“Snow Cases”: PART III – Waivers Enforced in Skiing and Snow Boarding Cases

By Doyice Cotten

Five “Snow” cases have been presented in the previous two posts. Two more will be 95905151_ae9f6e0644examined in this post.

Bagley v. Mt. Bachelor, Inc. (2013) – Colorado

This case was discussed in some detail in the February 11, 2013 post entitled “Oregon Addresses a Parental Waiver for the First Time.” The case involved a minor who reached the age of majority shortly after his father signed a liability waiver enabling him to snowboard on Mt. Bachelor. After reaching the age of 18, he snowboarded more than 100 times and subsequently suffered injury.

The court found the waiver was not against public policy and was not unconscionable; the major issue, however, was whether the young man could disaffirm the waiver after having snowboarded many times, or whether by his participation and utilization of the waiver he had, in fact, ratified the waiver. The court determined that he had indeed ratified the waiver – thus disaffirmation was impossible. Hence, the waiver was enforceable. It was clear from the court’s decision, however, that under ordinary circumstances, parental waivers are not enforceable in Oregon.

Addis v. Snowshoe Mountain, Inc. (2013) – West Virginia

In Addis, the plaintiff, an experienced skier, was skiing an icy run when his ski became dislodged. He stopped on a very steep slope and while attempting to put his ski back on, he slipped on the ice and fell over a drop-off into a wooded area. His femur and pelvis were broken.

He claimed that on an earlier run he had observed the trail was not well-groomed, but was icy with mounds of snow; he failed to report this at the time. He alleged negligent maintenance and failure to fulfill the duties of ski area operators, as prescribed by the West Virginia Skiing Responsibility Act which provides:

§20-3A-3. Duties of ski area operators with respect to ski areas.

Every ski area operator shall:
(8) Maintain the ski areas in a reasonably safe condition, except that such operator shall not be responsible for any injury, loss or damage caused by the following: variations in terrain; surface or subsurface snow or ice conditions; bare spots, rocks, trees, other forms of forest growth or debris; collisions with pole lines, lift towers or any components thereof; or, collisions with snowmaking equipment which is marked by a visible sign or other warning implement in compliance with subdivision (2) of this section.

 The court stated there was no evidence that the defendant had breached its duty and ruled that the plaintiff was responsible for his injury since it was caused by the terrain (see bold emphasis added in the statute). Therefore, the waiver was enforceable in West Virginia since there was no statutory violation.

Photo Credit: Thanks to Nonanet at Flickr.

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