Earlier this month, a federal appellate court affirmed the dismissal of a personal injury case filed by a skier against the ski resort where she was injured while getting off the chairlift. The case is important for Maryland accident victims because it discusses the validity of an accident release waiver signed by the plaintiff, as well as the contractual language contained on the back of the lift ticket.
Ultimately, the court concluded that both the accident release waiver as well as the contractual language on the back of the lift ticket were enforceable, and it precluded the plaintiff from pursuing her claim against the ski resort.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff arranged to take a ski lesson at the defendant ski resort. Prior to getting the lesson, the plaintiff signed an accident release waiver. The waiver stated that the skier understood and voluntarily accepted the inherent risks of skiing, and she agreed not to hold the resort liable for any injuries she sustained, even those injuries caused by the negligence of the resort or its employees.
After signing the waiver, the plaintiff was issued a lift ticket, and the lesson began. On the back of the lift ticket, in small print, was similar language to that which was contained in the accident release waiver. As the plaintiff was unloading off the chair lift, her boot got caught between the lift and the snow. As she tried to free herself, the plaintiff fell forward and fractured her femur.
The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the ski resort, arguing that the short distance between the ski lift and the snow, as well as the negligence of the ski instructor in providing her with adequate instruction, caused her injuries. In response, the resort argued that the plaintiff waived her right to bring such a claim by signing the accident release waiver and accepting the terms on the back of the lift ticket. The trial court granted the resort’s motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiff appealed.
On appeal, the court explained that exculpatory clauses are generally disfavored but can be enforceable if they are clear, are fairly entered into, and do not involve the performance of a critical public service. Here, the court first noted that the service provided – recreational activity – does not involve a matter of “great public importance.” Thus, the court determined that the subject matter of the clause did not render it unenforceable.
Next, the court considered whether the contract was clear and whether it was fairly entered into. The court cited the exact language from the accident release waiver, as well as the language contained on the back of the lift ticket, finding that it unequivocally stated that the skier accepts all risks involved in the activity. The court also noted that the skier had the right not to accept the contract and by doing so would not have suffered significantly because the services provided by the ski resort were recreational in nature. The court indicated that, if the services provided were related to a “public necessity,” the result may have been different.
Have You Been Injured While Skiing?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a ski accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Maryland personal injury lawsuit. The dedicated personal injury attorneys at the Maryland law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have extensive experience representing accident victims and their families in a wide variety of personal injury claims, including those involving pay-to-play recreational activities. To learn more, and to speak with an attorney about your case, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.
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Court Finds in Tenant’s Favor in Recent Premises Liability Case Against Landlord, Maryland Accident Law Blog, January 15, 2018.
Court Resolves Dog Bite Case in Favor of Plaintiff, Maryland Accident Law Blog, January 2, 2018.