Many people enjoy the mountains in the winter time. Skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing. But what happens if you get injured at the ski lodge or club, resulting in serious injuries? Well in Pennsylvania, you are limited in your legal liability against the facility.
42 Pa.C.S.A. § 7102 provides that skiers in Pennsylvania voluntarily assume the inherent risks of downhill skiing and injuries related to skiing, and thus waived their ability to sue the facility in court. This includes any negligent conduct by employees of ski lodges in the course of their duties. So for example, the alleged failure by staff of a ski resort or racing association to set netting in all spots of downhill race course where it might prove necessary and to fix it in a way that minimized potential for the competitors to lose control did not open the resort to liability. Bjorgung v. Whitetail Resort, LP, C.A.3 (Pa.)2008, 550 F.3d 263. Wheel ruts in the terrain of a ski slope, which were made by a ski resort employee operating an all-terrain-vehicle (ATV) on the slope, were an inherent risk of downhill skiing, and therefore, skier who fell on the ruts and fractured his leg could not sue the ski lodge. Kibler v. Blue Knob Recreation, Inc., 184 A.3d 974, Super.2018. Skiers that collide into each other does not create a cause for damages against the facility, Bell v. Dean, 2010 PA Super 151 (2010), nor does negligently putting a child on a ski lift by an operator. Hepkevich v. Hidden Valley Resort, 607 Pa. 1 (2010).
Like with everything in the law, there are case-by-case exceptions. For example, a snowboard collision with a minor under the influence of alcohol could open a facility up to liability, as the snowboarder couldn’t have foreseen being hit. Crews v. Seven Springs Mountain Resort, 874 A.2d 100, Super.2005. A Pennsylvania resort may be liable for a collision between a skier and the woman who stood on the snow watching her family take ski lessons because the woman wasn’t engaging in downhill skiing. Barillari v. Ski Shawnee, Inc., No. 3:12-cv-34, United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania (2012). And reckless conduct by an employee could be actionable, even if there was a release in place. Tayar v. Camelback Ski Corp., 47 A.3d 1190 (2012). In this case, the Camelback resort employee was in charge of the snow tubing, and had sent snow tubers down too quickly, causing a woman who was the first to go down to be injured and re-injured by incoming snow tubers that were coming down too quickly
These exceptions are rare when it comes to skiing accidents, and thus, when you go to Pennsylvania to enjoy your winter activities, be aware of the consequences of doing so and the limits of what you can obtain to compensate for your loss.
To discuss your NJ personal injury matter, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please ask us about our video conferencing consultations if you are unable to come to our office.
Written by Stephen W. Kornas, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright