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Torts in Snow Sports

Torts in Snow Sports

Injuries are common in snow sports because of the dangerous nature of the activities. Under certain circumstances, an injured party may be able to recover for injuries that are caused by improperly maintained conditions or equipment.

Skiing

Negligence action

The owner of a ski lodge or ski lift has a duty to use reasonable care to maintain the mountain and other premises for skiers in a reasonably safe condition. This does not require the owner to ensure the safety of skiers on dangerous slopes. However, the owner may not increase the hazards of skiing on his premises. For example, an owner may be found negligent in an action by an injured skier if he left foreign obstacles on the slope, used pointed poles as gate markers, improperly labeled a dangerous mountain as a beginner slope, failed to repair a broken ski lift, or provided rental skis with defective bindings.

Defenses to negligence action

A skier assumes the ordinary risks inherent in skiing, including the risk of injury due to rough terrain, hitting objects such as a tree stump covered by natural or man-made snow, and being knocked down by other skiers. However, a skier does not assume extraordinary risks that are unexpected, such as being injured by the negligent operation of a ski tow. Contributory negligence may also bar a skier’s recovery if, for example, he loses control of his skis and strikes an object or another skier.

An owner may rely on the language of agreements signed by skiers for equipment rental and lift tickets that insulates the owner from liability for injuries that arise out of the inherent risks of skiing.

Products liability action

A skier may assert a products liability action against a manufacturer or supplier if he is injured by ski equipment. While some courts permit such an action, other courts are reluctant to allow recovery based on the inherent danger in skiing and the skier’s responsibility for his own injuries.

Snowmobiles

Negligence action

The driver of a snowmobile owes to certain types of passengers a duty of reasonable care in driving the vehicle. If a passenger is injured due to the driver’s negligent operation, he or she may bring an action against the driver.

Defenses to negligence action

A driver may assert that an injured passenger assumed the risks of riding in a snowmobile. However, courts may not accept such a defense on the ground that riding in a snowmobile that is properly driven may not pose any more hazard than that encountered while riding on other modes of transportation, including a train or taxi. The driver may also contend that the passenger was contributorily negligent in failing to warn the driver of dangerous terrain of which the passenger is aware if the driver is not aware of such conditions.

Products liability action

A snowmobile driver who has been injured in an accident may bring a products liability action against the manufacturer of the snowmobile or a supplier of its parts, contending that the snowmobile was defectively designed or assembled. The driver may recover under such theory unless his injury was caused by the dangerous manner of his use, such as speeding over large embankments.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

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