Seven people were injured in the chairlift accident at Maine’s Sugarloaf Mountain Resort on a cold, but sunny Saturday in March.  You may have read about it, or maybe not. If not you wouldn’t be alone, because even lawyers tend to steer clear of this area of the law. Like other cases of being injured on someone else’s property, skiing litigation has to do with being injured on someone else’s property which is usually a ski resort corporation. But ski resort litigation is a very different animal than most lawyers are used to dealing with in premise liability cases.
Let’s clarify what I mean by premise-liability.
Premise-liability simply means property-law. This area of property law focuses on the injured person’s right to receive compensation from the property owner’s insurance company. Think of it this way, premise liability is simply a vessel of rules from which those injured on someone else’s property either do or don’t get paid compensation. It is mostly scripted from the common law with exceptions and damage calculations undermined by state legislators bent on deforming how much you can get from the powers-that-be.
So when you suffer injury at the resort lawyers first must review the premise-liability laws of that state and then decide whether the facts surrounding how you were injured, will allow you a recovery. It’s not difficult for lawyers to make that determination, but don’t get your hopes up that compensation will be paid. It may or it may not.
A few years ago Todd Miler and I did extensive research about ski resort liability for skiing accidents. Our client was the mother and father of a young girl killed after losing control and pitching over a barricade and into a rock. What we determined is that man-made obstacles count, those provided by nature do not. In other words, if you crash into an unpadded ski lift support you may be entitled to compensation, but into a tree you aren’t likely to be compensated. So where should the focus be when investigating a ski resort injury case?
The answer is focus on two general groupings: 1. People, meaning other skiers. 2. And then man-made objects.
How either should be evaluated is pretty simple. Focus on warnings of dangerous objects, making man-made objects less dangerous or on how the behavior of other skiers was dangerous and violated the skiers’ code of conduct. Another area could be equipment design or failure, but this area will be expert intensive with engineers muddying up the legal waters until no one in the courtroom understands reason.
The Lombardi Law Firm does handle skier injury cases while Iowans are in Colorado or any other ski resort within the Continental United States. We may associate with lawyers in other states, but that is not difficult and we do it on a regular basis. Call now for an appointment.
Skiers suffer injuries in many ways while at ski resorts. Drunk skiers, drugged up snowboarders, wreckless kids and adults seem to top the headlines, but other problems persist with man-made obstacles. Here is the news item about this man-made chairlift that should work properly if properly maintained.
A heart-stopping incident occurred for skiers using a chairlift at Maine’s Sugarloaf Mountain Resort Saturday, as the lift stopped, and began sliding backwards down the mountain, causing riders to jump off, the Associated Press via ABC News reported.
This is what tort reform does. It deforms the concept of legal responsibility allowing companies that get paid to do maintenance to avoid being held responsible. I will be interested to see what was not done that allowed the lift to slide backward while in operation.
Here is the ski code from Colorado Ski Country USA.
KNOW THE CODE
The National Ski Areas Association established "Your Responsibility Code" in 1966 as a code of ethics for all skiers on the mountain. Today, the code reflects not only skier safety, but snowboarder and lift safety as well. Ultimately, safe skiing and snowboarding on the mountain is each person's responsibility. Following the Responsibility Code helps all skiers and snowboarders have a safer mountain experience.
YOUR RESPONSIBILITY CODE
- Safety on the slopes is everyone's responsibility. Ski safely-not only for yourself, but for others as well.
- Always stay in control and be able to stop or avoid objects.
- People ahead of you have the right of way. It is your responsibility to avoid them.
- Do not stop where you obstruct the trail or are not visible from above.
- Whenever starting downhill or merging into a trail, yield to others.
- Always use devices to help prevent runaway equipment.
- Observe all posted signs and warnings.
- Keep off closed trails and out of closed areas.
- Prior to using any lift, you must know how to load, ride, and unload safely.
AVOID HIGH ALTITUDE ILLNESS
- Exercise in moderation.
- Drink more water than usual. When you combine altitude with physical exertion, you need to drink before you get thirsty.
- Eat food high in carbohydrates, such as grains, pasta, fruits and vegetables and avoid salty foods.
- Limit alcohol consumption. It's tempting to party the evening you roll into a ski town. However, drinking alcohol and cheating yourself on sleep the night before you ski is a big mistake. Use common sense.
- Wear water-resistant, layered clothing that can be removed or added as weather changes (i. e., long underwear, turtleneck, sweater, waterproof jacket and pants, nylon socks, glove liners, waterproof gloves, winter hat, sunglasses and goggles).
- Be sun savvy. Although Colorado tops the list of sunshine states, our sunshine is so intense that skiing without sunscreen or protective eyewear is not recommended. Ultraviolet rays are more powerful at higher elevations. Since resorts are over two miles above sea level, you will need goggles and/or sunglasses that have UV protection. Also, regardless of your skin color or complexion, everyone needs to wear sunscreen, even on overcast days when ultraviolet rays still penetrate cloud cover. Go for at least 15 SPF and apply several times a day. Look for broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays.
SLOW ZONES-FAMILY SKI ZONES
Families are special guests in Colorado and we treat them right. Most resorts offer special family discounts, such as Kids Ski or Stay Free. Nearly all areas also offer Slow Skiing Zones and Family Ski Zones, gentle slopes on the mountain designated for slow family skiing. Slow Skiing Zones have been designated for high traffic areas to slow skiers and snowboarders down when approaching a busy intersection of trails or nearing lift-loading areas where slower speeds make a safer experience. Helmets are also available for young skiers or adults at just about every resort.
Programs such as Telluride's Mountain Adventure Program, and Winter Park's Snowboarder Ambassador Program are just a few examples of the existing safety programs throughout Colorado's slopes. Several ski areas designate some of their ski patrollers as courtesy patrol and safety patrol who are the on-mountain patrollers there to ensure skiers and snowboarders are traveling at safe speeds and in control. Speeding or reckless skiing usually results in the loss of a lift ticket or pass and may require the "speeder" to watch a safety training video to educate them about safe skiing and the Your Responsibility Code.
OTHER USEFUL TIPS
Ski with friends. This is an obvious precaution when challenging yourself in steep or tree-lined terrain. If you end up on an accidental solo mission, make sure you've agreed with partners on a meeting place (and a backup meeting place). Level out. If you're not an expert skier, don't pretend that you are. Stay on runs that challenge your skills but let you stay in control of your speed and equipment. Signs at the bottom of each lift explicitly state what level terrain the lift serves. Listen to your body. If you feel tired, stop for a break. Skiing from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. is hard on the body no matter how good of shape you are in. Muscles will tighten up at the end of the day if you don't stretch and hydrate frequently.
THE COLORADO SKI SAFETY ACT
Warning Under Colorado law, a skier assumes the risk of any injury to person or property resulting from any of the inherent dangers and risks of skiing and may not recover from any ski area operator for any injury resulting from any of the inherent dangers and risks of skiing including: changing weather conditions; existing and changing snow conditions; bare spots; rocks; stumps; trees; collision with natural objects, man- made objects or other skiers; variations in the terrain; and the failure of the skiers to ski within their own abilities.®