Recently, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a case involving a man who was seriously injured while skiing off-trail at a world-renowned ski resort. The case required the court to determine if the ski resort owed the plaintiff a duty of care to prevent this type of accident. Finding that the plaintiff assumed the risks involved in this type of activity, the court concluded that the resort owed him no duty. As a result, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case.
This case is important to Indiana personal injury plaintiffs because it discusses the assumption-of-the-risk doctrine and illustrates how courts apply the doctrine in practice.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff, a ski instructor from California, was visiting Jackson Hole, Wyoming with friends on a ski trip. During their stay, the resort got about a foot of new snow. While much of the resort was machine-groomed, the plaintiff and his friends sought the resort’s ungroomed terrain.
The plaintiff’s group found themselves at the top of a mountain bowl containing a large field of boulders covered by the fresh snow. One of the group members skied down first and video-taped the rest of the group as they skied down. The video showed the large, six- to eight-foot tall boulders.
As the plaintiff made his way down, he fell between two large boulders. Evidently, the snow had fallen in such a way as to barely cover the gap between the two boulders, making it seem as though it was solid ground. However, the plaintiff fell approximately 15 feet, seriously injuring himself.
The plaintiff then filed a personal injury lawsuit against the resort, asserting several claims of negligence. In its defense, the resort argued that the plaintiff assumed the risks inherent in skiing and should not be able to pursue a claim for compensation as a result of this assumption of the risk.
The court agreed with the resort, finding that the risks involved in this type of skiing were known to the plaintiff. The court pointed out that the injury took place off-trail, where it was clear that the terrain had not been groomed, especially to an experienced skier such as the plaintiff. In fact, the evidence suggested that the plaintiff sought out this type of terrain exactly because of the fact that it was ungroomed.
In support of his claim, the plaintiff presented an expert witness to testify that the industry norm would have been to place a warning sign at the top of the run indicating the risks involved. However, the court also rejected this claim, finding that since the plaintiff assumed the risks involved in skiing off-trail, the resort did not owe him a duty to warn of the conditions.
Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Ski Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in an Indiana ski accident, or while on a ski trip to another state, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated Indiana personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse have extensive experience handling all types of Indiana personal injury cases, including those arising out of outdoor activities like skiing, mountain biking, hiking, and rafting. To learn more, call 888-532-7766 to schedule your free consultation with an attorney today.
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