or (3) it is inconspicuous.

Under Washington’s law, releases are valid, unless they violate public policy. There are six different factors identified as attributable to public policy in Washington.

Six factors are considered in determining whether exculpatory agreements violate public policy. The court considers whether (1) the agreement concerns an endeavor of a type generally thought suitable for public regulation; (2) the party seeking exculpation is engaged in performing a service of great importance to the public, which is often a matter of practical necessity for some members of the public; (3) such party holds itself out as willing to perform this service for any member of the public who seeks it, or at least for any member coming within certain established standards; (4) because of the essential nature of the service, in the economic setting of the transaction, the party invoking exculpation possesses a decisive advantage of bargaining strength against any member of the public who seeks the services; (5) in exercising a superior bargaining power, the party confronts the public with a standardized adhesion contract of exculpation, and makes no provision whereby a purchaser may pay additional reasonable fees and obtain protection against negligence; and (6) the person or property of members of the public seeking such services must be placed under the control of the furnisher of the services, subject to the risk of carelessness on the part of the furnisher, its employees, or agents.

The court then went through all six factors and eliminated them all in one paragraph.

First, 185-mile relay races are not regulated; second, Spokane to Sandpoint is not performing an important public service such as a school; third, not all members of the public participate in relay races, unlike schools; fourth, Spokane to Sandpoint had no control over how Ms. Johnson ran or when she decided to cross U.S. Route 2; fifth, there was no inequality of bargaining since Ms. Johnson could have easily chosen not to participate and could have selected a different event; and sixth, while Spokane to Sandpoint set up the course, it did not control in what manner Ms. Johnson ran the race.

Generally, Washington law looks at whether the issues that identify a public policy issue are those that affect the majority of the public in Washington. The court also found that other Washington decisions have found that recreational activities were not a public interest.

The second issue was the plaintiff’s claim the defendant was grossly negligent. Like most states, a release in Washington will not stop a claim for gross negligence. Gross negligence is greater than ordinary negligence and is care appreciably less than care required in an ordinary negligence claim.

“Gross negligence” is “negligence substantially and appreciably greater than ordinary negligence,” i.e., “care substantially or appreciably less than the quantum of care inhering in ordinary negligence.” (“gross negligence” is “the failure to exercise slight care”). A plaintiff seeking to overcome an exculpatory clause by proving gross negligence must supply “substantial evidence” that the defendant’s act or omission represented care appreciably less than the care inherent in ordinary negligence. To meet this burden of proof on summary judgment, the plaintiff must offer something more substantial than mere argument that the defendant’s breach of care rises to the level of gross negligence.

The court then went through the facts and found that nothing required the defendant to do more than what the defendant did. Consequently, since there was no duty to do more, there was no breach of a duty, let alone acts, which were substantially below the duty.

The final argument the plaintiff argued was the release was ambiguous and not conspicuous. Here again, Washington’s law set forth the requirements for ambiguous and conspicuous quite clearly.

Factors in deciding whether a waiver and release provision is conspicuous include whether the waiver is set apart or hidden within other provisions, whether the heading is clear, whether the waiver is set off in capital letters or in bold type, whether there is a signature line below the waiver provision, what the language says above the signature line, and whether it is clear that the signature is related to the waiver.

The requirements basically require the release to be seen by the signor and not hidden. The exculpatory provisions must be evident, conspicuous and not hidden. The language must stand out so it is easily recognized with capital letters and/or bold type and there must be a signature line below the exculpatory provisions so that you can see your signature is related to the exculpatory provisions.

In this case, the release provisions were found not to be ambiguous. Additionally, the plaintiff admitted in her deposition that she understood from a legal perspective that the release would release her from claiming damages for any injuries.

The appellate court agreed with the trial court and affirmed the decision.

So Now What?

This decision is refreshing because it clearly sets out the requirements needed to prove a release valid and invalid. The definition of gross negligence also easily defined to that you can understand your duties and a substantial breach of your duties leading to a gross negligence claim.

Also of note, which the court pointed out was the information provided to the plaintiff and other racers in the racer handbook. Although not an express assumption of risk agreement, the handbook was still proof, the plaintiff assumed the risk, even though that issue was not argued. The risks of the race were set forth as well as the steps taken by the defendant to protect the runners in the handbook.

Again, the more information you provide to your clients, the more information you give them the better your chances of winning if your release fails.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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Johnson et al., v. Spokane to Sandpoint, LLC, et al., 176 Wn. App. 453; 309 P.3d 528; 2013 Wash. App. LEXIS 1696

Johnson et al., v. Spokane to Sandpoint, LLC, et al., 176 Wn. App. 453; 309 P.3d 528; 2013 Wash. App. LEXIS 1696

Robin Johnson et al., Appellants, v. Spokane to Sandpoint, LLC, et al., Respondents.

No. 31042-6-III

COURT OF APPEALS OF WASHINGTON, DIVISION THREE

July 23, 2013, Filed

NOTICE: Order Granting Motion to Publish September 10, 2013.

SUBSEQUENT HISTORY: Reported at Johnson v. Spokane to Sandpoint, LLC, 175 Wn. App. 1054, 2013 Wash. App. LEXIS 1835 (2013)

Ordered published by Johnson v. Spokane to Sandpoint, LLC, 2013 Wash. App. LEXIS 2129 (Wash. Ct. App., Sept. 10, 2013)

PRIOR HISTORY: [***1]

Appeal from Spokane Superior Court. Docket No: 10-2-05387-0. Date filed: 07/09/2012. Judge signing: Honorable Gregory D Sypolt.

SUMMARY:

WASHINGTON OFFICIAL REPORTS SUMMARY Nature of Action: A participant in a long-distance relay race who was struck by a moving vehicle sought damages for personal injury from the race promoter.

Nature of Action: A participant in a long-distance relay race who was struck by a moving vehicle sought damages for personal injury from the race promoter.

Superior Court: The Superior Court for Spokane County, No. 10-2-05387-0, Gregory D. Sypolt, J., on July 9, 2012, entered a summary judgment in favor of the race promoter.

Court of Appeals: Holding that a preinjury release and waiver signed by the runner precluded her recovering for ordinary negligence, the court affirms the judgment.

HEADNOTES WASHINGTON OFFICIAL REPORTS HEADNOTES

[1] Negligence — Duty — Necessity. The threshold question in a negligence action is whether the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff.

[2] Negligence — Duty — Question of Law or Fact — In General. For purposes of a negligence cause of action, the existence of a duty of care is a question of law.

[3] Torts — Limitation of Liability — Validity — In General. Subject to certain exceptions, parties may expressly agree in advance that one is under no obligation of care to the other and shall not be liable for ordinary negligence.

[4] Torts — Limitation of Liability — Purpose. The function of a contractual waiver of negligence liability is to deny an injured party the right to recover damages from the person negligently causing the injury.

[5] Torts — Limitation of Liability — Validity — Test. A contractual waiver of negligence liability is enforceable unless (1) it violates public policy, (2) the negligent act falls greatly below the legal standard for the protection of others, or (3) it is inconspicuous.

[6] Torts — Limitation of Liability — Validity — Public Policy — Factors. In determining whether an agreement exculpating a party from liability for its future conduct violates public policy, a court will consider whether (1) the agreement concerns an endeavor of a type generally thought suitable for public regulation; (2) the party seeking exculpation is engaged in performing a service of great importance to the public, which is often a matter of practical necessity for some members of the public; (3) such party holds itself out as willing to perform this service for any member of the public who seeks it, or at least for any member coming within certain established standards; (4) because of the essential nature of the service, in the economic setting of the transaction, the party invoking exculpation possesses a decisive advantage of bargaining strength against any member of the public who seeks the services; (5) in exercising a superior bargaining power, the party confronts the public with a standardized adhesion contract of exculpation, and makes no provision whereby a purchaser may pay additional reasonable fees and obtain protection against negligence; and (6) the person or property of members of the public seeking such services must be placed under the control of the furnisher of the services, subject to the risk of carelessness on the part of the furnisher, its employees, or its agents.

[7] Torts — Limitation of Liability — Validity — Public Policy — Public Interest — Recreational Activities. For purposes of determining the validity of a liability release clause under a public policy analysis, Washington courts do not favor finding a public interest in adult recreational activities.

[8] Torts — Limitation of Liability — Applicability — Gross Negligence. A preinjury waiver and release will not exculpate a defendant from liability for damages resulting from gross negligence. “Gross negligence” is negligence substantially and appreciably greater than ordinary negligence, i.e., care substantially or appreciably less than the quantum of care inhering in ordinary negligence, or a failure to exercise slight care. A plaintiff seeking to overcome an exculpatory clause by proving gross negligence must supply substantial evidence that the defendant’s act or omission represented care appreciably less than the care inherent in ordinary negligence. To meet this burden of proof on summary judgment, a plaintiff must offer something more substantial than mere argument that the defendant’s breach of care rises to the level of gross negligence.

[9] Negligence — Proof — Higher Standard — Summary Judgment — Prima Facie Case — Necessity. When the standard of proof in a negligence action is higher than ordinary negligence, in order to avoid an adverse summary judgment, a plaintiff must show that it can support its claim with prima facie proof supporting the higher level of proof.

[10] Torts — Limitation of Liability — Validity — Conspicuous Nature — Factors. The conspicuousness of a contractual liability waiver or release provision is determined by considering such factors as whether the provision is set apart or hidden within other provisions, whether the provision heading is clear, whether the waiver is set off in capital letters or in bold type, whether there is a signature line below the waiver provision, what the language says above the signature line, and whether it is clear that the signature is related to the waiver. Brown, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous court.

COUNSEL: Martin A. Peltram, for appellants.

Thomas C. Stratton (of Rockey Stratton PS), for respondents.

JUDGES: Authored by Stephen M. Brown. Concurring: Laurel H. Siddoway, Kevin M. Korsmo.

OPINION BY: Stephen M. Brown

OPINION

[*455] [**530] ¶1 Brown, J. — Robin Johnson and Craig Johnson appeal the dismissal of their personal injury suit against Spokane to Sandpoint LLC after the trial court ruled the preinjury release and waiver Ms. Johnson signed precluded recovery. The Johnsons contend the release is unenforceable because it is ambiguous, offends public policy, and because Spokane to Sandpoint was grossly negligent. We disagree and affirm.

FACTS

¶2 Spokane to Sandpoint promotes a long-distance relay race from the Spokane area to Sandpoint, Idaho, involving teams running a 185-mile course over two days, day and [**531] night. The course is open, meaning it is not closed to public traffic.

¶3 When registering on line, the runners must electronically acknowledge a release of liability and waiver, which states:

I understand that by registering I have accepted and agreed to the waiver [***2] and release agreement(s) presented to me during registration and that these documents include a release of liability and waiver of legal rights and deprive me of the right to sue certain parties. By agreeing electronically, I have acknowledged that I have both read and understood any waiver and release agreement(s) presented to me as part of the registration process and accept the inherent dangers and risks which may or may not be readily foreseeable, including without limitation personal injury, property damage or death that arise from participation in the event.

[*456] Clerk’s Papers (CP) at 246. Ms. Johnson, an attorney, registered on line for the 2010 Spokane to Sandpoint race and acknowledged the above waiver, plus she agreed to “waive and release Spokane to Sandpointfrom any and all claims or liability of any kind arising out of my participation in this event, even though that liability may arise out negligence or carelessness on the part of persons on this waiver.” CP at 246. Ms. Johnson agreed she read the agreement carefully and understood the terms and she signed the agreement, “FREELY AND VOLUNTARILY, WITHOUT ANY INDUCEMENT, ASSURANCE OR GUARANTEE” and that her signature was [***3] “TO SERVE AS CONFIRMATION OF MY COMPLETE AND UNCONDITIONAL ACCEPTANCE OF THE TERMS, CONDITIONS, AND PROVISIONS OF THIS AGREEMENT.” CP at 248.

¶4 Spokane to Sandpoint provided a race handbook to Ms. Johnson, explaining all facets of the race, including crossing public highways and train tracks. The fourth leg of the race crossed U.S. Route 2 at its intersection with Colbert Road. At that location, U.S. Route 2 is a divided highway that runs north and south. It has two lanes in each direction, separated by a median strip. A sign was posted on Colbert Road telling the runners “caution crossing highway.” CP at 128. Signs were posted along the race route informing drivers that runners were running along the race route roads.

¶5 As Ms. Johnson was crossing U.S. Route 2, Madilyn Young was driving about 63 miles per hour southbound in the outside lane on U.S. Route 2, approaching the Colbert Road intersection. According to Ms. Young’s statement to the police, she saw Ms. Johnson crossing the northbound lanes of U.S. Route 2 and saw her continue into the southbound lanes without looking for cars. Ms. Young was unable to stop in time to avoid a collision. Ms. Johnson suffered severe injuries.

¶6 The Johnsons sued Spokane [***4] to Sandpoint, Ms. Young, and Ms. Young’s parents. The Johnsons dismissed their [*457] claims against Ms. Young and her parents following a settlement.

¶7 During Ms. Johnson’s deposition, counsel for Spokane to Sandpoint asked her if she understood that the release she signed “would … release the entities for any personal injury that might occur to you during the activity?” CP at 138. Ms. Johnson replied, “Yes, I understand that from a legal perspective completely.” CP at 139. When questioned about the on line registration process, counsel asked:

Q. Do you recall whether you clicked yes to the waiver language at all on the registration process?

A. On the registration process I assume I must have clicked because all that information is there and I did it. Nobody else did it for me.

CP at 156.

¶8 Spokane to Sandpoint requested summary judgment dismissal, arguing the preinjury waiver and release agreed to by Ms. Johnson was conspicuous and not against public policy and the Johnsons lacked the evidence of gross negligence necessary to overcome the release. The trial court agreed and dismissed the Johnsons’ complaint.

ANALYSIS

¶9 The issue is whether the trial court erred in summarily dismissing the [**532] Johnsons’ [***5] negligence complaint. The Johnsons contend the release and waiver signed by Ms. Johnson prior to her injury was invalid and unenforceable because it was ambiguous and against public policy, and because Spokane to Sandpoint was grossly negligent.

¶10 [HN1] We review summary judgment de novo and engage in the same inquiry as the trial court. Heath v. Uraga, 106 Wn. App. 506, 512, 24 P.3d 413 (2001). [HN2] Summary judgment is appropriate if, in view of all the evidence, reasonable persons could reach only one conclusion. Hansen v. Friend, 118 Wn.2d 476, 485, 824 P.2d 483 (1992). Where different [*458] competing inferences may be drawn from the evidence, the issue must be resolved by the trier of fact. Kuyper v. Dep’t of Wildlife, 79 Wn. App. 732, 739, 904 P.2d 793 (1995).

[1-3] ¶11 [HN3] To prevail on a negligence claim against Spokane to Sandpoint, the Johnsons must establish Spokane to Sandpoint owed them a duty. Chauvlier v. Booth Creek Ski Holdings, Inc., 109 Wn. App. 334, 339, 35 P.3d 383 (2001) (citing Tincani v. Inland Empire Zoological Soc’y, 124 Wn.2d 121, 128, 875 P.2d 621 (1994)). Whether such a duty exists is a question of law. Id. The parties may, subject to certain exceptions, expressly agree in advance that one [***6] party is under no obligation of care to the other, and shall not be held liable for ordinary negligence. Chauvlier, 109 Wn. App. at 339.

[4, 5] ¶12 [HN4] The function of a waiver provision is “to deny an injured party the right to recover damages from the person negligently causing the injury.” Scott v. Pac. W. Mountain Resort, 119 Wn.2d 484, 491, 834 P.2d 6 (1992). The general rule in Washington is that a waiver provision is enforceable unless (1) it violates public policy, (2) the negligent act falls greatly below the legal standard for protection of others, or (3) it is inconspicuous. Stokes v. Bally’s Pacwest, Inc., 113 Wn. App. 442, 445, 54 P.3d 161 (2002).

[6] ¶13 [HN5] In Washington, contracts releasing liability for negligence are valid unless a public interest is involved. Hewitt v. Miller, 11 Wn. App. 72, 521 P.2d 244 (1974). [HN6] Six factors are considered in determining whether exculpatory agreements violate public policy. The court considers whether (1) the agreement concerns an endeavor of a type generally thought suitable for public regulation; (2) the party seeking exculpation is engaged in performing a service of great importance to the public, which is often a matter of practical necessity for some members [***7] of the public; (3) such party holds itself out as willing to perform this service for any member of the public who seeks it, or at least for any member coming within certain established [*459] standards; (4) because of the essential nature of the service, in the economic setting of the transaction, the party invoking exculpation possesses a decisive advantage of bargaining strength against any member of the public who seeks the services; (5) in exercising a superior bargaining power, the party confronts the public with a standardized adhesion contract of exculpation, and makes no provision whereby a purchaser may pay additional reasonable fees and obtain protection against negligence; and (6) the person or property of members of the public seeking such services must be placed under the control of the furnisher of the services, subject to the risk of carelessness on the part of the furnisher, its employees, or agents. Wagenblast v. Odessa Sch. Dist. 105-157-166J, 110 Wn.2d 845, 851-55, 758 P.2d 968 (1988) (citing Tunkl v. Regents of Univ. of Cal., 60 Cal. 2d 92, 98-101, 383 P.2d 441, 32 Cal. Rptr. 33 (1963)). The Johnsons fail to establish all six factors.

