Monday, December 28, 2020

Summary Judgment in Snow Tubing Accident Case Reversed by Pennsylvania Supreme Court

In the case of Bourgeois v. Sno Time Inc., No. 50 M.A.P. 2019 (Pa. Dec. 9, 2020) (Op. by Mundy, J.), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed a Pennsylvania Superior Court's decision affirming the entry of summary judgment in favor of a ski resort in a snow tubing accident case.

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff sustained a spinal cord injury, resulting in quadriplegia when the snow tube he was riding on collided with a folder deceleration mat that the resort had placed at the bottom of a snow tubing hill to slow down customers in order to prevent them from traveling beyond the run-out-area.

According to the record before the court, the Plaintiff had purchased a snow tubing season pass. On the reverse side of the season pass, there was a release agreement which provided that snow tubing involves “inherent and other risks that could lead to serious injury to death.”

The release on the back of the snow tubing season pass also provided that the customer both assumed all of the risk of snow tubing and released the snow resort from any liability.

After reviewing the record before it, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court concluded that the Pennsylvania Superior Court erred in failing to consider the evidence presented, specifically the expert reports, in a light most favorable to the Plaintiffs. As such, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed and remanded the matter for further proceedings.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected the defense argument that the trial court had considered the expert reports in the trial court’s granting of summary judgment. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court disagreed with that argument and instead noted that, although the trial court accurately recited the summary judgment standard and, even though the trial court addressed the theories of recklessness and gross negligence, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court felt that the trial court did not do so in a light most favorable to the Plaintiffs. 

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court felt that the expert reports presented in the case created genuine issues of material fact for a jury to resolve and that the trial court erred in not considering them. As such, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the Pennsylvania Superior Court had erred in not reserving the trial court on this basis.

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

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