Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case requiring the court to determine if a plaintiff’s case against a ski resort could proceed toward trial despite the fact that she had signed an accident-release waiver prior to her injury. After reviewing the applicable law, the court concluded that the release waiver was enforceable and that the plaintiff’s lawsuit was barred as a matter of law. The case presents important issues for Indiana personal injury plaintiffs, since accident-release waivers are commonly used as a defense in certain Indiana negligence cases.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff arranged to take a ski lesson at the defendant resort. Prior to getting out on the mountain, the plaintiff was presented with an accident-release waiver and asked to sign it. The waiver essentially stated that the plaintiff understood and appreciated the risks involved in skiing, that she accepted the risks, and that she agreed not to hold the resort liable in the event she was injured.
The plaintiff was later issued a lift ticket, which contained similar language on the reverse side of the ticket. The plaintiff proceeded with her lesson.
During the lesson, the plaintiff was provided with some basic instruction about how to get on and off a ski lift. However, when the time came for the plaintiff to unload at the top of the lift, her boot got caught between the lift and the snow, ultimately resulting in a fractured femur.
The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the resort, arguing that the resort was negligent in designing the unloading area as well as in training the ski instructor. The resort argued that the plaintiff’s lawsuit should be dismissed because by signing the accident-release waiver and accepting the terms on the lift ticket, she had agreed not to hold the resort liable for any injuries she sustained.
The court began its analysis by stating that an exculpatory agreement is enforceable when it is fairly written and deals with an acceptable subject matter. The court explained that, when contracts involving the core public good are at issue, an exculpatory clause may not be enforceable because the party asked to sign the form may feel as though there is no choice in the matter.
Here, however, the court determined that engaging in the recreational activity of skiing is not such an important subject matter that courts will preclude a party from entering into an agreement in which liability is waived. The court also noted that the language in the waiver was clear and unambiguous, which similarly favored enforcement. Thus, the court upheld the enforcement of the release waiver and dismissed the plaintiff’s appeal.
Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of Indiana accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. This may even be the case if you or your loved one signed an accident-release waiver. In many cases, these waivers are found to be invalid for a variety of reasons. The dedicated Indiana personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse have the experience and dedication necessary to take on even the biggest defendants. We are experienced in handling all Indiana personal injury cases. Call 888-532-7766 to schedule a free consultation today.
Plaintiff’s Case Dismissed Based on Her Untrue Sworn Statements, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, January 3, 2018
Court Discuses Requirements for Admissibility of Expert Testimony in Recent Product Liability Case, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, January 17, 2018