¶14 First, 185-mile relay races are not regulated; [***8] second, Spokane to Sandpoint is not performing an important public service such as a school; third, not all members of the public participate in relay races, unlike schools; fourth, Spokane to Sandpoint had no control over how Ms. Johnson ran or when she decided to cross U.S. Route 2; fifth, there was no inequality of bargaining since Ms. Johnson could have easily chosen not to participate and could have selected a different event; and sixth, while Spokane to Sandpoint set up the course, it did not control in what manner Ms. Johnson ran the race.

[7] ¶15 [HN7] Washington courts have not favored finding a public interest in adult recreational activities. As noted in Hewitt, 11 Wn. App. [**533] at 74, “[e]xtended discussion is not required to conclude that instruction in scuba diving does not involve a public duty.” Similarly, “[a]lthough a popular sport in Washington, mountaineering, like scuba diving, does not involve public interest.” Blide v. Rainier Mountaineering, Inc., 30 Wn. App. 571, 574, 636 P.2d 492 (1981). Washington courts have come to the same conclusion regarding [*460] tobogganing and demolition car racing. Broderson v. Rainer Nat’l Park Co., 187 Wash. 399, 406, 60 P.2d 234 (1936), overruled in part by [***9] Baker v. City of Seattle, 79 Wn.2d 198, 484 P.2d 405 (1971); Conradt v. Four Star Promotions, Inc., 45 Wn. App. 847, 853, 728 P.2d 617 (1986).

[8] ¶16 [HN8] A preinjury waiver and release will not exculpate a defendant from liability for damages resulting from gross negligence. Vodopest v. MacGregor, 128 Wn.2d 840, 853, 913 P.2d 779 (1996). “Gross negligence” is “negligence substantially and appreciably greater than ordinary negligence,” i.e., “care substantially or appreciably less than the quantum of care inhering in ordinary negligence.” Nist v. Tudor, 67 Wn.2d 322, 331, 407 P.2d 798 (1965); see 6 Washington Practice: Washington Pattern Jury Instructions: Civil 10.07 (6th ed. 2012) (“gross negligence” is “the failure to exercise slight care”). A plaintiff seeking to overcome an exculpatory clause by proving gross negligence must supply “substantial evidence” that the defendant’s act or omission represented care appreciably less than the care inherent in ordinary negligence. Boyce v. West, 71 Wn. App. 657, 665, 862 P.2d 592 (1993). To meet this burden of proof on summary judgment, the plaintiff must offer something more substantial than mere argument that the defendant’s breach of care rises [***10] to the level of gross negligence. CR 56(e); Boyce, 71 Wn. App. at 666.

¶17 Spokane to Sandpoint marked the roadways to warn both drivers and runners of danger and provided a handbook to each runner advising about crossing busy roadways and highways. Nothing in this record establishes any duty to do more.

¶18 Our case is somewhat like Conradt, where Mr. Conradt was hurt in an auto race. 45 Wn. App. at 848. He signed a release before being told of a change in the race direction. Id. Mr. Conradt argued the risk had been materially altered by that change after he signed the release. Id. at 850. He explained he could not corner as well and he had not understood the additional risk. Id. The race promoter [*461] requested summary judgment based on the release. Id. at 848. The trial court dismissed Mr. Conradt’s complaint, finding the release was valid and the promoter’s action did not amount to gross negligence. Id. at 852. The Conradt court affirmed, holding the promoter’s “conduct was not so substantially and appreciably substandard that it rendered the release invalid.” Id.

[9] ¶19 Similarly, the Johnsons fail to show Spokane to Sandpoint committed gross negligence by failing to exercise slight care. See Woody v. Stapp, 146 Wn. App. 16, 22, 189 P.3d 807 (2008) [***11] (When a standard of proof is higher than ordinary negligence, the nonmoving parties must show that they can support their claim with prima facie proof supporting the higher level of proof.). Spokane to Sandpoint’s conduct does not reach gross negligence under the circumstances presented here.

[10] ¶20 Finally, the Johnsons argue the release was ambiguous and not conspicuous. Several Washington courts have analyzed waiver provisions to determine whether the language was conspicuous. [HN9] Factors in deciding whether a waiver and release provision is conspicuous include whether the waiver is set apart or hidden within other provisions, whether the heading is clear, whether the waiver is set off in capital letters or in bold type, whether there is a signature line below the waiver provision, what the language says above the signature line, and whether it is clear that the signature is related to the waiver. See Baker, 79 Wn.2d at 202; McCorkle v. Hall, 56 Wn. App. 80, 83, 782 P.2d 574 (1989); Chauvlier, 109 Wn. App. at 342; Stokes, 113 Wn. App. at 448.

[**534] ¶21 The release executed by Ms. Johnson on line clearly sets apart the release language in either italicized letters or in all capital letters or both. The [***12] document was conspicuous with a header stating, “WAIVER AND RELEASE OF LIABILITY, ASSUMPTION OF RISK AND INDEMNITY AGREEMENT.” CP at 246. The waiver repeatedly warned Ms. Johnson that she was giving up her legal rights by [*462] signing the waiver, with this clearly indicated above the signature line. Although the Johnsons argue the waiver was ambiguous and, therefore, inconspicuous, Ms. Johnson (an attorney) acknowledged in her deposition that from a “legal perspective” she understood the release she signed “would … release the entities for any personal injury that might occur … during the activity.” CP at 138-39. Thus, no genuine issues of material fact remain regarding ambiguity or conspicuousness.

¶22 Given our analysis, we hold reasonable minds can reach but one conclusion; the preinjury release and waiver signed by Ms. Johnson precludes her from claiming an ordinary negligence duty by Spokane to Sandpoint, thus preventing her from seeking liability damages for her injuries. The trial court correctly concluded likewise in summarily dismissing the Johnsons’ complaint.

¶23 Affirmed. [***13]

Korsmo, C.J., and Siddoway, J., concur.


Washington Recreational Use Statute

Title 4  Civil Procedure 

Chapter 4.24  Special Rights of Action and Special Immunities

Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 4.24.200  (2016)

4.24.200.  Liability of owners or others in possession of land and water areas for injuries to recreation users — Purpose.

The purpose of RCW 4.24.200 and 4.24.210 is to encourage owners or others in lawful possession and control of land and water areas or channels to make them available to the public for recreational purposes by limiting their liability toward persons entering thereon and toward persons who may be injured or otherwise damaged by the acts or omissions of persons entering thereon.

HISTORY: 1969 ex.s. c 24 § 1; 1967 c 216 § 1.

4.24.210.  Liability of owners or others in possession of land and water areas for injuries to recreation users — Known dangerous artificial latent conditions — Other limitations.

(1) Except as otherwise provided in subsection (3) or (4) of this section, any public or private landowners, hydroelectric project owners, or others in lawful possession and control of any lands whether designated resource, rural, or urban, or water areas or channels and lands adjacent to such areas or channels, who allow members of the public to use them for the purposes of outdoor recreation, which term includes, but is not limited to, the cutting, gathering, and removing of firewood by private persons for their personal use without purchasing the firewood from the landowner, hunting, fishing, camping, picnicking, swimming, hiking, bicycling, skateboarding or other nonmotorized wheel-based activities, aviation activities including, but not limited to, the operation of airplanes, ultra-light airplanes, hanggliders, parachutes, and paragliders, rock climbing, the riding of horses or other animals, clam digging, pleasure driving of off-road vehicles, snowmobiles, and other vehicles, boating, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, nature study, winter or water sports, viewing or enjoying historical, archaeological, scenic, or scientific sites, without charging a fee of any kind therefor, shall not be liable for unintentional injuries to such users.

(2) Except as otherwise provided in subsection (3) or (4) of this section, any public or private landowner or others in lawful possession and control of any lands whether rural or urban, or water areas or channels and lands adjacent to such areas or channels, who offer or allow such land to be used for purposes of a fish or wildlife cooperative project, or allow access to such land for cleanup of litter or other solid waste, shall not be liable for unintentional injuries to any volunteer group or to any other users.

(3) Any public or private landowner, or others in lawful possession and control of the land, may charge an administrative fee of up to twenty-five dollars for the cutting, gathering, and removing of firewood from the land.

(4)       (a) Nothing in this section shall prevent the liability of a landowner or others in lawful possession and control for injuries sustained to users by reason of a known dangerous artificial latent condition for which warning signs have not been conspicuously posted.

(i) A fixed anchor used in rock climbing and put in place by someone other than a landowner is not a known dangerous artificial latent condition and a landowner under subsection (1) of this section shall not be liable for unintentional injuries resulting from the condition or use of such an anchor.

(ii) Releasing water or flows and making waterways or channels available for kayaking, canoeing, or rafting purposes pursuant to and in substantial compliance with a hydroelectric license issued by the federal energy regulatory commission, and making adjacent lands available for purposes of allowing viewing of such activities, does not create a known dangerous artificial latent condition and hydroelectric project owners under subsection (1) of this section shall not be liable for unintentional injuries to the recreational users and observers resulting from such releases and activities.

(b) Nothing in RCW 4.24.200 and this section limits or expands in any way the doctrine of attractive nuisance.

(c) Usage by members of the public, volunteer groups, or other users is permissive and does not support any claim of adverse possession.

(5) For purposes of this section, the following are not fees:

(a) A license or permit issued for statewide use under authority of chapter 79A.05 RCW or Title 77 RCW;

(b) A pass or permit issued under RCW 79A.80.020, 79A.80.030, or 79A.80.040; and

(c) A daily charge not to exceed twenty dollars per person, per day, for access to a publicly owned ORV sports park, as defined in RCW 46.09.310, or other public facility accessed by a highway, street, or nonhighway road for the purposes of off-road vehicle use.

HISTORY: 2012 c 15 § 1. Prior: 2011 c 320 § 11; 2011 c 171 § 2; 2011 c 53 § 1; 2006 c 212 § 6; prior: 2003 c 39 § 2; 2003 c 16 § 2; 1997 c 26 § 1; 1992 c 52 § 1; prior: 1991 c 69 § 1; 1991 c 50 § 1; 1980 c 111 § 1; 1979 c 53 § 1; 1972 ex.s. c 153 § 17; 1969 ex.s. c 24 § 2; 1967 c 216 § 2.


Complete this Survey to Promote Cycling and Tourism in Washington

By participating in this survey you will help a grassroots citizens group realize a pedestrian path along the Mt Baker Highway corridor.Glacier Creek Bridge 1 LR

Mt Baker Highway, AKA Washington State Highway 542 stretches 58 miles from sea level in Bellingham, Washington to Artist’s Point at an elevation of 5,140 feet – a scenic overlook above tree line that on clear days treats visitors to sublime views of Mt Baker and Mt Shuksan.

Since 1992 Whatcom County has had plans to build a pedestrian pathway from Bellingham to Artist’s Point and dubbed it the Bay to Baker Trail (B2B). However due to a number of factors little has been accomplished. Right of way has been established in some areas, and in those areas some sections of the trail is under water for much of the year, some travel heavily undercut banks 100 feet above the North Fork Nooksack River, and at least one section acts as the local garbage dump.

Due to its beauty the highway attracts heavy traffic during the winter ski and summer hiking seasons. RVs, families coming up to recreate in SUVs, sports cars, sport motorcycles traveling at triple digits due to virtually no speed enforcement, and road cyclists all share this road. To compound the mix there are residential communities on the highway with limited options for residents to safely walk or ride bikes to community destination. At the local middle school if a child shows up to school with their bike they are sent home due to the hazard that riding on the road represents.

The mild winter that the Pacific Northwest experienced this last year was a shock to the small, tourist dependent communities in the shadow of Mt Baker. Businesses closed and residents watched as skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers, who bring much needed revenue to the area, disappeared. It was a call to action as residents and business owners realized that perhaps some diversification of recreational opportunities was in order.

Inventorying the material that they had to work with, a group of residents and business owners has banded together in an attempt to motivate government to take action on the Bay to Baker Trail. John Adam, owner of Glacier Ski Shop, believes that pedestrian infrastructure will not only make the area more attractive to visitors, but will also provide residents with a safe option to getting in a vehicle and burning fossil fuels when they need a quart of milk. Paul Engel, who owns Wild and Scenic River Tours, added that, “Hundreds of reports show that when pedestrian pathways are created in a community it brings nothing but good – the population is healthier, vehicular traffic is reduced, property values are stable and local businesses see more traffic. Everyone benefits”

It would be easy to see why businesses would want to increase tourist traffic, and a small group of locals have pointed fingers at them and stating that they just want to “cash in”. When in reality it is more a matter of staying in businesses. And while a very small group of locals oppose the trail effort, the vast majority are for it. One of those is Marty Grabijas, a product developer in the outdoor industry.  According to Marty, “What we have here is so special. The access to big wilderness and high alpine environments is incredible, and I can see why some want this to remain their private paradise. However no matter how much we want it we can’t turn the clock back. We do however have an opportunity to engineer the Mt Baker Highway corridor for the future. With a pedestrian pathway we can reduce vehicle congestion, and provide residents and visitors with a safe way to get around on foot or on a bike. My motive for being involved is to create safe places to walk and ride for everyone. The Mt Baker area is visually stunning, and with a safe pathway in the highway corridor a bike is the perfect vehicle for visiting services in one of the several small towns, or connecting to Forest Service roads and exploring the area.”542 drop off 1 LR

This citizens group is in the due diligence stage of forming a pedestrian and equestrian advocacy group. Part of that process is showing a want and need for pedestrian pathways by gauging interest of residents, visitors and potential visitors. By participating in their survey you will provide them with the data points they need to attempt to secure funding in Whatcom County’s 2017 / 18 budget to see portions of the Bay to Baker Trail become reality.

Regardless if you have been to the Mt Baker area, your feedback is valuable.

Go to the Survey Here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/MTBAKERTA

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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

Copyright 2015 Recreation Law (720) Edit Law

Email: Rec-law@recreation-law.com

Google+: +Recreation

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

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, Mt. Baker, Survey, Washington, Mt Baker, Mt Shuksan, Trail, Cycling, Tourism, Bike Trail, Hiking Trail,

 


Want to Maximize a Visit to Colorado? San Juan Mountain Guides can help!

Fall 2013 Newsletter San Juan Mountain Guides
San Juan Summer 2014
Summer fun is on the horizon with many adventures to be had, in the San Juan Mountains and beyond. We invite you to explore mountains, reach high peaks, descend canyons, scale rocks and find excitement on the Via Ferrata. Join us to try something new and to discover remarkable places.Our summer programs are shaping up great outings for everyone, and for all skill levels. Choices are numerous from Alpine Climbing in the San Juan Mountains to Backpacking in the Weminuche Wilderness, Rock Climbing and Canyoning near Ouray or the exhilarating Telluride Via Ferrata. To top it off we have an expedition to Peru’s Alpamayo in July with only 1 spot left!!Please read below for Upcoming Trip Offerings, Featured Guide Interviews, SJMG Guide Tips and Guide Blogs, as well as inspiring photos from seasons past.As always, don’t hesitate to contact us to schedule your next trip, course, or expedition with The Local Experts!

Nate Disser and the SJMG Team
800.642.5389
www.mtnguide.net
info

SJMG Blog

Featured SJMG Guide: Dave Ahrens
a598ed81-fc18-41aa-9893-bd667518ea60.pngDave AhrensAMGA Certified Rock & Alpine GuideDave’s outlook is super positive and his stoke is always high. He has guided extensively in Washington and Alaska. His ability to read clients and be perceptive to their needs is outstanding. Dave is all about fun and good times in the mountains. On skis, on ice, in the alpine, his experience and expertise shine; all a while being as humble and kind as can be. Cheers Dave, we love having you on our team!Dave Ahrens Guide Interview

  • Superior Guest Review of Dave:Our guide Dave was professional and highly enjoyable to be with. We were encouraged to take leadership and develop skills with an appropriate amount of support from Dave, thus building our skills for future ventures. Location and objective selection were exceptional. Our interactions exceeded all expectations of safety, professionalism, friendliness, patience, knowledge, and teaching ability. Thanks for the awesome time Dave!”
SJMG Guide Tip: Using the Munter Hitch
837ea69e-250e-4f34-9f99-0c2b806d7183.pngby Nate DisserAMGA Certified Rock & Alpine GuideHave you ever considered what would happen if you dropped your belay device 3 pitches up a multi-pitch rock or ice climb? What if you don’t have an extra belay device handy in that case??Check out this guide tip, with video, to learn how to rappel and lower using the Munter Hitch – just one way you can effectively salvage your day and keep both you and your climbing partner protected at the same time!Lowering & Rappelling w/ the Munter Hitch
Upcoming SJMG Programs
1495cdd4-5014-4ae9-97b6-a428fd2d338f.pngAlpine ClimbingColorado’s San Juan MountainsClimb a classic route on one of Colorado’s Centennial 13’ers or 14’ers like the Wilson/El Diente Traverse, Chicago Basin 14’ers, Jagged Mountain’s North Face, or Vestal Peak’s Wham Ridge.Want to know what the alpine climbing is like in the San Juans during the summer? Check out this video we shot last year during a climb of the Wham Ridge on Vestal Peak!Alpine Climbing CoursesLearn the fundamentals of safely climbing in the mountains. Our Alpine Climbing Courses cover a wide range of topics that will enhance your skills and efficiency in the alpine. These trips take you to incredible mountain terrain to apply your techniques. Our Alpine Leadership Course was designed to fully prepare you for future alpine endeavors!Chicago Basin 14’ers
Vestal Peak’s Wham Ridge
Wilson/El Diente Traverse
Mt. Sneffels
Private/Custom Alpine Guiding

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Backpacking Trips
Weminuche WIlderness & San Juan National Forest

Discover the beauty of the Rockies this summer on a backpacking adventure in the Colorado’s largest wilderness area. Our premier backpacking trip, the Best of the Weminuche covers parts of the Continental Divide Trail and the Colorado Trail, with high mountain passes and amazing peaks all around.

Our popular Alpine Lakes Traverse takes you to parts of the Weminuche Wilderness that few people see – and defines the essence of remote wilderness travel. Multi-day adventures into majestic mountains will leave you feeling rejuvenated!

Best of the Weminuche Backpacking
Alpine Lakes Traverse
Ice Lakes Basin Backpacking
Chicago Basin Backpacking
Private/Custom Backpack Guiding

Via Ferrata and Canyoning
8010f0ad-bb75-4e65-8e2c-40fb5ece67e9.pngTelluride Via FerrataInnovative and genius visionary Chuck Kroeger designed and constructed this awesome Via Ferrata in the Bridalveil Valley near Telluride. The “Iron Way” is a climber traverse high up on the cliffs and walls of this gorgeous valley.Not physically hard, but rather thrillingly exciting, the Via Ferrata is a must do in the area. With radical exposure and fun traversing, this fantastic route will be the highlight of your summer.

Telluride Via Ferrata

e781e823-7a37-4f4d-a523-c84e98e2dfca.png

Canyoning in Ouray
Half and Full Day Canyoning

Alpine canyons surround the town of Ouray and provide brilliant adventure for groups and families.

Descend Portland Creek Canyon or Angel Creek Canyon with us this summer and ignite your enthusiasm for discovery while rappelling down crystal waterfalls and journeying deep inside narrow slots. For those with previous experience – we offer the inspiring Oak Creek Canyon for a full day wet and wild adventure.

Expeditions: Ecuador, Alpamayo, & More!
61c2939f-e2e6-4d91-813b-67a37a72d651.pngEcuador’s VolcanoesDecember 2014 & January 2015Spots are already filling on our Cotopaxi Express and Chimbo Extension Expeditions later this year and early in 2015. Both climbs represent unparalleled opportunities to test your mettle at altitudes over 6000 meters! Our time-tested itinerary offers you the best chance for success on the peaks and visits a number of cultural sites in Ecuador. This is one of our most popular international trips for a reason!!Cotopaxi Express w/ Chimborazo Extension Option

e503bd62-e534-4922-87a2-935ce878d7ba.png

Alpamayo Expedition – 1 Spot Left!!
Climbing in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca

This coming summer season is loaded, not only with fantastic trips in the San Juan Mountains, but we also have a ‘trip of a lifetime’ expedition in Peru to climb Alpamayo via the French Direct Route!

We have 1 space left on our July 10 – 25, 2014 Alpamayo Expedition. This trip is being run by SJMG Guide Andres Marin. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to climb one of the world’s iconic mountains with an AMGA Certified Rock & Alpine Guide!

Alpamayo Expedition July 10 – 25, 2015

Parting Shot : in Honor Of Eitan Green
dab59d67-127a-450f-b029-d27d6a7fd537.jpg
BOOK A TRIP REQUEST INFO

San Juan Mountain Guides, LLC
725 Main St. Ouray, CO 81427 or 1111 Camino del Rio, Durango, CO 81301

800.642.5389
www.mtnguide.net
info

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Dive Buddy (co-participant) not liable for death of the diver because the cause of death was too distant from the acts of the plaintiff

This case was brought to my attention because of the suit for the ski buddy fatality in Canada in the news recently. (See Canadian suit would hold you liable for your ski buddy’s death.)Are you liable for your buddy’s death if you are participating in a sport together. The issue pivots on whether or not there is an expected responsibility (duty) on behalf of the buddies.

Rasmussen, et al., v. Bendotti, 107 Wn. App. 947; 29 P.3d 56; 2001 Wash. App. LEXIS 1962

Plaintiff: Cully, Adam, and Brandy Jo Rasmussen, children of the deceased and the estate of the deceased

Defendant: Eugene L. Bendotti, husband of the deceased

Plaintiff Claims: negligence

Defendant Defenses: there was no negligence

Holding: for the defendant

This is one of a few cases where a co-participant or in this case dive buddy is held liable for the injuries or deaths of the other participant. In this case, a husband and wife were diving together to recover a snowmobile 100’ deep in a lake. On the fourth dive of the day, the husband realized he had not attached his power inflator to his buoyance compensator. He dropped his weight belt and ascended, leaving his spouse, dive buddy, below.

The wife was found drowned after becoming entangled in a rope.

The buoyance compensator is a PFD (personal floatation device) designed for diving. It is inflated and deflated as you dive to keep your body at the level or depth in the water you want. Many divers will deflate and inflate the buoyance compensator (BC) several times during a dive as they descend, stay at a level and descend or ascend again.

A trial was held to the court which held that the husband did owe a duty to the spouse. However, that duty was terminated once the husband’s emergency occurred. The court also found that the husband’s failure to act as a proper dive buddy was too distant from the cause of death of the spouse to be the proximate cause of her death.

The plaintiff’s appealed.

In this case, the plaintiff’s appealed the errors; they felt the court made in its decision. Those are called “assignment of error(s).” The plaintiff argued that the court came to the incorrect conclusion in the determination of the facts and the application of the law.

Summary of the case

The court accepted several conclusions of fact and law from the trial court that are necessary to understand its analysis and, which are critical legal issues. The first was a dive buddy owes a duty of care to his or her dive buddy. Consequently, a failure to exercise this duty, which results in an injury to the dive buddy, can be negligent.

The existence of a duty is a question of law. Whether the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty, however, turns on the foreseeability of injury; that is, whether the risk embraced by the conduct exposes the plaintiff to injury. “The hazard that brought about or assisted in bringing about the result must be among the hazards to be perceived reasonably and with respect to which defendant’s conduct was negligent.”

The trial court found the defendant had not breached his duty because his personnel emergency ended any duty he owed to his dive buddy. The trial court labeled this as the emergency doctrine. However, the appellate court defined the emergency doctrine as:

The emergency doctrine was developed at common law and states the commonsense proposition that a person faced with an emergency should not be held to the same standards as someone given time for reflection and deliberation.

A defendant is entitled to the benefit of the emergency doctrine when he or she undertakes the best course of action given an emergency not of his or her own making.

The appellate court did not hold the emergency doctrine did not apply; however, its statements indicate such because it went on to discuss proximate cause.

Proximate cause is the term defined to relate the breach of the duty to the injury.

Proximate cause has two discreet elements. The first, cause in fact, requires some physical connection between the act (the failure to connect the power inflator) and the injury (Bonny’s death). The second element of proximate cause involves legal causation. Id. And that is a policy consideration for the court. The consideration is whether the ultimate result and the defendant’s acts are substantially connected, and not too remote to impose liability. Id. It is a legal question involving logic, common sense, justice, policy, and precedent.

The court ruled that the cause of the plaintiff’s death was the plaintiff’s own acts, not caused by the defendant. The court questioned, “…if Gene had properly connected his power inflator, would Bonny be alive today?” The trial court stated, and the appellate court accepted that the act of the defendant descending was not the cause of the plaintiff’s death.

An expert witness opined that the cause of the plaintiff’s death was her failure to have a dive knife with her.

There was too much between the ascension of the defendant and the entanglement which caused the drowning to be linked. The ascension was not the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s death.

So Now What?

The decision in the Canadian court on whether a ski buddy owes a duty of care to another skier will probably not end with the jury’s decision. See Canadian suit would hold you liable for your ski buddy’s death. Ski buddy meaning the guy you don’t know skiing next to you. However, here we have a definitive decision that a dive buddy in a scuba diving owes a duty to their dive buddy.

This is a very different legal relationship than found in competitive sports where someone may be injured due to another participant and the nature of the game. See Indiana adopts the higher standard of care between participants in sporting events in this Triathlon case. Here one participant in the sport is legal responsible, as defined by the sport or activity or sometimes the two people, for the other person.

If you agree to watch or take care of someone in a sport, you may be accepting liability for that person. Be aware.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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

Copyright 2013 Recreation Law (720) Edit Law

Email: Rec-law@recreation-law.com

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Twitter: RecreationLaw

Facebook: Rec.Law.Now

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

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#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,

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Washington Skier Safety Act

Washington Skier Safety Act

ANNOTATED REVISED CODE OF WASHINGTON

TITLE 70.  PUBLIC HEALTH AND SAFETY 

CHAPTER 70.117.  SKIING AND COMMERCIAL SKI ACTIVITY

GO TO REVISED CODE OF WASHINGTON ARCHIVE DIRECTORY

Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 70.117.010 (2012)

§ 70.117.010. Ski area sign requirements

   Transferred.

§ 70.117.015. “Trails” or “runs” defined

   Transferred.

§ 70.117.020. Standard of conduct — Prohibited acts — Responsibility

   Transferred.

§ 70.117.025. Skiing outside of trails or boundaries — Notice of skier responsibility

   Transferred.

§ 70.117.030. Leaving scene of skiing accident — Penalty — Notice

   Transferred.

§ 70.117.040. Insurance requirements for operators

   Transferred.

§ 79A.45.010. Ski area sign requirements

   (1) The operator of any ski area shall maintain a sign system based on international or national standards and as may be required by the state parks and recreation commission.

All signs for instruction of the public shall be bold in design with wording short, simple, and to the point. All such signs shall be prominently placed.

Entrances to all machinery, operators’, and attendants’ rooms shall be posted to the effect that unauthorized persons are not permitted therein.

The sign “Working on Lift” or a similar warning sign shall be hung on the main disconnect switch and at control points for starting the auxiliary or prime mover when a person is working on the passenger tramway.

(2) All signs required for normal daytime operation shall be in place, and those pertaining to the tramway, lift, or tow operations shall be adequately lighted for night skiing.

(3) If a particular trail or run has been closed to the public by an operator, the operator shall place a notice thereof at the top of the trail or run involved, and no person shall ski on a run or trail which has been designated “Closed”.

(4) An operator shall place a notice at the embarking terminal or terminals of a lift or tow which has been closed that the lift or tow has been closed and that a person embarking on such a lift or tow shall be considered to be a trespasser.

(5) Any snow making machines or equipment shall be clearly visible and clearly marked. Snow grooming equipment or any other vehicles shall be equipped with a yellow flashing light at any time the vehicle is moving on or in the vicinity of a ski run; however, low profile vehicles, such as snowmobiles, may be identified in the alternative with a flag on a mast of not less than six feet in height.

(6) The operator of any ski area shall maintain a readily visible sign on each rope tow, wire rope tow, j-bar, t-bar, ski lift, or other similar device, advising the users of the device that:

   (a) Any person not familiar with the operation of the lift shall ask the operator thereof for assistance and/or instruction; and

   (b) The skiing-ability level recommended for users of the lift and the runs served by the device shall be classified “easiest”, “more difficult”, and “most difficult”.

§ 79A.45.020. “Trails” or “runs” defined

   As used in this chapter, the following terms have the meanings indicated unless the context clearly requires otherwise.

   “Trails” or “runs” means those trails or runs that have been marked, signed, or designated by the ski area operator as ski trails or ski runs within the ski area boundary.

§ 79A.45.030. Standard of conduct — Prohibited acts — Responsibility

   (1) In addition to the specific requirements of this section, all skiers shall conduct themselves within the limits of their individual ability and shall not act in a manner that may contribute to the injury of themselves or any other person.

(2) No person shall:

   (a) Embark or disembark upon a ski lift except at a designated area;

   (b) Throw or expel any object from any tramway, ski lift, commercial skimobile, or other similar device while riding on the device;

   (c) Act in any manner while riding on a rope tow, wire rope tow, j-bar, t-bar, ski lift, or similar device that may interfere with the proper or safe operation of the lift or tow;

   (d) Wilfully 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

   (e) Cross the uphill track of a j-bar, t-bar, rope tow, wire rope tow, or other similar device except at designated locations.

(3) Every person shall maintain control of his or her speed and course at all times, and shall stay clear of any snowgrooming equipment, any vehicle, any lift tower, and any other equipment on the mountain.

(4) A person shall be the sole judge of his or her ability to negotiate any trail, run, or uphill track and no action shall be maintained against any operator by reason of the condition of the track, trail, or run unless the condition results from the negligence of the operator.

(5) Any person who boards a rope tow, wire rope tow, j-bar, t-bar, ski lift, or other similar device shall be presumed to have sufficient abilities to use the device. No liability shall attach to any operator or attendant for failure to instruct the person on the use of the device, but a person shall follow any written or verbal instructions that are given regarding the use.

(6) Because of the inherent risks in the sport of skiing all persons using the ski hill shall exercise reasonable care for their own safety. However, the primary duty shall be on the person skiing downhill to avoid any collision with any person or object below him or her.

(7) Any person skiing outside the confines of trails open for skiing or runs open for skiing within the ski area boundary shall be responsible for any injuries or losses resulting from his or her action.

(8) Any person on foot or on any type of sliding device shall be responsible for any collision whether the collision is with another person or with an object.

(9) A person embarking on a lift or tow without authority shall be considered to be a trespasser.

§ 79A.45.040. Skiing outside of trails or boundaries — Notice of skier responsibility

   Ski area operators shall place a notice of the provisions of RCW 79A.45.030(7) on their trail maps, at or near the ticket booth, and at the bottom of each ski lift or similar device.

§ 79A.45.050. Leaving scene of skiing accident — Penalty — Notice

   (1) Any person who is involved in a skiing accident and who departs from the scene of the accident without leaving personal identification or otherwise clearly identifying himself or herself before notifying the proper authorities or obtaining assistance, knowing that any other person involved in the accident is in need of medical or other assistance, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

(2) An operator shall place a prominent notice containing the substance of this section in such places as are necessary to notify the public.

§ 79A.45.060. Insurance requirements for operators

   (1) Every tramway, ski lift, or commercial skimobile operator shall maintain liability insurance of not less than one hundred thousand dollars per person per accident and of not less than two hundred thousand dollars per accident.

(2) Every operator of a rope tow, wire rope tow, j-bar, t-bar, or similar device shall maintain liability insurance of not less than twenty-five thousand dollars per person per accident and of not less than fifty thousand dollars per accident.

(3) This section shall not apply to operators of tramways that are not open to the general public and that are operated without charge, except that this section shall apply to operators of tramways that are operated by schools, ski clubs, or similar organizations.

§ 79A.45.070. Skiing in an area or trail closed to the public — Penalty

   A person is guilty of a misdemeanor if the person knowingly skis in an area or on a ski trail, owned or controlled by a ski area operator, that is closed to the public and that has signs posted indicating the closure.


Good News ASI was dismissed from the lawsuit

Bad news, the post-accident investigation proved the college was negligent according to the court.

Foster, et al., v. Alex Kosseff, et al., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 40566 (E.D. Wash. 2013)

Plaintiff: Stephanie Foster, et al.

Defendant: Alex Kosseff, et al.

Plaintiff Claims: Negligence: Plaintiff was the intended beneficiary of the defendant’s work;

Defendant Defenses: No duty owed to the plaintiff

Holding: For the defendant

This is a follow-up to the article, I wrote Bad luck or about time, however, you look at this decision, you will change the way you work in the Outdoor Recreation Industry. The original article was about a motion to dismiss which the defendant safety audit company lost.

This article is the result of a motion for summary judgment filed on behalf of the defendant auditor which the court granted.

The plaintiff was a student at the defendant college, Whitman College and also worked in the Outdoor Program at the college. While working the plaintiff was asked to bring down the ropes still on the climbing wall. She climbed up to a platform next to the wall and removed the ropes. She then “hooked” into the remaining rope intending to rappel suffering severe and injuries to her spine.

The initial report prepared by the defendant auditors (meaning the individuals and the company the individual(s) worked for) was titled “Draft Risk Management Audit.” The report included extensive language about what the audit would and would not do and was quoted by the court.

The college hired the same auditor to investigate the accident. (Can you say conflict of interest?) The auditor submitted a report on his investigation into the accident. The report stated that the plaintiff had climbed above the Super Shut anchors which released the rope causing her to fall.

The court reviewed the accident report prepared by the defendant and made the following statement.

