Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 143, §§ 71I to 71S sets forth duties of ski area operators, passengers, and skiers. Most operator duties are fairly characterized as warning, notice, and marking requirements. Id. at § 71N. Operator compliance with statutory duties is evidence of due care in negligence cases. Id. at § 71P. Presumption of skier knowledge of, and assumption of, “unavoidable risks inherent in the sport.” Id. at § 71O. Skiers solely liable for skier/skier collisions. Id. Recreational tramways require licensure and are subject to state regulation. Id. at § 71K. To maintain suit against an operator, written notice with pertinent details must be provided within 90 days of incident unless operator had actual knowledge or could have discovered incident during that time period; in any event, statute of limitations is one year. Id. at § 71P. Registered members of the National Ski Patrol are granted unlimited immunity for rescue efforts, so long as made in good faith, per Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch 231 § 851.
Tamirova v.Omni Hotels Management Corp., 29 Mass.L.Rptr. 435 (2012)
On December 19, 2009, Kristina Tamirova was snow boarding at Bretton Woods, a ski area owned by Omni Hotels. As she was descending the Almost Home trail, near its base she was bumped by another skier or boarder and lost control of her board. She slid under a rope flagged with orange ribbons and suspended between colored bamboo poles and fell into a ditch that was several feet deep and wide. She was seriously injured as a result of her fall. She argued that the ditch was a man-made hole and thus not an inherent risk of the sport. Evidence was presented that the ditch is part of the bed of a brook that runs along side the ski trail, has vegetation growing in it, and water running through it all year. Thus the court found the ditch to be a natural feature of the terrain, and therefore an inherent risk. Case dismissed on summary judgment.
Lafond v. Solomon North America, Inc., 29 Mass.L.Rptr. 419 (2011)
Gary LaFond was injured when one of his ski bindings broke while he was skiing in Utah. LaFond purchased the bindings in Boston and brought this action against Salomon North America, Inc. et al, asserting claims of negligence, breach of implied warranty of merchantability, and violation of G.L.c. 93A. Salomon filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Court found sufficient contacts between Solomon and Massachusetts to deny the motion.
Perespypa v. Jiminy Peak Mountain, C.A. No. 08-30055-MAP, United States District Court, D. Mass. (2009)
Plaintiff was skiing at Jiminy Peak ski resort on March 23, 2007, with several friends. While skiing down the West Way, Plaintiff gained speed and collided with an unpadded snow gun. The day of the accident there was some discrepancy in the paper maps and boards on the summit labeling the trails difficulty. Plaintiff was knocked unconscious and suffered serious injuries due to the accident. Plaintiff claims that ski resorts rental store failed to equip her with appropriate sized ski boots and misadjusted her boots. Plaintiff also claims that Defendant failed to properly mark the trails difficulty and mark and pad the snow gun. In trail court Defendant moved for summary judgment arguing that they were not liable for negligent rental of equipment or making of trail. The trail court granted summary judgment.
Plaintiff appealed the case, on the grounds that Defendant was liable for three things, equipment rental, trail marking and padding the snow gun. In terms of equipment rental, Plaintiff failed to demonstrate that she had complained or requested another set of boots, or that faulty equipment caused her accident. Plaintiff also failed to demonstrate that Defendant was negligent in their mislabeling of trails difficulty and that this mislabeling caused her accident. With regards to these two claims the court allowed Defendant’s summary judgment. But in the final claim that Defendant failed to properly mark and pad the snow gun; the court found that there were factual questions regarding the actual location of the snow gun in relation to the skiable area and whether or not it was properly marked and padded. The court believed that these were facts to be determined by a jury and therefore denied Defendant’s motion for summary judgment on this claim.
Brush v. Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort, Inc., 626 F.Supp.2d 139 (D.Mass. 2009)
A tragic skiing accident that left the plaintiff, Kelly Brush, permanently disabled. The accident occurred during a collegiate ski race on February 18, 2006 when Brush lost control and crashed into a ski lift stanchion just off the trail. In her six-count amended complaint Brush alleges that the severity of her injuries was the result of negligence or gross negligence on the part of the following defendants: Jiminy Peak, Inc., the operator of the ski area where the accident occurred; Williams College and two of its ski coaches, Edward Grees and Oyestein Bakken, who organized the competition; St. Lawrence University and its ski coach, Jeffrey Pier, who was the referee of the race during which Brush was injured; and Barry Bryant, who served as the competition’s Technical Delegate from the Federation Internationale de Ski (” FIS” ). Pier and St. Lawrence University have also filed a third-party complaint seeking contribution from Brush’s school, Middlebury College, and its ski coach Forest Carey, who was a race referee for a race on the same trail the day before Brush’s accident. Before the court are motions for summary judgment from all of the parties. At the time of her accident Plaintiff was a member of the USSA and the FIS. The FIS waiver included language acknowledging the risks of skiing competitively. Additionally, it stated that national or club organizations in the United States may require a skier to waive any liability claims in order to participate in their activities. Those completing the USSA registration form had to sign a clearly-labeled liability release. Court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment, finding that the Massachusetts Ski Safety Act, in the case of Jiminy Peak, and the USSA waiver, in the case of the other Defendants, forecloses any possibility of liability.
