Friday, January 24, 2020

Skiing Accident Case Survives Summary Judgment

In the case of Kozlowski v. JFBB Ski Areas, Inc., No. 3:18-cv-353 (M.D. Pa. Dec. 12, 2019 Mariani, J.), the court addressed a Motion for Summary Judgment filed on behalf of a Defendant in a case arising out of a skiing accident that occurred at the Big Boulder Ski Resort. The Plaintiff filed a Complaint alleging a claim of negligence and a count in gross negligence/recklessness.

In his Complaint, the Plaintiff alleged that he was skiing at Big Boulder ski resort and, as it came to an intersection of trails, he followed tracks which led to an embankment at the edge of a catwalk. The Plaintiff additionally alleged that, as he skied down the embankment, he suddenly and unexpectedly collided with partially exposed snowmaking pipes which alleged could not be seen from a reasonable safe distance in the area where he was skiing. The Plaintiff alleges injuries as a result.
Before the court was a Motion for Summary Judgment by the Defendant asserting that the Plaintiff’s claims were barred by the Pennsylvania Skier’s Responsibility Act, the common law construing that act, and the release found on Big Boulder’s ski lift ticket.

The court denied the motion on various grounds.

Relative to the defense claim that the Plaintiff’s negligence count was barred by the assumption of risk doctrine as bound under the Skier’s Responsibility Act, the court noted that the Defendant had not established, as a matter of law, that the risk at issue (colliding with hidden snowmaking pipes) is inherent in the sport of downhill skiing.

On the claims of gross negligence and/or recklessness, the court decided that judgment could not be entered on the current record as the case was not entirely free from doubt. As such, the court allowed this issue to go to the jury. 

Relative to the validity of the Release language contained on the Big Boulder lift ticket, the court noted that, since it had ruled that the question of gross negligence and/or recklessness could not be determined that this stayed the proceeding, the validity of the lift ticket release provision, and whether it applied to claims of gross negligence and recklessness, also could not be determined on the current record before the court. 

For these reasons, the court denied the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by the Defendant.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

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