Thus, Kosseff concluded that both Whitman College and Ms. Foster were negligent in using the Super Shut anchors for a purpose for which they were not designed.

Summary of the case

The first argument the court reviewed was whether the plaintiff was an intended beneficiary of the work with the defendant auditor. The court quickly found that to be true. The Draft Audit stated the audit was being down for the college, employees and students. The college hired the audit for the benefit to the college, students and employees.

The second issue discussed was the scope of an audit. The court first went through the elements to prove negligence and what makes up the first part of the element’s duty, under Washington’s law.

There are four elements in a common law negligence claim in Washington: duty, breach, causation and damages. As to the first element, a duty of care is defined as “an obligation, to which the law will give recognition and effect, to conform to a particular standard of conduct toward another.” Whether a duty of care exists is a matter of law to be decided by the court rather than by a jury. This is a “threshold question” which involves three separate inquiries: “Does an obligation exist? What is the measure of care required? To whom and with respect to what risks is the obligation owed?”

Under Washington’s law, someone who inspects the premises of another does not become the insurer of anyone injured by the negligence of the inspection. In most states, an inspecting party is only “liable for undiscovered hazards which he or she undertook to discover in the first place.” Meaning, you are only liable for what you say you are going to discover and don’t.

Consequently, the defendant could not be liable, unless he had agreed to inspect the elements of the wall. The audit was directed at procedures and programs not equipment. On top of that, even if the audit looked at equipment, it did not look at how that equipment was used or in this case, misused.

Because the audit was not directed at the equipment which caused the accident, the defendant auditor was dismissed from the suit.

 

So Now What?

1.      If you are a college, with a climbing wall, it needs to be inspected by engineers.

2.    If you are a college, do not create a conflict of interest by hiring the company that gave you a review to investigate an accident which the review might have missed. Again, can you say Conflict of Interest?

3.    If you are any business do not have an accident investigated by anyone other than who your attorney or insurance company hires. Here, the defendant with the conflict of interest nailed the defendant college to the judgment wall with its report.

Because the report was not done by legal counsel, the report can be used by the plaintiff to prove the defendant negligent. That, however, will not be too difficult since the court in this decision already came to that conclusions based upon the accident report. However, a report that was protected by privilege would not have hung the defendant.

Although the plaintiff is probably upset that one defendant was dismissed, they have to be happy with the decision because of this issue.

The initial outcome of this case is good; the company being paid to review the college was dismissed from the case. However, the long-term effects are multiple.

·        Initially, the one defendant won, but only by sinking its co-defendants.

·        Long term, colleges are going to be hesitant to build climbing walls because this case is going to settle or go to trial for a large amount of money. Spinal cord injuries are multimillion dollar cases.

·        The entire industry has to wise up. Contracts that are created by legitimate risk management firms will be signed in advance and have tons of disclaimer and indemnification language. However, the issue is not who can sue or defend who, but what are you getting for your money?

As a side note, this part of the Draft Audit was quoted by the court.

If an accident does occur, participation in this voluntary program can protect the organization’s reputation and serve, if necessary, as part of a legal defense.

Instead of a defense, it created a legal claim and proof of negligence…….

 

 

Relevant Cases:

Bad luck or about time, however, you look at this decision, you will change the way you work in the Outdoor Recreation Industry                                                                                 http://rec-law.us/13L66Dn

 

Other Cases concerning Climbing Walls:

Gross Negligence beats a release…but after the trial                                       http://rec-law.us/K884tT

Michigan court upholds release in a climbing wall accident where injured climber sued his belayer for his injuries                                                                                                                http://rec-law.us/Lt1Z6T

Poorly written release gave the plaintiff’s the only chance they had to winhttp://rec-law.us/GVzUUV

 

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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Foster, et al., v. Alex Kosseff, et al., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 40566 (E.D. Wash. 2013)

Foster, et al., v. Alex Kosseff, et al., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 40566 (E.D. Wash. 2013)

Stephanie Foster, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Alex Kosseff, et al., Defendants.

NO: 11-CV-5069-TOR

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON

2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 40566

March 22, 2013, Decided

March 22, 2013, Filed

PRIOR HISTORY: Foster v. Kosseff, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5380 (E.D. Wash., Jan. 14, 2013)

COUNSEL: [*1] For Stephanie Foster, Gary Foster, Susan Foster, Plaintiffs: Allen M Ressler, LEAD ATTORNEY, Ressler and Tesh PLLC, Seattle, WA; William S Finger, LEAD ATTORNEY, Frank & Finger PC, Evergreen, CO.

For Alex Kosseff, Adventure Safety International LLC, Defendants: Heather C Yakely, LEAD ATTORNEY, Evans Craven & Lackie PS – SPO, Spokane, WA.

JUDGES: THOMAS O. RICE, United States District Judge.

OPINION BY: THOMAS O. RICE

OPINION

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT ALEX KOSSEFF’S AND DEFENDANT ADVENTURE SAFETY INTERNATIONAL’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

BEFORE THE COURT is a motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants Alex Kosseff and Adventure Safety International (ECF No. 80). This matter was heard with oral argument on March 22, 2013. William S. Finger appeared on behalf of the Plaintiffs. Heather C. Yakely appeared on behalf of Defendants Alex Kosseff and Adventure Safety International. The Court has reviewed the briefing and the record and files herein, and is fully informed.

BACKGROUND

Defendants Alex Kosseff (“Kosseff”) and Adventure Safety International LLC (“ASI”) have moved for summary judgment on Plaintiffs’ negligence claims. Defendants assert that these claims fail as a matter of law because neither Kosseff nor ASI [*2] owed Plaintiff Stephanie Foster (“Ms. Foster”) a duty of care to identify the dangerous condition which caused her to fall from the Whitman College climbing wall on April 28, 2008.

FACTS

Ms. Foster enrolled as a freshman at Whitman College in the fall of 2007. During the 2007-2008 academic year, Plaintiff enrolled in several rock climbing classes offered through the Whitman College Outdoor Program (“Outdoor Program”). She also accepted a paid position as a student climbing instructor for the Outdoor Program. As a result of this coursework and employment, Plaintiff participated in several climbing sessions on a sport climbing wall located on the Whitman College campus.

On April 28, 2008, Ms. Foster was summoned to the climbing wall by her supervisor, Brien Sheedy (“Sheedy”) to assist in removing several climbing ropes that were hanging from the top of the wall. At Sheedy’s direction, Ms. Foster ascended the wall, climbed atop a platform adjacent to the wall, and removed all but one of the ropes. Having completed her task, Ms. Foster lowered herself back onto the climbing wall with the intention of rappelling down the wall using the remaining rope. Shortly after beginning her descent, however, [*3] the remaining rope became unhooked from two “Super Shut” anchors located near the top of the wall. The release of the rope caused Ms. Foster to free fall approximately 35 feet to the ground, resulting in serious permanent injury to her spine.

In April of 2007, one year prior to Ms. Foster’s fall, Whitman College hired ASI to perform a “risk management audit” of the Outdoor Program. The purpose and scope of this audit are central to the outcome of this case. Unfortunately, the terms of the agreement between Whitman College and ASI were never reduced to writing. In any event, it is undisputed that the audit was conducted by Defendant Alex Kosseff (“Kosseff”) over the course of four days on the Whitman College campus. It is further undisputed that Whitman College paid $3,000 for the audit.

During the course of the audit, Kosseff met with several students and administrators who were involved with the Outdoor Program. He also observed several regularly-scheduled activities, including an open climbing wall session, a pool session offered to students in a kayaking class, a climbing wall session offered to students in a rock climbing class, a training session for an upcoming climbing competition, [*4] and a debriefing session for a glacier mountaineering course. ECF No. 153-5 at 7.

After completing his site visit, Kosseff prepared and submitted a written report of his findings and recommendations to Whitman College. The authenticity of this document, which bears the title, “Draft Risk Management Audit,” (hereafter “audit report”) is undisputed. 1 The audit report contains several passages which are relevant to the issues raised in the instant motion. One such passage, under the heading “Audit Process Introduction” reads as follows:

The ASI Risk Management Audit program is a voluntary program aimed at improving risk management practices in outdoor education and recreation. This program has been designed by ASI and the audit process is handled by one of our experienced staff members. We recognize that each program is unique and that one standardized risk management plan will not work for every organization. With this in mind, the ASI Risk Management audit process does not prescribe specific approaches, but rather aims to assess that different aspects [of] risk management are being addressed.

ASI’s audit program is designed as an accessible step for organizations that want to reduce the [*5] risk of an accident taking place. It gives organizational management, clients/students, and others confidence that prudent steps are being taken to manage hazards. If an accident does occur, participation in this voluntary program can protect the organization’s reputation and serve, if necessary, as part of a legal defense. ASI’s audit program focuses exclusively on risk management and safety concerns and does not address educational, marketing, business and financial management, or other issues.

ECF No. 153-5 at 5.

1 ASI apparently contemplated issuing a final draft after Whitman College had reviewed and implemented its recommendations, but no final draft was ever issued. ECF No. 84-1 at Tr. 35-36.

In another passage, under the heading “Audit Program Disclaimer,” the audit report states:

The nature of Adventure Safety International Risk Management Audit is to gain a general understanding of the risk management practices at the time of the review. This is done primarily through review of the self assessment responses supplied by the management of the program being accredited. This is supplemented with onsite observation and interviews, which occur during a brief site visit.

The major aim [*6] of this voluntary audit is to benchmark the program against the risk management guidelines that ASI believes will promote good risk management practice. The benchmarks have been established, at three levels, in many (but not all) areas of risk management planning. The intent is to identify and share good practice amongst outdoor programs and over time to raise the level of risk management practice.

The audit cannot provide any guarantee that future operations will be free of safety incidents. Rather the audit documents that at the time of the review risk management practices met or exceeded risk management guidelines established by ASI and based on current industry practices.

ECF No. 153-5 at 6.

Finally, the audit report documents ASI’s substantive findings and recommendations across 27 different program evaluation criteria. These criteria vary widely, ranging from training and oversight of activity leaders to safety of passenger vans and drivers. Included among these criteria are ratings for “Equipment” and “Facilities.” ECF No. 153-5 at 30, 35. The audit report assigns the Outdoor Program the highest rating in both categories, noting that the quality of the program’s equipment was “exceptional,” [*7] and that those responsible for the program routinely inspect facilities for potential safety hazards. ECF No. 153-5 at 30, 35.

Shortly after Ms. Foster’s fall on April 28, 2008, Whitman College hired ASI to investigate the cause of the accident. ASI assigned Kosseff to conduct the investigation. Kosseff ultimately concluded that the accident occurred as a result of Plaintiff climbing above the Super Shut anchors and subsequently descending below them. According to Kosseff, the Super Shut anchors were not designed to accommodate a person climbing above them; rather, the anchors were designed for use only at “dead end” locations on a sport climbing wall. Kosseff further noted that the manufacturer of the anchors had issued warnings against climbing above them, noting that the risk of a climbing rope becoming disengaged from an anchor in this situation was about “50/50.” Thus, Kosseff concluded that both Whitman College and Ms. Foster were negligent in using the Super Shut anchors for a purpose for which they were not designed.

In the instant lawsuit, Plaintiffs assign fault to Kosseff for failing to identify the risks posed by the Super Shut anchors during the ASI’s risk management audit. [*8] Had Kosseff identified these risks and reported them to Whitman College, Plaintiffs assert, the problem could have been corrected before Ms. Foster was injured. For the reasons discussed below, the Court finds that ASI’s duty of care arising from the risk management audit did not extend to identifying the risk posed by improper use of the Super Shut anchors.

DISCUSSION

The Court may grant summary judgment in favor of a moving party who demonstrates “that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of showing the absence of any genuine issues of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265 (1986). The burden then shifts to the non-moving party to identify specific genuine issues of material fact which must be decided by a jury. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). “The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff’s position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff.” Id. at 252.

For [*9] purposes of summary judgment, a fact is “material” if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id. at 248. A dispute as to any such fact is “genuine” only where the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could find in favor of the non-moving party. Id. In ruling on a summary judgment motion, a court must construe the facts, as well as all rational inferences therefrom, in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378, 127 S. Ct. 1769, 167 L. Ed. 2d 686 (2007). Finally, the court may only consider evidence that would be admissible at trial. Orr v. Bank of America, NT & SA, 285 F.3d 764 (9th Cir. 2002).

A. Plaintiff Was an Intended Beneficiary of the Risk Management Audit

In its prior order denying Defendants’ motion to dismiss, the Court remarked that, in its view, the viability of Plaintiffs’ negligence claim hinged on their ability to establish that Ms. Foster was an intended third-party beneficiary of the contract between ASI and Whitman College. ECF No. 72 at 10 (citing Burg v. Shannon & Wilson, Inc., 110 Wash. App. 798, 807-08, 43 P.3d 526 (2002)). Specifically, the Court commented that, in order to avoid summary dismissal of this claim, Plaintiff would need to establish, [*10] as a threshold matter, that “ASI agreed to undertake the risk management audit for the benefit of the college’s employees and students rather than for the benefit of the college itself.” ECF No. 72 at 10.

Having reviewed the record on summary judgment, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have established a triable question of fact on this issue. First, the Draft Risk Management Audit indicates that ASI’s audit program is designed to “give[] organizational management, clients/students, and others confidence that prudent steps are being taken to manage hazards.” ECF No. 153-5 at 5 (emphasis added). Second, the Director of the Outdoor Program, Brien Sheedy, testified during his deposition that the risk management audit was designed to minimize risks to “all users” of the Outdoor Program, including students and employees. ECF No. 153-10 at 34-35. Third, Whitman College’s chief financial officer, Peter Harvey, testified that the college typically takes an “across the board” approach to risk management by attempting to mitigate risks to students, employees and faculty. ECF No. 153-8 at 25. Finally, Whitman College’s president, George Bridges, testified that he would expect any risk management [*11] audit commissioned by the college “to protect the school and the employees and the students.” ECF No. 153-9 at 44. A rational jury could find from this evidence that Ms. Foster, as an employee and student of Whitman College, was an intended beneficiary of the contract for the risk management audit.

B. The Danger Posed by Misuse of the Super Shut Anchors Was Beyond the Scope of ASI’s Risk Management Audit

There are four elements to a common law negligence claim in Washington: duty, breach, causation and damages. Michaels v. CH2M Hill, Inc., 171 Wn.2d 587, 605, 257 P.3d 532 (2011). As to the first element, a duty of care is defined as “an obligation, to which the law will give recognition and effect, to conform to a particular standard of conduct toward another.” Affiliated FM Ins. Co. v. LTK Consulting Servs., Inc., 170 Wash.2d 442, 449, 243 P.3d 521 (2010) (internal quotation and citation omitted). Whether a duty of care exists is a matter of law to be decided by the court rather than by a jury. Osborn v. Mason Cnty., 157 Wash.2d 18, 23, 134 P.3d 197 (2006). This is a “threshold question” which involves three separate inquiries: “Does an obligation exist? What is the measure of care required? To whom and with respect to what [*12] risks is the obligation owed?” Affiliated FM Ins. Co., 170 Wash.2d at 449. In deciding whether the law imposes a duty of care, a court must balance “considerations of logic, common sense, justice, policy, and precedent.” Id. at 450 (internal quotations and citations omitted).

Here, Defendants contend that they did not owe Ms. Foster a duty of care to discover the danger posed by misuse of the Super Shut anchors. The Court agrees. In Washington, a private party who inspects another’s premises for safety hazards may be liable to third parties for injuries caused by the inspecting party’s negligence. See Sheridan v. Aetna Cas. & Surety Co., 3 Wash.2d 423, 439-40, 100 P.2d 1024 (1940); (liability insurer which inspected cargo elevator for safety hazards liable to third party who was injured as a result of insurer’s failure to discover dangerous condition); Nielson v. Wolfkill Corp., 47 Wash. App. 352, 359-60, 734 P.2d 961 (1987) (injured worker’s cause of action for negligent safety inspection performed by Department of Labor and Industries inspector barred by Washington Industrial Insurance Act); see also Restatement (Second) of Torts § 324A(b) (1965) (“One who undertakes, gratuitously or for consideration, to render [*13] services to another which he should recognize as necessary for the protection of a third person or his things, is subject to liability to the third person for physical harm resulting from his failure to exercise reasonable care to protect his undertaking, if he has undertaken to perform a duty owed by the other to the third person.”).

