No ski safety statute. Minn. Stat. Ann. § 466.03 affords some statutory limitation of liability for government operators of parks and recreation area. Cross-country skiers subject to a user fee. Minn. Stat. Ann. § 85.41. Common law negligence for skier/skier collisions, and common law doctrine of primary assumption of the risk.


Bergin v. Wild Mountain,2014 WL 996788
Lee Bergin was skiing at Wild Mountain on a pass purchased for him online by a friend. While skiing an expert run, he encountered a “mound of snow” that he could not avoid. He hit the snow mound described as a larger than a couch, flew up six to ten feet in the air, and landed on his back and the tails of his skis. After the fall, Lee underwent surgery on his back and is partially paralyzed. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Wild Mountain, and Bergin appealed arguing that the district court erred by (1) denying their motion to amend the complaint to add allegations of reckless, willful, or wanton conduct; (2) determining that an exculpatory clause bars their claim of ordinary negligence; and (3) applying the doctrine of primary assumption of risk to bar their claim of ordinary negligence. The Court of Appeals reasoned that Bergin was aware of the release required with online purchases of ski passes from previous seasons and thus the release was effective to bar his claim. And, because respondent’s conduct did not give rise to a claim of greater-than-ordinary negligence, and because the exculpatory clause was enforceable to bar a claim of ordinary negligence, the dismissal was affirmed.

Grady v. Green Acres, Inc., 826 N.W.2d 547, 2013
Grady, a high school senior, was injured while snow tubing when he collided with another participant. He sued the owner and operator of snow tubing business, arguing that the operator owed a duty to provide lanes on the hill, employ attendants at the top and bottom of the hill who would indicate when it was safe for tubers to come down, and install a protected walkway from the run-off area at the bottom of the hill to the tow rope. But Grady offered no evidence that these acts would have reduced the risks inherent in snow tubing or the particular risk that he alleges caused his own injury, namely collision with another tuber. The parking lot of the tubing hill had a sign telling patrons that “TUBE SLIDING CAN BE DANGEROUS” AND “TUBERS ASSUME ALL RISKS AND TAKE FULL RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY INJURIES OR LOST ARTICLES.” All adult patrons were also required to wear a ticket acknowledging assumption of the risks. Owner moved for summary judgment, and the District Court granted motion. Patron appealed.The Court of Appeals held that patron’s claims against owner and operator of snow tubing business were precluded by the doctrine of primary assumption of the risk.

Brunsting v. Lutsen Mountains Corp., 601 F.3d 813 (8th Cir. 2010) United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit
Keith and Cheri Brunsting [1] appeal the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants Lutsen Mountains Corporation and Lutsen Mountains Lodging Corporation (collectively ” Lutsen” ), in this negligence action. We reverse the grant of summary judgment and remand the matter to the district court for further consideration.

Keith Brunsting, who worked for a printing company in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, was a 48-year-old intermediate skier who skied approximately three times per year. This case arises out of an accident that occurred on February 26, 2004, at Lutsen Mountains, a ski resort 90 miles northeast of Duluth, Minnesota. On that day, Brunsting and his friend, Trace Benson, were skiing at Lutsen, where Brunsting was skiing down the run, then lost control and crashed headfirst into a tree near the edge of the Alpha run. There was a partially exposed tree stump near the area where Brunsting had lost control and crashed.  As a result of the brain injury Brunsting suffered that day, he has no memory of the accident or anything else about the trip to Lutsen Mountains. He is permanently disabled and is no longer able to work.

Because Brunsting provided more than a ” mere scintilla” of evidence on causation, see Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505, Lutsen has failed to meet its burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Indeed, the parties’ arguments before the district court and on appeal focused primarily on a question of fact, namely whether the partially exposed stump caused Brunsting’s accident. Based on the evidence presented Christiansen made at the scene, a reasonable jury could come to more than one conclusion as to the stump’s role in Brunsting’s accident. As such, summary judgment is inappropriate.

Myers v. Lutsen Mountains Corp., 587 F.3d 891 United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit(2009)
Douglas R. Myers was injured while skiing at Lutsen Mountains, a ski resort operated by Lutsen Mountains Corporation. He sued Lutsen, and the district court granted Lutsen’s motion for summary judgment, holding that a release signed by Myers precluded him from pursuing his claims. An appeal followed and the court considered whether recreational activities involve a public interest is a question the Minnesota Supreme Court has not yet squarely addressed. If the Minnesota Supreme Court has not spoken on an issue, the federal court must determine what decision the state court would make if faced with the same facts and issue. We recognize that skiing is an activity enjoyed by many, but we believe the Minnesota Supreme Court would conclude it is not a necessary or public service and would find the release signed by Myers does not violate public policy. The appeals court affirmed the judgment of the district court.

Treinen v. Northern States Power Co.  2009-MN-0130.554,Court of Appeals (2009)
In late 2003, defendant Northern States Power Company, d/b/a Xcel Energy Company, contracted with appellant Donovan Construction to rebuild a segment of a power line. Xcel had a 75-foot easement that ran underneath the power line. North of the easement and running roughly parallel was a gravel township road, and in between the easement and the road was a strip of private agricultural land. On January 21, 2003, Xcel delivered two truckloads of utility poles to this area; appellant’s employees used a boom truck to unload them by the road and then dragged them over the agricultural land to place them on the easement, where they were to be stockpiled until needed for the rebuilding project. Daniel Treinen suffered injuries in February 2004, when operating a snowmobile, he struck a snow-covered utility pole.