Case of Sikorski, 455 Mass. 477, 918 N.E.2d 30 (2009)
Peabody City, high school teacher, Karen Sikorski, Plaintiff was acting as a chaperone for the high school’s ski club tip on January 24, 2004. Plaintiff volunteered to be a chaperone and was not paid for her time as a chaperone but was compensated for her expenses on the trip. While skiing, Plaintiff fell and injured her shoulder, requiring two surgeries and physical therapy. Plaintiff filed a worker’s compensation claim for medical benefits. The worker’s compensation board awarded Plaintiff benefits, stating that although Plaintiff’s participation as chaperone was voluntary, the recreational aspect of serving as a chaperone was incidental to it work-related components.
The city appealed the board’s discussion arguing that an employee is barred from receiving compensation when the injury occurs during his/her voluntary participation in a recreational activity, such as skiing. The court found that although voluntary, Plaintiff’s participation as a chaperone arose from her employment as a teacher. While volunteering Plaintiff was expected to perform many of the functions of a teacher, such as being responsible for student behavior and enforcing school rules. The court concluded that the recreational aspects of the Plaintiff’s service as a chaperone were subordinate to her work related duties while on the trip. There for affirming the board’s decision and awarding Plaintiff compensation.
Rich v. Tamarack Ski Corporation, 08-MBAR-345, 070216 (2008)
On February 13, 2006, Plaintiff, Jillian Rich took part in a snowboarding class through the Bousquet ski resort. Her instructor, Christopher Dinan and the class began the day with a warm up run before Dinan began instructing. Dinan told the class to meet him and the end of the run. As Plaintiff was approaching the end of the run, she saw Dinan standing to the far left side of the trail. As she approached Dinan she was not able to turn right, due to her lack of experience and crashed into Dinan sustaining injuries. Plaintiff sued Bousquet and Dinan for negligently causing her to fall. Defendant moved for summary judgment stating that under assertion that they are not liable since Plaintiff was the uphill skier. The court granted Defendant’s motion.
Plaintiff appealed the case. Appellate court found by their interoperation of the Statues, Plaintiff for all purposes of this case was a “skier” and therefore had the responsibility as the uphill skier. There was no dispute as to the fact that Plaintiff was the uphill skier and collided with Dinan; therefore, under Massachusetts’ law, she was solely responsible for the collision and the resulting injuries. The court supported the summary judgment.
Lieberman v. Union Pier Terminal, 874 N.E.2d 505 (2007)
Plaintiff, Eli Lieberman was skiing at Berkshire East Ski Area, on February 6, 2003. While skiing on Big Chief, Plaintiff was struck by Mikel Norcross who was performing a 360-degree midair spin from a bump located near the intersection of Big Chief Trail and Broken Arrow Trail. Plaintiff holds Union Pier Terminal, the owner and operator of Berkshire, partially responsible for the accident in their negligence to destroy or prevent the building of the bump/jump that Norcross jumped off of. The defendant moved for motion of summary judgment and the Superior Court judge granted it.
Plaintiff appealed the motion stating that Defendant was aware that skiers/snowboarders continuously rebuilt that bump which had a jump path straight into unaware skiers below. Defendant argues that the bump in question was a mogul, and naturally occurring hard lump of snow that is a result of skier traffic. Therefore the defendant was not liable for injuries as a result of skiers using the bump as a jump. Plaintiff failed to demonstrate that at the time of the accident skiers had built a jump and that the Defendant was aware of repetitive building of a jump in that area. The Defendant was able to show that bump in question was most likely a naturally occurring mogul. The court found in favor of the Defendant and affirmed summary judgment.
Prior to 2006
In Saldarini v. Wachusett Mountain Ski Area, 665 N.E.2d 79 (Mass. 1996), claim against ski area operator and arising from skier/skier collision on icy run was held barred by ski safety act (above). Bare spot declared an “unavoidable” and “inherent risk,” barring recovery by injured skier. McHerron v. Jiminy Peak, 665 N.E.2d 26 (Mass. 1996). However, skier can recover when negligently struck and injured by ski patroller, despite skier/skier collision immunity. Tilley v. Brodie Mountain Ski Area, Inc., 591 N.E.2d 202 (Mass. 1992). Ski area operator negligence or ski safety statute violation does not release skier’s claim from statutory scheme, including statute of limitations. Atkins v. Jiminy Peak, 514 N.E.2d 850 (Mass. 1987).