Nevertheless, the act of inspecting another’s premises for safety hazards does not transform the inspecting party into a de facto insurer against any and all risks. Although the Court has not located any cases directly on-point in the State of Washington, courts in other jurisdictions have held that an inspecting party is only liable for undiscovered hazards which he or she undertook to discover in the first place. See, e.g., Procter & Gamble Co. v. Staples, 551 So.2d 949, 955-56 (Ala. 1989) (“In defining the nature of the duty undertaken by a voluntary [safety] inspection, two aspects must be considered–the physical scope of the undertaking and the degree of scrutiny and action mandated by conditions observed or reasonably observable.”) (quotation and citation omitted); Winslett v. Twin City Fire Ins. Co., 141 Ga. App. 143, 232 S.E.2d 638, 639 (Ga. App. 1977) (no liability [*14] to third party for failing to discover dangerous condition on construction crane where “evidence was uncontradicted that no detailed inspections of machinery or equipment were contemplated or made”); Lavazzi v. McDonald’s Corp., 239 Ill. App. 3d 403, 606 N.E.2d 845, 849-50, 179 Ill. Dec. 1013 (Ill. App. 1992) (inspectors hired by restaurant to perform food safety inspections at supplier’s plant not liable for negligent inspection where inspectors “did not specifically focus any attention . . . on the piece of equipment involved in the injury”). In other words, the weight of authority from other jurisdictions counsels that an inspecting party’s liability for negligent inspection must be circumscribed by the scope of the inspection actually performed.

The Court concludes that “considerations of logic, common sense, justice, policy, and precedent” support adoption of this rule. See Affiliated FM Ins. Co., 170 Wash.2d at 450. Contrary to Plaintiffs’ assertions, an inspecting party’s duty of care is not synonymous with the foreseeability of a particular injury occurring. As Defendants correctly note, this argument improperly collapses the duty of care and causation elements of a negligence claim. In Washington, a negligence plaintiff [*15] must make a “threshold showing” that the defendant owed her a duty of care before proceeding to the issues of whether the defendant breached its duty and whether the breach was a foreseeable cause of the plaintiff’s injury. See Munich v. Skagit Emergency Commc’ns Ctr., 175 Wn.2d 871, 877, 288 P.3d 328 (2012). While foreseeability can sometimes inform the scope of a duty owed, it cannot create the duty of care in the first instance. Michaels, 171 Wn.2d at 608. Indeed, equating duty with foreseeability in the context of a safety inspection would lead to a perverse result: an inspector would be legally obligated to report each and every manner in which a person might conceivably be injured–regardless of how obvious, inherent or attenuated the danger might be. This result would effectively transform safety inspectors into de facto insurers against all risks. As a matter of logic and public policy, the better approach is to define an inspector’s duty of care according to the types of hazards that were actually targeted by his or her inspection.

Applying this rule to the instant case, the Court finds that the hazard which caused Ms. Foster’s fall–misuse of the Super Shut anchors–was simply beyond [*16] the scope of the risk management audit that ASI performed. As a threshold matter, Plaintiffs have failed to establish that ASI undertook to inspect any individual pieces of equipment maintained by the Outdoor Program. In his deposition, Kosseff testified unequivocally that the Outdoor Program’s equipment was beyond the scope of ASI’s audit:

There were hundreds and hundreds of pieces of equipment within this program. Each of those pieces of equipment, especially the climbing [equipment], have specific ways in which they’re used. There — I was not looking at how this equipment would be utilized in this situation. I was looking at how the college conducted their systems for managing risk.

ECF No. 84-1 at Tr. 94. Similarly, Brien Sheedy states in his declaration that he “understood and expected that the [audit] would not review specific equipment utilized in the Outdoor Program, for example the Fixe Super Shut anchors, as that type of inspection was not envisioned by the audit process based upon the information [he] learned from [Kosseff]” prior to hiring ASI. ECF No. 82 at ¶ 6. Although this testimony is somewhat self-serving, Plaintiffs have not rebutted it.

Moreover, even assuming for [*17] the sake of argument that ASI was charged with inspecting individual pieces of equipment, it could not reasonably have been expected to identify hazards stemming from potential misuse of the equipment. As Defendants correctly note, the Super Shut anchors which Ms. Foster was using at the time of the accident did not truly “fail.” Rather, the anchors did something that they were designed to do–i.e., release a climbing rope–when Ms. Foster used them for an unsupported application.

To whatever extent Kosseff understood the danger of the Super Shuts releasing a rope in this scenario, he was not obligated to address it with Whitman College. ASI did not contract with Whitman College to address dangers caused by misuse of the Outdoor Program’s equipment. While there is no written contract evidencing the scope of work that ASI agreed to perform, the audit report prepared by Kosseff is highly informative. Having reviewed the audit report in its entirety, the Court finds that the purpose of the risk management audit was to improve Whitman College’s safety practices rather than to identify and catalog specific safety hazards. Indeed, there is no evidence that ASI agreed to perform a detailed “safety [*18] inspection” of specific outdoor equipment, buildings, vehicles, etc. Nor is there any evidence that Kosseff actually undertook to perform an inspection at that minute level of detail.

In the final analysis, there is simply no evidence that ASI agreed or undertook to examine the virtually countless ways in which the Outdoor Program’s climbing equipment could have been dangerously misused. Accordingly, Plaintiffs have not met their burden of establishing that ASI owed Ms. Foster a duty of care to discover and report the danger posed by misuse of the Super Shut anchors. In the absence of a duty of care, Plaintiffs cannot prevail on their negligence claim. Defendants’ motion for summary judgment is granted.

ACCORDINGLY, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED:

1. The motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants Alex Kosseff and Adventure Safety International (ECF No. 80) is GRANTED. Plaintiffs’ claims against these Defendants are DISMISSED with prejudice.

2. Plaintiffs’ claim against Defendant Fixe Industry, which has never been served in this action, is DISMISSED without prejudice.

3. All pending motions are DENIED as moot.

The District Court Executive is hereby directed to enter this Order and a judgment [*19] accordingly, provide copies to counsel, and CLOSE the file.

DATED March 22, 2013.

/s/ Thomas O. Rice

THOMAS O. RICE

United States District Judge


Washington Independent Sales Rep

ANNOTATED REVISED CODE OF WASHINGTON

TITLE 49. LABOR REGULATIONS

CHAPTER 49.48. WAGES—PAYMENT—COLLECTION

GO TO REVISED CODE OF WASHINGTON ARCHIVE DIRECTORY

Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 49.48.150 (2012)

§ 49.48.150. Sales representatives—Definitions

Unless the context clearly requires otherwise, the definitions in this section apply throughout RCW 49.48.160 through 49.48.190.

(1) “Commission” means compensation paid a sales representative by a principal in an amount based on a percentage of the dollar amount of certain orders for or sales of the principal’s product.

(2) “Principal” means a person, whether or not the person has a permanent or fixed place of business in this state, who:

(a) Manufactures, produces, imports, or distributes a product for sale to customers who purchase the product for resale;

(b) Uses a sales representative to solicit orders for the product; and

(c) Compensates the sales representative in whole or in part by commission.

(3) “Sales representative” means a person who solicits, on behalf of a principal, orders for the purchase at wholesale of the principal’s product, but does not include a person who places orders for his or her own account for resale, or purchases for his or her own account for resale, or sells or takes orders for the direct sale of products to the ultimate consumer.

§ 49.48.160. Sales representatives—Contract—Agreement

(1) A contract between a principal and a sales representative under which the sales representative is to solicit wholesale orders within this state must be in writing and must set forth the method by which the sales representative’s commission is to be computed and paid. The principal shall provide the sales representative with a copy of the contract. A provision in the contract establishing venue for an action arising under the contract in a state other than this state is void.

(2) When no written contract has been entered into, any agreement between a sales representative and a principal is deemed to incorporate the provisions of RCW 49.48.150 through 49.48.190.

(3) During the course of the contract, a sales representative shall be paid the earned commission and all other moneys earned or payable in accordance with the agreed terms of the contract, but no later than thirty days after receipt of payment by the principal for products or goods sold on behalf of the principal by the sales representative.

Upon termination of a contract, whether or not the agreement is in writing, all earned commissions due to the sales representative shall be paid within thirty days after receipt of payment by the principal for products or goods sold on behalf of the principal by the sales representative, including earned commissions not due when the contract is terminated.

§ 49.48.170. Sales representatives—Payment

A principal shall pay wages and commissions at the usual place of payment unless the sales representative requests that the wages and commissions be sent through registered mail. If, in accordance with a request by the sales representative, the sales representative’s wages and commissions are sent through the mail, the wages and commissions are deemed to have been paid as of the date of their registered postmark.

§ 49.48.180. Sales representatives—Principal considered doing business in this state

A principal who is not a resident of this state and who enters into a contract subject to RCW 49.48.150 through 49.48.190 is considered to be doing business in this state for purposes of the exercise of personal jurisdiction over the principal.

§ 49.48.190. Sales representatives—Rights and remedies not exclusive—Waiver void

(1) RCW 49.48.150 through 49.48.190 supplement but do not supplant any other rights and remedies enjoyed by sales representatives.

(2) A provision of RCW 49.48.150 through 49.48.190 may not be waived, whether by express waiver or by attempt to make a contract or agreement subject to the laws of another state. A waiver of a provision of RCW 49.48.150 through 49.48.190 is void.

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You have to be prepared way before trial, and you have to win at trial, because judges are given wide discretion in controlling your chances on appeal.

Salvini v. Ski Lifts, Inc., 2008 Wash. App. LEXIS 2506

This case significantly changed the ski industry.

This decision out of the Washington Appellate Court offers value in understanding some issues that occur at trial. It also offers an example of how much control a judge has in a trial and why a judge really can control the outcome of your trial if you are not prepared.

The plaintiff in this case was an experienced skier who had gone over the table-top  jump at issue before. There is conflicting testimony on how fast the plaintiff was skiing; however, he landed far down the hill beyond the landing zone. The injuries rendered him a quadriplegic. The case was taken to trial, and the jury found the plaintiff 55% liable and the ski area 45% liable. The jury awarded $30 million in damages, resulting in a $14 million-dollar  recovery for the plaintiff.

The plaintiff sued “alleging that it designed and built an unreasonably dangerous ski jump, and that it failed to close the jump or to warn of its dangers.” The defense argued that the risk was an inherent part of skiing, and the plaintiff was negligent and therefore, the cause of his injuries.

Summary of the case

Washington like all other states has comparative negligence. However, unlike the majority of the states, this is a pure comparative negligence state. That means the jury awards an amount and decides what percentage each party to the litigation is at fault. In the majority of states if the plaintiff is more than 50% or 51% at fault the plaintiff recovers nothing. This is not true in Washington. The percentage is applied to the damages, and the plaintiff receives that percentage of the damages. 45% of $30 million is about $14 million.

Washington has a Skier Safety Statute. However, it is very weak and does not define the risks of skiing. In this case, the statute provided very little benefit to the defendant.

The majority of the decision focuses on the jury instructions. Jury instructions are the actual written instructions the jury takes with them into the jury room that explain the law. The legal issues and definitions are each on a separate on a piece of paper that is numbered. By reading through the instructions in numerical order the jury is helped to decide the legal issues or more importantly decide how the facts apply to the law.

Some states have pre-printed jury instructions. Federal courts and several states the jury instructions are created by the parties and the judge. In both cases, the opposing attorneys and judge creates the final instructions that the jury will read.

The judge is given wide discretion in creating jury instructions and unless the jury instructions are plain wrong, they are rarely overturned. That was the case here. The defendant argued several issues with the jury instructions, and the appellate court found none of the issues were so great as to be wrong. The judge has vast discretion to determine the jury instructions.

“The court need not include specific language in a jury instruction, so long as the instructions as a whole correctly state the law.”

Washington Skier Safety Act does not have any definitions for terrain parks or jumps. Like many ski area acts, Washington’s has not been updated to keep up with the changes in the sport.

This left the defendant with a tough burden of proving the risks of jumping in a terrain park was an inherent risk of skiing.

Washington applies the landowner test to the duty owed to patrons at a ski area. Because the skier is there for the financial benefit of the ski area, the skier is a business invitee which the ski area owes “a duty to a skier to discover dangerous conditions through reasonable inspection, and repair that condition or warn the invitees, unless it is known or obvious.” The Appellate Court quoted from the Restatement of Torts to support its opinion, which places a very high burden upon a ski area.

An invitee is entitled to expect that the possessor will take reasonable care to ascertain the actual condition of the premises and, having discovered it, either to make it reasonably safe by repair or to give warning of the actual condition and the risk involved therein.

Restatement (Second) of Torts § 343, cmt. d (1965).

The defendant argued that a notice on a whiteboard was sufficient to warn of the dangers. However, the court found otherwise. The plaintiff’s experts also opined that there should have been an entrance to the jump so skiers could not get so much speed. That was supported by 15 incidents reports the plaintiff placed  into evidence of injuries from people landing beyond the jump landing zone. This was reduced from 66 the plaintiff had originally tried to have admitted.

If you keep paperwork showing a problem, you better also have paperwork showing what you did about the problem.

The ski area also argued they were not required to create a start point or place a sign there because the speed that a skier entered a jump was up to the skier.

The court, however, did make some statements from a skier’s perspective that seemed at odds with reality.

Lifts further contends that it had no duty to warn Salvini because he had used the jump before and was fully aware of its condition. This argument is not persuasive. Salvini’s previous use of the jump would not necessarily put him on notice that its design could increase the risk of severe injury from overshooting. Whether the jump’s deficiencies were “known and obvious” and whether Salvini should have anticipated the harm is a question of fact for the jury.

.. . . .

The trial court rejected most of the 66 incident reports offered by Salvini because it found that they were not sufficiently similar, and it admitted only “[t]hose accident reports documenting an injury occurring as a result of overshooting the jump in question, on either skis or snowboards (which go slower than skis.) … .” CP at 2635. If overshooting was a problem for slower moving snowboarders, it is reasonable to expect it to be a problem for skiers as well.

The first issue is that using a jump does not give you notice that the jump is dangerous seems to be at odds with reality. The issue that if you go over a jump and do not realize that it has increased dangers over skiing on flat terrain does not seem logical. Anytime you are going faster than you feel comfortable or above the ground without holding on to something seems to indicate an increase in risk that should be obvious to everyone.

At the same time, after you have done something dangerous enough times, enough being a different number for everyone, you become accustomed to the risk. However, being able to deal with the risk does not mean that you have totally lost the ability to understand or appreciate the risk.

The second is the court’s statement about snowboards going slower than skiers which does not seem to be supported in the opinion and could be argued in a lot of cases is as irrelevant. It is the skill of the person wearing the board or skis that have more of an influence on the speed rather than the implement itself.

This decision is a nasty one for ski areas. $14 million is a lot of money, especially for a small area and a small insurance pool

So Now What?

You cannot create risks just because every other competitor is doing it. If you state does not have the laws, or you do not have either the skills and knowledge or the defenses to deal with the risk you are over your head.

Find out what your competitors are doing. How they are approaching the risk. In this case, what fencing they are using, how they are building their features and who they are allowing in the features.

There were some very interesting things that occurred with this trial; however, that is the system we have in the US, and sometimes you get screwed.

Plaintiff: Kenneth Salvini

Defendant: Ski Lifts, Inc. (dba Snoqualmie Summit Ski Area)

Plaintiff Claims: Negligence

Defendant Defenses: inherent risks and signage

Holding: for the plaintiff

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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Salvini v. Ski Lifts, Inc., 2008 Wash. App. LEXIS 2506

Salvini v. Ski Lifts, Inc., 2008 Wash. App. LEXIS 2506

Kenneth Salvini et al., Individually, Respondents, v. Ski Lifts, Inc., Appellant.

NO. 60211-0-I

COURT OF APPEALS OF WASHINGTON, DIVISION ONE

2008 Wash. App. LEXIS 2506

October 20, 2008, Filed

NOTICE: Rules of the Washington Court of Appeals may limit citation to unpublished opinions. Please refer to the Washington Rules of Court.

SUBSEQUENT HISTORY: Reported at Salvini v. Ski Lifts, Inc., 2008 Wash. App. LEXIS 2529 (Wash. Ct. App., Oct. 20, 2008)

PRIOR HISTORY: [*1]

Appeal from King County Superior Court. Docket No: 05-2-13652-9. Judgment or order under review. Date filed: May 31, 2007. Judge signing: Honorable Laura Inveen.

COUNSEL: Counsel for Appellant(s): William Robert Hickman, Pamela A. Okano, Reed McClure, Ruth Nielsen, Nielsen Law Office Inc PS, Wendy E Lyon, Riddell Williams PS, Seattle, WA; James W. Huston, Morrison & Foerster, LLP, San Diego, CA; Beth S. Brinkmann, Ketanji Brown Jackson, Morrison & Foerster, LLP, Washington, DC.

Counsel for Respondent(s): John Robert Connelly Jr., Connelly Law Offices, James Walter Beck, Gordon Thomas Honeywell, Tacoma, WA; Philip Albert Talmadge, Tukwila, WA.

JUDGES: Authored by Linda Lau. Concurring: Marlin Appelwick, Ronald Cox.

OPINION BY: Linda Lau

OPINION

¶1 Lau, J. — While attempting a terrain park ski jump at a ski area, Kenneth Salvini was severely injured. Salvini and his parents brought a negligence action against the owner-operator Ski Lifts, Inc. The jury found Salvini 55 percent responsible and Ski Lifts 45 percent responsible. Ski Lifts appeals, arguing that the trial court improperly instructed the jury on duty, inherent risk, and signage, and that it admitted prejudicial and irrelevant evidence of prior accidents. We conclude that [*2] the jury instructions were proper and that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting evidence of prior accidents for the limited purpose of notice. Accordingly, we affirm.