A jury trial was held, and the jury found for the Treinens.  Xcel appealed, arguing that the district court’s failure to give a particular instruction to the jury was prejudicial error, that the court erred in prohibiting appellant from introducing into evidence the adverse party’s pleadings and interrogatory answers, and that the court erroneously limited appellant’s use of these file documents for impeachment purposes. Affirmed.

Razink v. Krutzig,  2008-MN-0402.008, Court of Appeals (2008)
While operating a snowmobile on land adjacent to a public highway, Krutzig struck a sign constructed and/or maintained by respondents. Appellants argue that the district court erred by concluding that: (1) under Minn. Stat. § 604A.25 (2002), appellants are precluded from maintaining this action that arises out of entry onto land for recreational-trail use; (2) the landowner’s agent has no greater duty to appellants than its principal; and (3) as a matter of law, respondents other than the landowner and its agent did not breach any duty to appellants because they could not have been aware that the sign created a risk of injury to anyone.

A landowner who gives written or oral permission for the use of land for the recreational use of land without charge does not owe “a duty of care to render or maintain the land safe for entry or use by other persons for recreational purposes,” owes no duty to warn those persons of unsafe conditions on the land, “owes no duty of care toward those persons except to refrain from willfully taking action to cause injury,” and “owes no duty to curtail use of the land during its use for recreational purposes.”  The landowner is not immune from suit if he/she give passive permission for recreational use.  Likwise, a realtor who places a sign on private property is also not protected from suit.

Defendant landowner is not liable allowing the placement of a sign in the middle of a “known and well-traveled” snowmobile trail, where the plaintiffs provided no evidence that any trace of the trail was visible when the sign was placed.  Metropolitan Property v. Jablonske, 722 N.W.2d 319 (Minn. App. 2006)

The Court of Appeals held that the building of a ditch was connected with the insured’s business where the insured was developing the property and applied the business exclusion.  The Court also applied the farming exclusion where the land had previously been farmed, but the insured had no intention to farm the land the following year.  “[I]ts owner’s intention not to rent [to a farmer] later in the year did not make it vacant land overnight.”

Peterson v. Donahue, 733 N.W.2d 790 (Minn. App. 2007)
In February 2000, respondent David Donahue, then 43, was crossing a ski slope when appellant Neal Peterson, then 11, collided with him. In August 2005, appellant brought this action. Depositions, taken in February 2006, indicated that both parties were experienced skiers at the time of the accident.  Appellant argues that Minnesota law has not recognized primary assumption of the risk between skiers. But although no Minnesota appellate court has addressed this precise issue in a published opinion, other cases support the inference that recognition of primary assumption of the risk between skiers would be consistent with existing law.

Minnesota courts have accepted primary assumption of the risk as a bar to recovery in actions related to various sports. Collision with another skier is a risk inherent in skiing. Primary assumption of the risk precludes liability for collisions between skiers who know and appreciate the well-known and inherent risk of such collisions. The district court lawfully concluded that summary judgment in favor of respondent was warranted, having found as a matter of law that appellant assumed the risk of the skiing collision. Affirmed.

Manns v. Afton Alps, Inc.,  No. A06-752, Court of Appeals (2007)
Manns he was on duty as a volunteer ski patroller at Afton Alps. In January 2005, Manns and another ski patroller, Steve McShea, responded by snowmobile to a report of an injured skier. Transporting Manns as his passenger, McShea drove the snowmobile up a ski hill in an area known as Paula’s Pass/Patti’s Pass to reach the injured skier. At the same time, Dekarske, an Afton Alps employee, was instructing a class of snowboarders down Paula’s Pass/Patti’s Pass. Dekarske, who was demonstrating a particular technique for the class, was moving fast but in control, periodically looking uphill toward the class. Dekarske collided with the snowmobile and injured Manns’s left knee.

Manns was an expert skier who, at the time of the accident, had more than 25 years of ski experience. Dekarske had been a snowboard instructor for Afton Alps since November 2003. He had received training and certification as a snowboard instructor from the American Association of Snowboard Instructors. Like Manns, Dekarske considered himself an expert.

Afton Alps and Dekarske moved for summary judgment, which the district court granted in February 2006. Dismissing Manns’s negligence action, the district court concluded that Manns primarily assumed the inherent risk of a collision, which gave rise to his injuries. An appeal followed, and trial court was affirmed.

Prior to 2006

In a case recognizing a high level of immunity for a governmental operator, it was held that a sideward sloping hill leading off of a ski trail and into trees did not constitute an “artificial condition” for the purpose of applying the trespasser standard of care, reasoning that “even if the sloping hill was man-made it duplicated natural mountain environment of area.” Martin v. Spirit Mountain Recreation Area Authority, 566 N.W.2d 719 (Minn. 1997). Encountering a parked ATV on a ski trail not an “obvious and inherent risk of skiing” for purposes of Minnesota’s doctrine of primary assumption of risk. Verberkmoes v. Lutsen Mountains Corp., 844 F.Supp 1356 (D.Minn. 1994). A resort has no duty to protect against a skier/skier collision involving an intoxicated skier, absent actual or constructive notice of the danger. Phillips v. Wild Mountain Sports, Inc., 439 N.W.2d 58 (Minn. Ct. App. 1989). Introduction of tow ticket with exculpatory language upheld for limited purpose of showing plaintiff’s knowledge as an element of an assumption of risk defense. Larson v. Powder Ridge Ski Corp., 432 N.W.2d 774 (Minn. Ct. App. 1988). Skier/skier collision is a basis for action, and assumption of risk a jury issue “strictly on a comparative negligence basis,” per Seidl v. Trollhaugen, Inc., 232 N.W.2d 236 (Minn. 1975).

Call Now

Free Case Review