On Jan. 19, 2007, a skier and snowboarder collided while traveling down the Low Horizon Trail at Mountain Creek. The impact of the collision propelled Robert Angland, the skier, into a concrete bridge head first. He died of his injuries several days later.
Angland and Brownlee had purchased season passes from Mountain Creek for the 2006-2007 ski season, and by doing so, had agreed to observe the New Jersey Ski Statute. Court documents allege that the collision led to Angland’s death, but the parties dispute the specifics of how the crash occurred.
Court documents say that Brownlee, an intermediate snowboarder with five to six years of experience, was snowboarding on the far right side of the trail when an unidentified skier wearing a brown puffy jacket came from his left and cut directly in front of him, causing him to turn quickly to his left and become entangled with Angland’s skis. The two men collided, fell and slid downhill. Angland ultimately hit a concrete bridge headfirst and died. The parties also dispute whether the collision or hitting the concrete bridge was the cause of death.
Brownlee stopped sliding and went to Angland’s assistance. The ski patrol arrived and took Angland for medical assistance.
Brownlee filed a motion for a summary judgment based on the argument that the ski statute did not apply. The trial court, the state Superior Court in Newton, denied the motion, and the matter was advanced to the Appellate Division, which also said the New Jersey Ski Statute should apply.
The issue then went to the highest court in New Jersey. The state Supreme Court considered if the statute, which defines the responsibilities and risks of ski area operators and skiers, is broad enough to govern the liability of skier-snowboarder or skier-skier collisions, rather than just defining the liability of ski area operators.
The attorney for Mountain Creek and Wiskow, on behalf of the skier’s estate, argued in January before the court that the New Jersey Ski Statute should be applied in this case, but the attorney for the snowboarder argued that the snowboarder, William Tucker Brownlee, should be held to the standard of common law recklessness. Conduct which is reckless requires consciousness of a high probability of harm to others and indifference to the consequences.
Mountain Creek and the estate of Angland in March 2011 agreed on a confidential settlement but a lawsuit filed by Angland’s estate is pending against the snowboarder, William Tucker Brownlee.
The state Supreme Court granted the motion for summary judgment, holding that the New Jersey Ski Statute was not applicable to claims between skiers and snowboarders, but instead a heightened standard for common law recklessness is required in recreational sports.
The upshot is that if you are run down by a fellow skier in New Jersey, unless you can prove recklessness on the part of the responsible skier, you have no claims no matter how badly you are hurt.