FACTS

¶2 Ski Lifts owns and operates Snoqualmie, a ski area that features downhill skiing and a terrain park filled with artificial jumps and structures. Among these features are “table top” jumps, which have a takeoff ramp, a flat deck section, and a landing slope. To jump a table top successfully, a skier must approach the takeoff ramp with sufficient speed to launch into the air and clear the deck while maintaining enough control to land upright on the landing slope. “Overshooting” occurs when the skier lands past the end of the landing slope.

¶3 At approximately 7 P.M. on February 11, 2004, Kenneth Salvini arrived at Snoqualmie with his father and some friends. It was night, and the snow was rough, icy, and hard. After spending about an hour skiing at the Alpental downhill area, the main ski lift broke down. They then moved to the Summit Central downhill area. Salvini and a friend took a lift to the top of the mountain and skied over to the terrain park. A message hand written in light blue pen on a whiteboard [*3] sign posted near the lift read, “Terrain park Tip of the Week: Most injuries in the terrain park are as a result of the rider out-jumping the landing. Thanks, your friendly Ski Patrol.” Ex. 7. A Ski Lifts employee testified that the message was posted following several overshooting incidents. But Salvini and his friend did not see the sign.

¶4 Salvini, an experienced skier, decided to try a table top jump in the lower part of the terrain park–one that he had successfully jumped while skiing the previous week. Salvini testified that his goal was to approach the jump with “enough speed to make sure [he] cleared the deck.” Verbatim Report of Proceedings (VRP) (Mar. 22, 2007) at 83. Ski Lifts asserted that Salvini approached the jump at an excessively high speed, but Salvini presented evidence that his speed was within the range expected at a ski jump. He lost control, rotated backwards, “overshot” the landing ramp, and landed on his back onto a flat or nearly flat area. Salvini is now a quadriplegic.

¶5 Salvini and his parents filed a negligence action against Ski Lifts, alleging that it designed and built an unreasonably dangerous ski jump and that it failed to close the jump or to warn of [*4] its dangers, thereby exposing him to an extreme risk of serious injury beyond the risks inherent in the sport. Ski Lifts asserted that it was not negligent and that Salvini’s injuries were solely the result of the inherent risks of the sport and Salvini’s own negligence.

¶6 Ski Lifts filed a motion in limine to exclude evidence of prior accidents at the terrain park. Salvini responded with a motion to admit 66 prior incident reports. After reviewing the incident reports, the trial court admitted 15 reports for “the limited issue of notice” but excluded the remainder because they were not substantially similar. Clerk’s Papers (CP) at 2632-35. 1 At Ski Lifts’ request, the trial court instructed the jury that the reports were admitted “for the limited purpose of showing that defendant had notice that people had overshot the landing of the jump on which the plaintiff was injured.” CP at 2672.

1 The court originally admitted 16 incident reports, but this was later reduced to 15.

¶7 The jury found Salvini 55 percent at fault and Ski Lifts 45 percent at fault. The jury also found that Salvini had suffered approximately $ 30 million in damages, resulting in a judgment against Ski Lifts of approximately [*5] $ 14 million. The trial court denied Ski Lifts’ motion for a new trial. Ski Lifts now appeals.

ANALYSIS

Jury Instruction on Inherent Risk

¶8 Ski Lifts argues that the trial court erred in refusing to give its proposed jury instruction. The instruction stated: “An inherent risk of a sport is one that cannot be eliminated without fundamentally changing the nature of the sport or chilling vigorous participation in the sport.” CP at 2578. Alleged errors of law in jury instructions are reviewed de novo. Barrett v. Lucky Seven Saloon, Inc., 152 Wn.2d 259, 266, 96 P.3d 386 (2004). Whether to give a particular jury instruction, however, is within the trial court’s discretion. Boeing Co. v. Key, 101 Wn. App. 629, 632, 5 P.3d 16 (2000). “Jury instructions are sufficient if they allow the parties to argue their theories of the case, do not mislead the jury and, when taken as a whole, properly inform the jury of the law to be applied.” Hue v. Farmboy Spray Co., 127 Wn.2d 67, 92, 896 P.2d 682 (1995). “The trial court is given considerable discretion in deciding how the instructions will be worded.” Goodman v. Boeing Co., 75 Wn. App. 60, 73, 877 P.2d 703 (1994), aff’d, 127 Wn.2d 1020, 890 P.2d 463 (1995).

¶9 Chapter 79A.45 RCW [*6] generally sets forth the responsibilities of skiers and ski area operators. 2 The statute “modifies, but is generally consistent with, the common law.” Codd v. Stevens Pass, Inc., 45 Wn. App. 393, 397, 725 P.2d 1008 (1986). It provides that “[b]ecause of the inherent risks in the sport of skiing all persons using the ski hill shall exercise reasonable care for their own safety.” RCW 79A.45.030(6). “A defendant simply does not have a duty to protect a sports participant from dangers which are an inherent and normal part of a sport.” Scott v. Pac. W. Mountain Resort, 119 Wn.2d 484, 500, 834 P.2d 6 (1992). But “[a]lthough the statute imposes both primary and secondary duties on skiers, it ‘does not purport to relieve ski operators from all liability for their own negligence.'” Brown v. Stevens Pass, Inc., 97 Wn. App. 519, 524, 984 P.2d 448 (1999) (quoting Scott, 119 Wn.2d at 500). Risks caused by negligent provision of dangerous facilities are not “inherent” in a sport. Scott, 119 Wn.2d at 498.

2 Nothing in the statute specifically addresses terrain park ski jumping.

10 Washington’s ski statute does not define “inherent risk.” 3 The language of Ski Lifts’ proposed instruction is drawn from [*7] an intermediate California appellate court decision, Vine v. Bear Valley Ski Co., 118 Cal. App. 4th 577, 13 Cal. Rptr. 3d 370 (2004). In Vine, a snowboarder who was seriously injured on a terrain park ski jump brought a negligence action against the ski area. The ski operator, arguing that it owed no duty to protect Vine against inherent risks, requested the following instruction on assumption of risk:

“The defendant has no duty to eliminate, reduce or make safer the inherent risks of injury which arise from the nature of the sport of recreational snowboard jumping or the manner in which it is conducted. An inherent risk of a sport is one that cannot be eliminated without fundamentally changing the nature of the sport or chilling vigorous participation in the sport.

“The defendant is under a duty to use ordinary care not to increase the risks to a snowboarder over and above those inherent in the sport. The defendant is under a duty to refrain from constructing a jump for use by the public which, by design, poses an extreme risk of injury.

“A failure to fulfill such duty is negligence.”

Id. at 594 n.5.

3 In contrast, some states have enacted ski safety statutes that define “inherent risks” [*8] and/or “inherent danger” of skiing with particularity. See, e.g., Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 33-44-103(3.5) (West); Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. 408.342(2) (LexisNexis); 32 Me. Rev. Stat. Ann § 15217.

11 The trial court ruled that the primary assumption of risk doctrine did not apply because snowboarding does not inherently require jumps that are designed in such a way as to create an extreme risk of injury. Id. at 590. Thus, the court instructed the jury on ordinary negligence and contributory negligence but not on assumption of the risk. Id. at 595-97, 603.

12 The California appellate court held that the instructions were erroneous regarding the duty of care owed by the ski operator.

Nowhere was the jury informed that Bear Valley owed Vine no duty to protect her from the risks inherent in snowboard jumping. Indeed, the instructions suggested just the opposite, since it was obviously foreseeable that the inherent risks of riding a snowboard over the jump built by Bear Valley might result in injury.

Id. at 596. The court reasoned, “It is fundamentally unfair for a snowboarding injury case to go to a jury without any instruction on assumption of the risk.” Id. at 603.

13 Ski Lifts argues that under the reasoning [*9] of Vine, the trial court’s failure to give Ski Lifts’ proposed jury instruction defining the inherent risks of terrain park jumping deprived it of the ability to argue that the risks that caused Salvini’s accident were inherent in the sport and that he was responsible for his own injury. Salvini contends that the jury instructions given by the trial court were an accurate statement of the law and that Ski Lifts’ proposed additional instruction was unnecessary for Ski Lifts to argue its theory of the case.

14 We disagree with Ski Lifts. In Vine, the trial court declined to instruct the jury on the inherent risks of the sport, which erroneously precluded the jury from considering assumption of the risk. Here, in contrast, the trial court did instruct the jury on Salvini’s assumption of the risks that are an inherent and normal part of terrain park jumping. Instruction 16 stated,

A skier jumping in a terrain park assumes the dangers that are inherent in the sport of terrain park jumping. The ski area has no duty to protect a skier from dangers that are an inherent and normal part of jumping in a terrain park.

The ski area has a duty not to unduly enhance the risk of jumping in a terrain park [*10] beyond the risks inherent in the sport.

CP at 2674.

¶15 Instruction 16 properly informed the jury of Washington law, was not misleading, and permitted Ski Lifts to argue that the conditions and risks that caused Salvini’s injuries were an inherent and normal part of the sport. 4 During closing statements, Ski Lifts argued to the jury:

So what do we need to know in order to decide what is an inherent part of this sport? And what we know and what everybody has talked about is jumping is a fundamental activity, that’s what it is about. …

… Jumps are not safe, because ‘safe’ means free from injury or danger, free from risk, and we have to start out with the premise that this is an inherently dangerous activity; it is not free from risk. You can’t design out the risk, that’s part of jumping. …

… Talking about landing on your feet, landing on your landing gear, and absorbing the shock of a jump. That’s inherent in jumping, and that’s what is most important. …

… Two inherent dangers, everyone talked about it, losing control and falling. Those are things that come along with the sport.

… What we have to look at is what’s normal of [sic] this sport, and that the jumpers have [*11] the responsibility, they can choose their speed, depending on what they want to do. … And that’s why there is no starting point. That’s not a decision the ski area is making … , it is a decision the skier needs to make for themselves.

… .

The jump itself. Again, we talk first about what is normal to the sport. And the people who build the jump are telling you this is what’s normal for the sport. This is what all of the ski areas are doing, this is how the jumps are built. …

We have some other things that factor in to this particular table top and the choices that are available. And this is all part of what is normal in the sport. We have the jump itself, we have the two different landings, we have the half pipe off to the right, we have other jumps below, two take offs on that jump, and lots of room to go around on either side. … And those are things that we don’t have a duty to change because that’s an inherent and normal part of the sport. …

… .

… Because “normal” for a ski area includes people going to the first aid room for a whole variety of reasons, not to minimize it. But to say it is a risky sport and accidents happen, and you have to get back to [*12] the first part of our instruction, which is, there are inherent dangers … . And they are athletes and they are human and they did something different, and it ended up in injury. And nobody wants that to happen, but we can’t take that away and still have the sport, because what we have is something that is inherently dangerous and people are doing it because they want to. …

… .

… But what we know is that at the end of the day, it was not the ski area that caused the accident, it was the behavior of the jumper. And not in a critical way, because this is what is part of the sport. And that’s why it is an inherent risk, because it is very dangerous. And it starts out that way. And the ski area did not do anything to increase that danger. It is a normal jump and it is a normal activity. … The people that developed it told you what it was about, and the skier assumes the dangers that are inherent in the sport, and assumes what is part of the normal sport. Not a different sport, but this sport. And we don’t have a duty to make it a different sport. … What is this sport about? It is about the risk of falling and being injured. It is about speed and control and snow conditions [*13] and choices. And that’s all a normal part of the sport.

VRP (Apr. 4, 2007) at 6-46.

4 Salvini argues that Ski Lifts failed to preserve any error on inherent risks of ski jumping because it proposed and received instruction 16, which was a correct statement of the law. We disagree. Ski Lifts specifically took exception below to the trial court’s refusal to give an additional proposed definition of “inherent risk,” which it now contends was necessary for the jury to understand that phrase. This was sufficient to preserve the issue for appellate review under CR 51(f).

¶16 “Whether to define a phrase is a matter of judgment to be exercised by the trial court.” Goodman, 75 Wn. App. at 76. Under the instructions given, Ski Lifts could and did define the inherent and normal risks very broadly in crafting its argument to the jury. Ski Lifts’ additional instruction defining “inherent risk” was unnecessary and superfluous. 5 And when applied to this case, the definition is self-evident and obvious. The jury attributed 55 percent of the fault for the accident to inherent risk and Salvini’s own negligence. It is entirely speculative to conclude that the jury did not understand “inherent risk” or that [*14] the verdict would have been different if Ski Lifts’ proposed instruction had been given. 6 The trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to give a proposed instruction derived from California common law that was unnecessary to allow Ski Lifts to fully argue its theory of the case.

5 See Goodman, 75 Wn. App. at 76 (upholding trial court’s refusal to give a jury instruction defining the phrase “continuing violation” where the definition was self-evident and obvious when applied to facts of case).

6 In the special verdict form, the jury answered, “Yes” to the following question: “Was one or more of the inherent risks of jumping in a terrain park a proximate cause of plaintiff’s injuries?”

Jury Instruction on Duty to Discover Dangerous Conditions

¶17 Ski Lifts argues that instruction 15 misstated the duty owed by a ski area operator regarding the discovery and elimination of dangers, thereby erroneously holding Ski Lifts to an improperly broad duty to protect Salvini.

¶18 Instruction 15 stated,

The operator of a ski area owes its customers a duty to exercise ordinary care. This includes the exercise of ordinary care to provide reasonably safe facilities and to maintain in a reasonably safe [*15] condition those portions of the premises that such person is expressly or impliedly invited to use or might reasonably be expected to use. The operator of a ski area owes a duty to its customers to discover dangerous conditions through reasonable inspection, and repair that condition or warn the skier unless it is known or obvious.

CP at 2673. (Emphasis added.)

¶19 Ski Lifts objects only to the final, italicized sentence of the instruction, which was added at Salvini’s request over Ski Lifts’ objection. 7 This sentence was drawn directly from the Scott decision, which describes the duty of care for ski area operators. “A skier is a business invitee of a ski area operator. The operator owes a duty to a skier to discover dangerous conditions through reasonable inspection, and repair that condition or warn the invitees, unless it is known or obvious.” Scott, 119 Wn.2d at 500 (footnotes omitted). The Scott court further specified, “[T]he plaintiff assumes the dangers that are inherent in and necessary to the particular sport or activity” and that “[w]hile participants in sports are generally held to have impliedly assumed the risks inherent in the sport, such assumption of risk does not preclude [*16] a recovery for negligent acts which unduly enhance such risks.” Id. at 501 (third emphasis added).

7 Ski Lifts argues that instruction 15 misstated Washington law by failing to reference “unreasonably” dangerous conditions. Salvini contends that Ski Lifts failed to preserve this argument because it did not propose inserting the word “unreasonably” into the instruction. But Ski Lifts did object to instruction 15 on the ground that “the law would indicate that we don’t have a duty unless it is unreasonably dangerous. So I believe that the dicta from Scott that has been added to the WPIC instruction is not appropriate.” VRP (Apr. 3, 2007 P.M.) at 11. Accordingly, Ski Lifts’ proposed instruction was essentially the same as instruction 15, but without the final sentence taken from Scott. This sufficiently informed the trial court of the point of law in dispute to preserve for appellate review the issue of whether instruction 15 properly stated the duty owed by ski operators to skiers. Falk v. Keene Corp., 113 Wn.2d 645, 657-58, 782 P.2d 974 (1989). CR 51(f) does not require a party to additionally propose an alternative instruction under similar circumstances. Joyce v. State Dep’t of Corrections, 155 Wn.2d 306, 324-25, 119 P.3d 825 (2005).

¶20 Ski [*17] Lifts argues that the final sentence of instruction 15 misstated the duty of care for providers of an inherently dangerous activity such as terrain park ski jumping because, unlike Scott, it failed to specify that the duty was limited only to “unreasonably” dangerous conditions–those that “unduly enhance” the inherent risks. According to Ski Lifts, the omission of the word “unreasonably” from the jury instruction mistakenly informed the jury that Ski Lifts’ legal duty was to eliminate all dangers to terrain park ski jumpers–a standard that is impossible to meet. Ski Lifts further contends that instruction 16 was insufficient to cure the defect in instruction 15 regarding Ski Lifts’ duty of care for three reasons. First, it is not clear that the “unduly enhance” language of instruction 16 operates to limit instruction 15’s reference to “dangerous conditions.” Second, it was contradictory and confusing to instruct the jury that Ski Lifts was responsible for “dangerous conditions” (instruction 15) while also instructing it that Salvini assumed the dangers inherent in terrain jumping (instruction 16). Third, under the reasoning of Vine, the jury could not determine comparative fault [*18] without an instruction specifically defining the inherent risks assumed by Salvini.

¶21 We disagree with Ski Lifts and hold that instructions 15 and 16 properly instructed the jury on Washington law. “The court need not include specific language in a jury instruction, so long as the instructions as a whole correctly state the law.” Boeing Co. v. Key, 101 Wn. App. 629, 633, 5 P.3d 16 (2000).

