A family who recently lost a loved one to a fatal skiing accident filed a lawsuit against the ski resort for negligence, according to a recent article. The father of the family, who was a novice skier, crashed into a snow gun. An anesthesiologist on the scene attempted to perform CPR, but the man was dead by the time he got to the hospital.
Skiing, of course, is a dangerous activity, and those who enjoy skiing assume some of the risk. Ski resorts, however, have a duty of care to ensure that their resorts are reasonably safe. In cases where someone dies, an investigation will determine if something could have been done differently to prevent the accident. If a plaintiff successfully argues that a change in process could have prevented this accident, and will hence prevent future accidents, the ski resort is essentially liable.
So, the question becomes: What could have been done differently?
Elements of negligence
Snow guns are large devices that shoot snow from the ground onto the hills so that skiers have fresh snow to ski on. As the snow becomes matted, it turns to ice, which makes it more difficult to control the skis. Snow guns prevent the snow from matting down by recycling it.
Snow guns are huge. According to the plaintiffs, the snow guns employed by the ski resort were not conspicuous, were not sufficiently padded, and were dangerously positioned. If the plaintiffs are successful, the ski resort would likely be forced into paying the plaintiff’s damages and updating the area to avoid future deaths.
In the most recent court filing, the ski resort moved to dismiss the lawsuit on the basis that they had contributed no negligence to the accident. They said that the plaintiff’s contentions that the snow guns were not open and obvious were contradicted by the fact that there is yellow padding around the base of the snow gun. Under the law, it is not clear whether yellow padding is equal to “obvious warning”.
A decision on whether to dismiss the lawsuit is still pending. However, because there is a conflict of fact between the plaintiff and the defendant, a jury may be called upon to determine if the ski resort met its obligations to their patrons. Essentially, a jury would have to decide whether or not the yellow padding was sufficient to prevent these types of accidents. However, once jurors are offered a comparison between one ski resort with poorly performing safety features, and another ski resort, with well-performing safety features, the negligence becomes that much easier to see.
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