In a recent case before a California appeals court, the plaintiff claimed that a California ski resort was liable for the serious injuries she sustained in a tragic snowboarding accident at the resort. According to the court’s opinion, the woman collided with a snowcat that was pulling a snow-grooming tiller, and she got caught in the tiller. She suffered severe injuries, including several skull fractures and her left leg was later amputated as a result of the collision.
The plaintiff and her husband sued the ski resort, alleging gross negligence and loss of consortium. The trial court granted the ski resort’s motion for summary judgment finding that the woman assumed the risk of her injury, and the plaintiffs appealed.
The Doctrine of Assumption of the Risk
The court explained that the doctrine of assumption of the risk is often referred to as a defense, but it actually negates the duty element, which is an essential element of a negligence claim. In cases involving the express assumption of risk, the individual expressly agrees to assume the risk involved, for example by signing a written release. A release that expressly releases the defendant can waive the defendant’s liability for negligence. However, a waiver cannot cover a defendant’s gross negligence. Gross negligence is considered an aggravated type of negligence. It typically amounts to an extreme departure from the ordinary standard of care others in the defendant’s shoes would take in a given situation.
The Court’s Decision
The appeals court dismissed the claim against the ski resort, finding that the plaintiff had assumed the risk of her injury. The court noted that when the plaintiffs obtained their season-passes, they signed a season-pass agreement. The agreement included a clause that released the ski resort from liability for injuries resulting from the use of its facilities, including injuries arising from the ski resort’s alleged negligence.
The agreement also described the sport as “dangerous” and stated that it involved risks, including collisions with snowmaking equipment, snowmobiles, and other over-snow vehicles. The plaintiffs claimed that the ski resort’s conduct was outside of the scope of the agreement. In particular, the plaintiffs alleged that the ski resort was grossly negligent in operating the snow tiller on an open ski run without using spotters, and failing to warn skiers of the machine’s presence and its danger.
The court held that the plaintiffs expressly assumed the risk because the season-pass agreement recognized the risk of collisions with “over-snow vehicles.” Further, the court noted that other courts have held that collisions with snow-grooming equipment are an inherent risk of skiing and snowboarding. The court explained that snowcats and tillers were frequently used throughout the ski season, and the plaintiff herself saw the snowcat about 150 feet before she collided with it. Therefore, the court dismissed the claim against the ski resort, finding it could not be held liable for her injuries.
Contact a Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer
If you have been seriously injured in an accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Sometimes, the only way that an accident victim can cover the many expenses associated with serious injuries is by bringing a claim against the person or entity responsible. The experienced trial attorneys at Sharifi Firm, PLC can offer knowledgeable legal counsel and aggressive representation if you believe someone else is at fault for your accident. We handle cases arising from car accidents, slip-and-fall accidents, construction accidents, as well as other California personal injury claims. Contact us today at 1-866-422-7222 or via our online form.
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