¶22 Instruction 15 accurately summarized the well-established duty of care owed by ski area operators to skiers. Washington courts have adopted with approval the Restatement (Second) of Torts § 343 (1965), which sets forth the duties a possessor of land owes to an invitee. Iwai v. State, 129 Wn.2d 84, 95, 915 P.2d 1089 (1996). Section 343 states,

Dangerous Conditions Known to or Discoverable by Possessor A possessor of land is subject to liability for physical harm caused to his invitees by a condition on the land if, but only if, he

(a) knows or by the exercise of reasonable care would discover the condition, and should realize that it involves an unreasonable risk of harm to such invitees, and

(b) should expect that they will not discover or realize the danger, or will fail to protect themselves against it, [*19] and

(c) fails to exercise reasonable care to protect them against the danger.

¶23 The ski operator owes an affirmative duty of care to the skier, as a business invitee, to discover dangerous conditions through reasonable inspection and repair them or warn the invitees of the hazard unless it is known or obvious. See, e.g., Scott, 119 Wn.2d at 500; Brown, 97 Wn. App. at 524; Codd, 45 Wn. App. 396-97. Consistent with this standard, instruction 15 also stated that the ski area operator’s duty is to provide “reasonably safe facilities” and to maintain them in a “reasonably safe condition.” Furthermore, instruction 16–to which Ski Lifts did not object–specified that a ski area has no duty to protect against “dangers that are an inherent and normal part of jumping in a terrain park” and that “[t]he ski area has a duty not to unduly enhance the risk of jumping in a terrain park beyond the risks inherent in the sport.”

¶24 Together, these instructions accurately summarized the law, allowed Ski Lifts to argue its theory of the case, and were not contradictory, confusing, or misleading. Ski Lifts could, and did, argue that the risks of the jump were known and obvious. Ski Lifts could, and did, argue [*20] that Salvini’s injuries resulted from the inherent risks of the sport. And the trial court gave an instruction on comparative fault to which Ski Lifts did not object. As discussed above, Ski Lifts’ proposed instruction defining “inherent risk” was unnecessary to allow Ski Lifts to fully argue all of its claims. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to omit the final sentence from instruction 15.

Jury Instruction on Failure to Warn

¶25 Ski Lifts argues that Salvini offered no evidence of proximate cause to support his claim that Ski Lifts was liable on a failure to warn theory. Instruction 15 informed the jury that Ski Lifts had a duty to “discover dangerous conditions through reasonable inspection, and repair that condition or warn the skier unless it is known or obvious.” Instruction 17 stated, “A statute relating to ski areas provides: All signs for instruction of the public shall be bold in design with wording short, simple, and to the point. All such signs shall be prominently placed.” 8 Relying primarily on products liability cases, Ski Lifts contends that proof of proximate cause on a failure to warn theory requires the plaintiff to show that he would have read and [*21] heeded an adequate warning. Because instructions 15 and 17 invited the jury to find Ski Lifts liable for failure to warn in the absence of evidence that Salvini would have behaved differently had he received better warnings, Ski Lifts contends that there was insufficient evidence to support these instructions. 9 We disagree.

8 RCW 79A.45.010(1).

9 We also note that during closing arguments, Ski Lifts did not contend that Salvini had failed to provide sufficient evidence of proximate cause on a failure to warn theory.

¶26 As a preliminary matter, we note that Ski Lifts objected to the final sentence of instruction 15 on the ground that it misstated the premises liability standard of care for ski area operators. But it did not object to instruction 15 on the ground that it erroneously instructed the jury on a failure-to-warn theory. Nor did Ski Lifts mention instruction 15 when it objected to instruction 17 on the ground that there was no evidence of proximate cause to support it. CR 51(f) requires that counsel state distinctly the matter to which he objects and the grounds for that objection so that the court may correct any error before instructing the jury. Because Ski Lifts did not apprise [*22] the trial court of the point of law in dispute, it waived any claimed error regarding instruction 15 or its interplay with instruction 17 in the context of this argument. Falk v. Keene Corp., 113 Wn.2d 645, 657-58, 782 P.2d 974 (1989).

¶27 Ski Lifts’ argument misconstrues the purpose of instruction 17 in this premises liability case. Salvini claimed that Ski Lifts “was negligent in the design, construction, and maintenance of the terrain park jump on which [he] was injured.” CP at 2960 (instruction 2). To establish an action for negligence, a plaintiff must show (1) the existence of a duty, (2) breach of that duty, (3) a resulting injury, and (4) proximate cause. Iwai, 129 Wn.2d at 96. In premises liability cases, a landowner’s duty of care is governed by the entrant’s common law status as an invitee, licensee, or trespasser. Tincani v. Inland Empire Zoological Soc., 124 Wn.2d 121, 128, 875 P.2d 621 (1994). Here, the parties do not dispute that Salvini was a business invitee of Ski Lifts.

¶28 “The duty owed by the possessor to the invitee derives from the entrant’s expectation that the possessor has exercised due care to make the premises reasonably safe.” The Law of Premises Liability (3d ed.) [*23] § 4.1, at 75 (2001). This duty may be fulfilled by an appropriate warning or other affirmative action to remedy the danger. Id. “An invitee is entitled to expect that the possessor will take reasonable care to ascertain the actual condition of the premises and, having discovered it, either to make it reasonably safe by repair or to give warning of the actual condition and the risk involved therein.” Restatement (Second) of Torts § 343, cmt. d (1965).

¶29 Salvini contended that Ski Lifts was negligent under this common law premises liability standard. And Ski Lifts could satisfy its duty to protect its customers from unreasonably dangerous conditions by providing adequate warnings. Instruction 17 went directly to Ski Lifts’ defense that it had met this duty. This instruction properly allowed the jury to evaluate the reasonableness of the warnings provided in light of the statutory signage requirements and the degree to which Salvini was comparatively at fault for failing to see the whiteboard sign.

¶30 Both parties presented evidence at trial regarding the reasonableness and adequacy of the warning signs. Expert witnesses Dr. Richard Gill and Richard Penniman testified extensively regarding the [*24] inadequacy of Ski Lifts’ warning signs. Salvini testified that he did not see the whiteboard sign. Salvini’s skiing companion and Salvini’s father, as well as several Ski Lifts employees, also testified that they did not see the sign. Expert witnesses Helge Lien and Richard Penniman testified that Ski Lifts should have designated a starting point for the jump to prevent skiers from gaining too much speed and overshooting the jump. Salvini argued in closing that the jump was not reasonably safe and that the signage failed to warn of the specific hazard known to Ski Lifts. He did not contend that Ski Lifts was additionally liable on a separate failure-to-warn theory.

¶31 Ski Lifts introduced photographs of its warning signs into evidence, and the photos were shown to the jury. Ski Lifts employees Dan Brewster and Bryan Picard 10 testified regarding the location and content of the warning signs. Ski Lifts’ expert witness Elia Hamilton testified that the warning signs at the entrance of the terrain park were “absolutely” appropriate. Ski Lifts relied on the signage evidence to argue in closing that Salvini was adequately warned. 11 Ski Lifts also argued that it had no duty to post signs designating [*25] a starting point because that choice is part of the skier’s responsibility. “‘[P]rejudicial error occurs where the jury is instructed on an issue that lacks substantial evidence to support it.'” Manzanares v. Playhouse Corp., 25 Wn. App. 905, 910, 611 P.2d 797 (1980) (quoting Haynes v. Moore, 14 Wn. App. 668, 672, 545 P.2d 28 (1975)). There was ample evidence to support giving instruction 17. 12

10 Bryan Picard was employed by Ski Lifts at the time of Salvini’s accident, but no longer employed by Ski Lifts at the time of trial.

11 “Another part of the responsibility code, observe all posted signs and warnings. The information is there. We can’t make people read signs, we can’t make people do anything, these are choices. But the signs are there, and this is part of the skiers’ responsibility.” VRP (Apr. 4, 2007 A.M.) at 9.

12 To the extent Ski Lifts contends that instruction 15 in combination with instruction 17 presented a separate inadequate warning theory of liability, Ski Lifts’ failure to request a clarifying special verdict form requiring the jury to indicate which theories of liability the jury relied upon precludes it from raising such an argument on appeal. See Davis v. Microsoft Corp., 149 Wn.2d 521, 539-40, 70 P.3d 126 (2003).

¶32 Ski [*26] Lifts further contends that it had no duty to warn Salvini because he had used the jump before and was fully aware of its condition. This argument is not persuasive. Salvini’s previous use of the jump would not necessarily put him on notice that its design could increase the risk of severe injury from overshooting. Whether the jump’s deficiencies were “known and obvious” and whether Salvini should have anticipated the harm is a question of fact for the jury. Degel v. Majestic Mobile Manor, Inc., 129 Wn.2d 43, 54, 914 P.2d 728 (1996). The jury instructions properly allowed Ski Lifts to argue that the alleged defect was known or obvious, while also allowing Salvini to argue that it was not.

Evidence of Prior Accidents

¶33 Ski Lifts argues that the trial court abused its discretion in admitting evidence and testimony regarding 15 prior incidents of overshooting the same jump at which Salvini was injured. The court ruled that these incident reports were not admissible “as substantive evidence of the existence of a dangerous condition,” but that they were sufficiently similar “to put Ski Lifts on notice of a potential defect to warrant further inquiry into the design of the jump, or the reasonableness [*27] of the signage in light of the multiple injuries caused as a result of overshooting the landing of the jump in question.” CP at 2635. Ski Lifts moved the court for a limiting instruction on the admission of prior incident reports. The trial court granted Ski Lifts’ motion and gave a limiting instruction.

Exhibits 154, 155, 160, 161, 163, 165, 166, 167, 170, 171, 172, 173, 174, 175 and 176 are accident reports. These accident reports have been admitted into evidence for the limited purpose of showing that defendant had notice that people had overshot the landing of the jump on which the plaintiff was injured. You are not to infer anything beyond notice by admission of these prior accidents.

CP at 2672 (instruction 14).

¶34 “A trial court’s decision admitting or excluding evidence is reviewed for an abuse of discretion, which occurs only when the exercise of discretion is manifestly unreasonable or based on untenable grounds or reasons.” Kimball v. Otis Elevator Co., 89 Wn. App. 169, 172-73, 947 P.2d 1275 (1997).

¶35 In a negligence case, other accidents and injuries are inadmissible to show a general lack of care or negligence, but may be admissible on other, more limited issues if the conditions [*28] are sufficiently similar and the actions are sufficiently numerous. 13 5 Karl B. Tegland, Washington Practice: Evidence § 402.11, at 304 (2007) (citing Panitz v. Orenge, 10 Wn. App. 317, 322, 518 P.2d 726 (1973)). Evidence of prior accidents which occurred under substantially similar circumstances is admissible for the purpose of demonstrating a dangerous condition or notice of a defect. Davis v. Globe Mach. Mfg. Co., 102 Wn.2d 68, 77, 684 P.2d 692 (1984). Turner v. City of Tacoma, 72 Wn.2d 1029, 1036, 435 P.2d 927 (1967).

13 Some courts have recently relaxed the substantial similarity requirement when the evidence is offered for the purpose of showing notice. 5 Tegland, supra, § 402.11 (Supp. 2008).

¶36 The admitted reports need not be identical, only substantially similar. See, e.g., Seay v. Chrysler Corp., 93 Wn.2d 319, 324, 609 P.2d 1382 (1980) (upholding admission of evidence of other accidents involving same type of car chassis); Blood v. Allied Stores Corp., 62 Wn.2d 187, 189, 381 P.2d 742 (1963) (upholding exclusion of reports that showed “no similarity”); Miller v. Staton, 58 Wn.2d 879, 884-85, 365 P.2d 333 (1961) (upholding admission of evidence of previous fights in a tavern); [*29] O’Dell v. Chi., Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pac. R.R.., 6 Wn. App. 817, 826, 496 P.2d 519 (1972) (upholding admission of evidence of other near-accidents at same railroad crossing).

¶37 Ski Lifts first argues that Salvini failed to establish that the prior incidents were substantially similar to his situation because 13 of the 15 incident reports involved snowboarders, not skiers, and because the two reports involving skiers occurred under different conditions. We disagree. The trial court rejected most of the 66 incident reports offered by Salvini because it found that they were not sufficiently similar, and it admitted only “[t]hose accident reports documenting an injury occurring as a result of overshooting the jump in question, on either skis or snowboards (which go slower than skis.) … .” CP at 2635. If overshooting was a problem for slower moving snowboarders, it is reasonable to expect it to be a problem for skiers as well. Admitting evidence of prior accidents that occurred at the same table top jump, whether they involved skiers or snowboarders, was not an abuse of discretion.

¶38 Ski Lifts argues that the trial court’s limiting instruction was a confusing and meaningless restriction on [*30] the use of the evidence. 14 But Ski Lifts did not assign error to this limiting instruction and has therefore waived any objection to it. 15 Barrett v. Lucky Seven Saloon, Inc., 152 Wn.2d 259, 281, 96 P.3d 386 (2004). Indeed, Ski Lifts asked the court to read the limiting instruction immediately before the prior incident evidence was presented to the jury and to include it among the court’s instructions to the jury. The court granted both requests.

14 Ski Lifts appears to challenge both the giving and the language of the limiting instruction. “A limiting instruction is available as a matter of right. If evidence is admissible only for a limited purpose and an appropriate limiting instruction is requested, the court may not refuse to give the instruction.” 5 Tegland, supra, § 105.2 (2007) (interpreting ER 105).

15 The limiting instruction requested and proposed by Ski Lifts contained a final sentence stating, “You are not to infer from these accident reports that the defendant was negligent.” CP at 2637. Salvini requested that the court remove that sentence and replace it with, “[Y]ou are not to infer anything beyond notice by admission of these prior accidents.” 1 Transcript of Proceedings (TR) (Mar. 12, 2007) at 28. [*31] The trial court agreed with Salvini and modified Ski Lifts’ proposed instruction accordingly. Ski Lifts did not object.

¶39 Ski Lifts argues that the prior incidents should not have been admitted for the purpose of notice, because it conceded that it was aware of overshooting incidents. “Evidence of similar accidents is inadmissible to prove notice, if there is no question that there was notice, or if notice is not a disputed issue in the case.” 5 Tegland, supra, at 306 (citing Hinkel v. Weyerhaeuser Co., 6 Wn. App. 548, 555-56, 494 P.2d 1008 (1972)); Porter v. Chicago, M., P. & P.R. Co., 41 Wn.2d 836, 842, 252 P.2d 306 (1953). We disagree.

[T]he fact that evidence is undisputed does not, alone, make the evidence inadmissible. Undisputed evidence may be valuable background information or other information that the jury, in fairness, ought to hear.

Thus, as a general rule, a party cannot frustrate the introduction of evidence by offering to stipulate to the underlying facts.

5 Tegland, supra, at 469. See, e.g., State v. Pirtle, 127 Wn.2d 628, 652, 904 P.2d 245 (1995); State v. Rice, 110 Wn.2d 577, 598-99, 757 P.2d 889 (1988); the plaintiff is not bound to stipulate to the issue unless its probative [*32] value is substantially outweighed by unfair prejudice. Pirtle, 127 Wn.2d at 653.

¶40 The issue in this case went beyond the mere fact that Ski Lifts had notice of overshooting. The prior incident reports were probative of the extent and nature of the notice, which went directly to the question of whether Ski Lifts met its duty of care based on what it knew. Salvini is not categorically bound from introducing evidence of substantially similar prior overshooting incidents merely because Ski Lifts admitted it knew that they were occurring.

¶41 Ski Lifts also contends that the evidence was not probative of notice of a design defect because overshooting incidents are common. But evidence of prior accidents goes directly to the issue of whether Ski Lifts exercised reasonable care in light of what it knew about the performance of this particular table top jump. Therefore, it had probative value.

¶42 Ski Lifts argues that the incident reports should have been excluded under ER 403, which provides that relevant evidence “may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury … .” The burden of showing prejudice [*33] is on the party seeking to exclude the evidence. Carson v. Fine, 123 Wn.2d 206, 225, 867 P.2d 610 (1994); 5 Tegland, supra, § 403.2 at 435.

[T]he exercise of discretion in balancing the danger of prejudice against the probative value of the evidence is a matter within the trial court’s discretion and should be overturned only if no reasonable person could take the view adopted by the trial court. A trial judge, not an appellate court, is in the best position to evaluate the dynamics of a jury trial and therefore the prejudicial effect of a piece of evidence.

State v. Posey, 161 Wn.2d 638, 648, 167 P.3d 560 (2007) (internal citations omitted).

