The legal system in New Zealand has embraced ski safety with the order from a district court judge to Cardrona Ski Resort Ltd to pay almost $60,000 including court costs in the Queenstown District Court for injuries suffered by guest.
Cardrona Alpine Resort is a ski and snowboard resort located between Wanaka and Queenstown, New Zealand. The company was found guilty, following a fixture in January, of an infringement under the Health and Safety Act 1992 relating to an incident at the ski area on September 2, 2007.
The charge, which Cardrona denied, involved the installation of unmarked, unposted steel mesh sections across the base area of the resort. It had been planned to close access to the area where a motorbike display was to take place about noon for the laying the tracks.
Judge Keller said Rosemary Berry, semi-retired, a tourist from Queensland, Australia, was skiing across the base area and tripped over a 40mm-high steel mesh track placed in the snow in preparation for the Cardrona Games, due to start that afternoon. Ms. Berry suffered a broken humerus, fractures to her left shoulder and sore, swollen and severely bruised left elbow and right knee as a result of the incident.
“I reject the defendant’s argument that they were there to be seen and users of the area should have avoided them.
“I find it was an obvious hazard and had the potential for serious harm. It caused Ms Berry serious harm.”
Cardrona had an “exemplary record” in terms of health and safety issues up until the incident and since it happened. While the judge was impressed with its health and safety policies and protocols, he found it did not comply with information contained in its hazard register.
Judge Keller found culpability in the “medium category, but not at the serious end”. Using a starting point of $60,000, the judge took into account mitigating factors including Cardrona’s previous good record, which had continued with the exception of that day; the accident compensation order agreed to by the company and audits carried out following the incident. Judge Keller found a 20% reduction from the starting point was appropriate, with a further 10% reduction which took into account reparation, leaving the total fine at $43,000. Cardrona was also required to pay $130 court costs.
“Having considered the injuries suffered, the age of Ms. Berry, the effect this has had on her life, the pain and suffering, the amount suggested by the informant appears to be appropriate to the circumstances here,” Judge Keller said.
Ms. Berry said even though she was semi-retired, she had been unable to work since the incident and had spent “at least $10,000” in physiotherapy as her health insurance did not cover her in Australia. When asked if she was satisfied with the extent of the reparation ordered by Judge Keller yesterday, she said “no”. Ms Berry said she had hoped the company would pay her future medical bills to “make amends” for a life which had changed dramatically.
Cardrona Alpine Resort management had no comment following the court announcement. Cardrona opens Friday 26th June for the 2009 season