Monday, March 30, 2020

First Time Skier Gets a Pass

In the case of Aldosari v. Tuthill Corp., No. 17-0626 (C.P. Carbon Co. Dec. 13, 2019 Nanovic, J.), the court denied a Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment in a skiing accident case.

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff, who was a resident of Saudi Arabia was a 17 year old individual who had never skied before the subject incident.  The Plaintiff testified at her deposition that she was unfamiliar with the necessary skills or inherent risks of skiing.

After disembarking from the chair lift on her first trip up to the top of the slope, the Plaintiff developed cold feet and was too scared to ski downhill. The Plaintiff asked a lift attendant if there was another way for her to reach the bottom of the hill without skiing. The Plaintiff was told that there was no other way down.

The Plaintiff alleged that she was therefore forced to assume the risk of skiing downhill on her own as the only means of returning to the bottom.

When the Plaintiff began to ski down, she turned to avoid another skier, lost control, and skidded or rolled into a wooded area beyond the edge of the trial and sustained injuries as a result.

In her lawsuit, the Plaintiff asserted that, by failing to provide an alternate means for her to come down the mountain under the circumstances presented, the resort was negligent and breached a duty of care that it owed to her as a business invitee.

The Defendant resort filed a Motion for Summary Judgment and asserted that the Plaintiff’s claims were barred under the Skier’s Responsibility Act, 42 Pa. C.S.A. §7102(c), given that the Plaintiff’s injuries were a direct result of one or more of the inherent risks of skiing for which she assumed the risk of injury.

In his Opinion, Judge Nanovic wrote that, as a matter of law, a person who participates in the sport of downhill skiing is charged with knowing and accepting the danger of injury from risks inherent and necessary to the sport, even if the skier is in fact ignorant of these risks and does not consent to assume those risks.

Yet, although the Plaintiff  in this matter was engaged in the recreational sport of downhill skiing at the time of her injury, the court found that the risk that a first time skier would vacillate and change her mind was beyond the scope of the Skier’s Responsibility Act.

The court noted that the circumstances presented in this case did not alter the otherwise applicable common law standards of reasonable care in determining whether the ski resort owed a duty to the Plaintiff after she reached the top of the mountain and told one of the resort’s employees that she was too scared to ski downhill and needed help getting back down.

The court also noted that, under the case presented, an issue of fact was raised for the jury to consider as to whether the Plaintiff had voluntarily engaged in the sport of downhill skiing at the time of her injury. To the contrary, it appeared to the court that the Plaintiff was compelled to attempt to ski down and, therefore, may not have voluntarily assumed the risk in the same sense of one who, freely by choice, purposefully elects to ski down the side of a snow covered mountain.

Given these issues raised, the court denied the request for summary judgment.

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

Source: “Digest of Recent Opinions” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (Feb. 18, 2020).

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