¶43 Ski Lifts argues that any probative value was outweighed by the extreme prejudicial effect, because Salvini’s counsel and expert witnesses referenced the incident reports not just to demonstrate notice, but also to show that the jump was improperly designed and unreasonably dangerous. But although Ski Lifts lodged “a continuing objection regarding the accident reports,” 1 TR (Mar. 12, 2007) at 51, it never objected to Salvini’s closing argument or trial testimony that allegedly went beyond the limited purpose of notice. Rather, it raised this issue [*34] for the first time in its motion for a new trial. To challenge a trial court’s admission of evidence on appeal, a party must raise a timely and specific objection at trial. State v. Gray, 134 Wn. App. 547, 557, 138 P.3d 1123 (2006), review denied, 160 Wn.2d 1008 (2007). ?To be timely, the party must make the objection at the earliest possible opportunity after the basis for the objection becomes apparent.” Id. at 557 n.27. By failing to object at trial, a party waives any claim that the evidence was erroneously admitted. ER 103(a)(1); State v. Warren, 134 Wn. App. 44, 57-58, 138 P.3d 1081 (2006), review granted, 161 Wn.2d 1001 (2007).

¶44 Because Ski Lifts did not timely object to the improper argument and testimony, Ski Lifts waives any challenge to it now on appeal. “‘The purpose of a motion in limine is to dispose of legal matters so counsel will not be forced to make comments in the presence of the jury which might prejudice his presentation.'” State v. Sullivan, 69 Wn. App. 167, 170-71, 847 P.2d 953 (1993) (quoting State v. Kelly, 102 Wn.2d 188, 193, 685 P.2d 564 (1984)). But when a party who prevails on a motion in limine later suspects a violation of that ruling, that party has a [*35] duty to bring the violation to the court’s attention to allow the court to decide what remedy, if any, to direct. A.C. ex rel Cooper v. Bellingham Sch. Dist., 125 Wn. App. 511, 525, 105 P.3d 400 (2004). As one court explained,

[W]here the evidence has been admitted notwithstanding the trial court’s prior exclusionary ruling, the complaining party [is] required to object in order to give the trial court the opportunity of curing any potential prejudice. Otherwise, we would have a situation fraught with a potential for serious abuse. A party so situated could simply lie back, not allowing the trial court to avoid the potential prejudice, gamble on the verdict, and then seek a new trial on appeal.

Sullivan, 69 Wn. App. at 172.

¶45 Here, while the court ruled that Salvini would be allowed to present evidence of prior incidents for the limited issue of notice, Ski Lifts was still required to object when Salvini’s counsel elicited improper testimony in violation of the motion in limine so the court could attempt to cure any resulting prejudice. By failing to do so, Ski Lifts waived review of this issue. In addition, Ski Lifts’ nonspecific continuing objection was insufficient to preserve the issue [*36] for appellate review. State v. Boast, 87 Wn.2d 447, 451, 553 P.2d 1322 (1976); State v. Saunders, 132 Wn. App. 592, 607, 132 P.3d 743 (2006).

¶46 Ski Lifts further contends that the evidence was prejudicial because the jury might have improperly punished Ski Lifts for being a bad actor or improperly inferred that the jump must have been defective. We disagree. As discussed above, Ski Lifts successfully moved for a limiting instruction, which was read to the jury at the time the evidence was presented and was included in the court’s instructions to the jury. “A jury is presumed to follow the court’s instructions and that presumption will prevail until it is overcome by a showing otherwise.” Carnation Co. v. Hill, 115 Wn.2d 184, 187, 796 P.2d 416 (1990) (curative instructions); see also State v. Lough, 125 Wn.2d 847, 864, 889 P.2d 487 (1995) (limiting instructions). And the trial court also instructed the jury in instruction 1 that “[i]t is your duty to decide the facts of the case based on the evidence presented to you during this trial” and that “[y]ou must not let your emotions overcome your rational thought process. You must reach your decision based on the facts proved to you and on [*37] the law given to you, not on sympathy, bias, or personal preference.” CP at 2657-59. Therefore, Ski Lifts’ arguments that the jury might have misused the evidence or that it might have improperly punished Ski Lifts are purely speculative.

¶47 In sum, we conclude that the jury instructions accurately stated the law, were not misleading, allowed Ski Lifts to argue its theory of the case, and were supported by substantial evidence. We further conclude that the prior incident reports were properly admitted. Accordingly, we affirm.

Cox and Appelwick, JJ., concur.

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Foster, et al., v. Kosseff, et al., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5380

Foster, et al., v. Kosseff, et al., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5380

Stephanie Foster, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Alex Kosseff, et al., Defendants.

NO: 11-CV-5069-TOR

United States District Court For The Eastern District Of Washington

2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5380

January 14, 2013, Decided

January 14, 2013, Filed

CORE TERMS: audit report, audit, duty of care, beneficiary–, climbing, owed, failure to state a claim, citation omitted, incorporation, discover, lawsuit, anchor, owe, dangerous condition, negligence claim, authenticity, quotation, summary judgment, recreational, leave to amend, underlying purpose, recommendations, deliberately, cognizable, omitting, coverage, survive, amend, issues of law, discovery

COUNSEL: [*1] For Stephanie Foster, Susan Foster, Gary Foster, Plaintiffs: Allen M Ressler, LEAD ATTORNEY, Ressler and Tesh PLLC, Seattle, WA; William S Finger, LEAD ATTORNEY, Frank & Finger PC, Evergreen, CO.

For Alex Kosseff, Adventure Safety International LLC, Defendants: Heather C Yakely, LEAD ATTORNEY, Evans Craven & Lackie PS – SPO, Spokane, WA.

JUDGES: THOMAS O. RICE, United States District Judge.

OPINION BY: THOMAS O. RICE

OPINION

ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT ADVENTURE SAFETY INTERNATIONAL’S MOTION TO DISMISS

BEFORE THE COURT is Defendants Alex Kosseff’s and Adventure Safety International, LLC’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim (ECF No. 33). This motion was heard without oral argument on January 14, 2013. The Court has reviewed the motion, the response, and the reply, and is fully informed.

BACKGROUND

In this diversity case, Plaintiff seeks to recover damages for a back injury which she sustained during a fall from a recreational climbing wall maintained by her employer, Whitman College. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Alex Kosseff and Adventure Safety International, LLC, were negligent in failing to discover the dangerous condition which caused the accident during a safety audit commissioned by Whitman College [*2] in 2007. Defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim on the ground that they did not owe a duty of care to Plaintiff. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will deny the motion.

FACTS

Plaintiff Stephanie Foster (“Plaintiff”) is a student enrolled at Whitman College in Spokane, Washington. In April 2008, Plaintiff was employed as a student instructor in Whitman College’s Outdoor Program. One of her duties in this position was to teach other students how to properly climb and descend a recreational climbing wall located on the Whitman College campus.

On April 28, 2008, Plaintiff fell from the climbing wall during a training exercise and was seriously injured. A subsequent investigation revealed that the accident occurred when a “Super Shut” climbing anchor manufactured by Defendant Fixe Industry1 inadvertently opened while Plaintiff was descending the wall. This investigation further revealed that the anchor opened as a result of Plaintiff using it in a manner for which it was not designed.

1 Defendant Fixe Industry has never been served in this action.

Approximately one year prior to Plaintiff’s accident, Whitman College hired Defendants Alex Kosseff and [*3] Adventure Safety International, LLC (collectively “ASI”) to perform a “risk management audit” of the Outdoor Program’s facilities. The parties sharply disagree about the scope of this audit. Plaintiff asserts that the audit extended to identifying and mitigating all risks posed to users of the climbing wall. ASI maintains that the audit was merely intended to provide Whitman College with a “general understanding” of how to improve its risk management program. In any event, it is undisputed that ASI’s audit did not identify the risk that the Super Shut anchor posed when used improperly.

Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on April 22, 2011. Among other claims, Plaintiff asserts that ASI was negligent in failing to discover the risk posed by the Super Shut anchor. ASI now moves to dismiss the lawsuit for failure to state a claim on the ground that it did not owe Plaintiff a duty of care as a matter of law. Because ASI has previously filed an answer to Plaintiff’s Complaint, (ECF No. 9) the Court will treat the instant motion as a motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). Elvig v. Calvin Presbyterian Church, 375 F.3d 951, 954 (9th Cir. 2004).

DISCUSSION

A [*4] motion for judgment on the pleadings is reviewed under the same legal standard as a motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Dworkin v. Hustler Magazine, Inc., 867 F.2d 1188, 1192 (9th Cir. 1989). A motion to dismiss “tests the legal sufficiency of a [plaintiff’s] claim.” Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). To survive such a motion, the plaintiff must allege facts which, when taken as true, “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868, (2009) (quotation and citation omitted). To satisfy this plausibility standard, the allegations in a complaint must be sufficient “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 167 L. Ed. 2d 929 (2007). Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, are insufficient. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

In addition, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires that a plaintiff’s complaint contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This standard “does not require ‘detailed factual allegations,’ [*5] but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). To determine whether Rule 8(a)(2) has been satisfied, a court must first identify the elements of the plaintiff’s claim(s) and then determine whether those elements could be proven on the facts pled. Although the court should generally draw reasonable inferences in the plaintiff’s favor, see Sheppard v. David Evans and Assoc., 694 F.3d 1045, 1051 (9th Cir. 2012), it need not accept “naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal quotations and citation omitted).

The Ninth Circuit has repeatedly instructed district courts to “grant leave to amend even if no request to amend the pleading was made, unless … the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts.” Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000). The standard for granting leave to amend is generous–the court “should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). In determining whether leave to amend is appropriate, a court must consider the following five factors: bad faith, undue delay, prejudice [*6] to the opposing party, futility of amendment, and whether the plaintiff has previously amended the complaint. United States v. Corinthian Colleges, 655 F.3d 984, 995 (9th Cir. 2011).

A. Consideration of the Draft Audit Report

In support of its motion to dismiss, ASI has submitted a document entitled “Whitman College Outdoor Programs Draft Risk Management Audit” (hereafter “audit report”). ECF No. 36-1. The parties disagree about whether the Court may properly consider the contents of this document without converting the instant motion into a motion for summary judgment. On December 4, 2012, in response to Plaintiff’s concerns that ASI was effectively seeking summary judgment, the Court ruled that it would treat ASI’s motion “as a standard motion to dismiss, considering only (1) facts specifically alleged in the complaint; and (2) documents submitted by Defendants that were referenced in the complaint and whose authenticity has not been questioned.” ECF No. 52 at 3-4. This ruling was based, in large part, upon ASI’s representations that it had submitted the audit report “for background purposes” only and that the contents of the report were “not relevant to the actual issues of law before [*7] the court.” See ECF No. 51 at 5.

It has now become clear that the contents of the audit report are material to the issues of law presented in the instant motion. The crux of ASI’s argument is that it did not owe Plaintiff a duty of care because the dangerous condition which caused her accident was simply “outside the scope of the risk management audit” that it agreed to perform. ECF No. 70 at 7. Specifically, ASI argues that the scope of the audit was limited to “gain[ing] a general understanding of [Whitman College’s] risk management practices,” and that it did not “guarantee that future operations will be free of safety incidents.” ECF No. 70 at 7 (citing ECF No. 71-1 at 9). Because this argument expressly relies upon the contents of the audit report itself, the Court must decide whether the audit report is “fair game” at this early stage of the proceedings.

“Generally, a district court may not consider any material beyond the pleadings in ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion.” Hal Roach Studios, Inc. v. Richard Feiner & Co., 896 F.2d 1542, 1555 n. 19 (9th Cir. 1989). One exception to this rule is the so-called “incorporation by reference doctrine,” which permits a court to consider “documents [*8] whose contents are alleged in a complaint and whose authenticity no party questions, but which are not physically attached to the plaintiff’s pleading.” Knievel v. ESPN, 393 F.3d 1068, 1076 (9th Cir. 2005). As the Ninth Circuit explained in Knievel, this exception typically applies in “situations in which the plaintiff’s claim depends on the contents of a document, the defendant attaches the document to its motion to dismiss, and the parties do not dispute the authenticity of the document.” Id. The underlying purpose of this exception is “to prevent plaintiffs from surviving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion by deliberately omitting documents upon which their claims are based.” Swartz v. KPMG LLP, 476 F.3d 756, 763 (9th Cir. 2007) (quotation and citation omitted); see also United States v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 908 (9th Cir. 2003) (explaining that that the incorporation by reference doctrine “may apply, for example, when a plaintiff’s claim about insurance coverage is based on the contents of a coverage plan, or when a plaintiff’s claim about stock fraud is based on the contents of SEC filings”) (citations omitted).

The Court will not consider the audit report under the incorporation by reference [*9] doctrine for several reasons. First, the contents of the report are disputed. In responding to the instant motion, Plaintiff indicates that only a portion of the document was prepared by Defendant Kosseff and that another portion may have been prepared by Whitman College prior to ASI’s inspection of its facilities. ECF No. 67 at 2-3. Plaintiff further asserts that the audit report purports to be a draft rather than a finalized document. See ECF No. 36-1. This latter assertion is particularly on-point. Indeed, the document is styled as a “Draft Risk Management Audit,” and has the words “Whitman College Draft Risk Management Audit” reproduced at the top of each page. ECF No. 36-1 (emphasis in original).

Second, considering the audit report at this juncture would not serve the underlying purpose of the incorporation by reference doctrine. Notably, this is not a case in which the plaintiff has attempted to survive a motion to dismiss “by deliberately omitting documents upon which [her] claims are based.” Swartz, 476 F.3d at 763. To the contrary, Plaintiff did not have a copy of the audit report (and therefore lacked knowledge of its precise contents) when this lawsuit was filed. See Pl.’s [*10] Compl., ECF No. 1, at ¶¶ 15, 30-31 (alleging that Plaintiff learned of the audit report’s existence from an investigation performed by the Department of Labor and Industries and that Whitman College and Defendant ASI “failed or refused” to provide her with a copy before the lawsuit was filed).

Third, the contents of the audit report are not particularly “integral” to Plaintiff’s claim. See Ritchie, 342 F.3d at 908. Unlike claims for breach of an insurance contract, for example (see Ritchie, 342 F.3d at 908), Plaintiff’s negligence claim does not necessarily rely upon the contents of a specific document. In fact, Plaintiff could theoretically prove the elements of her negligence claim (i.e., duty, breach, causation and damages) exclusively through witness testimony without introducing the audit report at all. Further, it is worth noting that the audit report is not a contract between ASI and Whitman College; it is simply ASI’s work product. As such, the audit report is not particularly probative of the most crucial issue in this case: whether ASI owed Plaintiff a legal duty. Although the report details specific tasks performed, it does not describe the precise scope of work that that [*11] ASI agreed to perform.

Finally, equitable considerations weigh against considering the audit report at this time. At bottom, Plaintiff’s negligence claim relies on the allegation that ASI agreed to “analyze and point out dangers and suggest remediation of dangers to prevent injury to students and employees utilizing the climbing wall.” Pl.’s Compl., ECF No. 1, at ¶ 28. ASI has attempted to establish that the audit was more limited in scope and that, as a result, it did not owe Plaintiff a duty of care. In so doing, however, ASI has expressly relied upon the contents of the audit report. Based upon ASI’s prior representation that it would not do so, the Court denied Plaintiff an opportunity to conduct additional discovery relevant to this issue. That ruling has now placed Plaintiff at a significant disadvantage. Accordingly, the Court will not consider the contents of the audit report to the exclusion of other evidence which Plaintiff may develop as discovery progresses.

B. Duty Owed to Intended Third-Party Beneficiary

In light of the Court’s ruling above, the only remaining issue is whether Plaintiff has stated a legally cognizable claim on the facts alleged in the complaint. In the Court’s [*12] view, the relevant inquiry is whether Plaintiff was an intended third-party beneficiary of the contract between ASI and Whitman College. To the extent that Plaintiff was an intended beneficiary as an employee and student of Whitman College, ASI may have owed her a duty of care to discover the dangerous condition at issue. See Burg v. Shannon & Wilson, Inc., 110 Wash. App. 798, 807-08, 43 P.3d 526 (2002) (holding that engineering firm had no duty of care to disclose specific safety recommendations to third party who would have benefitted from the recommendations, but who was not an intended third-party beneficiary of the underlying agreement). To the extent that Plaintiff was merely an incidental beneficiary of the contract, however, she lacks a cognizable claim. Id. Stated somewhat differently, the viability of Plaintiff’s claim depends upon the extent to which ASI agreed to undertake the risk management audit for the benefit of the college’s employees and students rather than for the benefit the college itself.

In her complaint, Plaintiff squarely alleges that the risk management audit was performed for the benefit of Whitman College’s employees and students. See Pl.’s Compl., ECF No. 1, at ¶ 28 [*13] (“The risk assessment was done for the benefit of Whitman College and its employees and students because Whitman College understood its duty to provide safe recreational activities and as part of good institutional management.”). This allegation, which the Court must accept as true for purposes of this motion, is sufficient to establish that Plaintiff was an intended third-party beneficiary of the agreement such that ASI may have owed her a duty of care to discover the dangerous condition at issue. Whether Plaintiff was in fact an intended beneficiary–as well as the scope of any duty owed to her by ASI–may be revisited on summary judgment.

ACCORDINGLY, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED:

Defendants’ motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim (ECF No. 33) is DENIED.

The District Court Executive is hereby directed to enter this Order and provide copies to counsel.

DATED this 14th day of January, 2012.

/s/ Thomas O. Rice

THOMAS O. RICE

United States District Judge

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

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