Americans love to have fun. The recreational industry in the country is a multi-billion dollar business, and many Marylanders enjoy participating in recreational activities for their amusement. Boating, four-wheeling, skiing, rock climbing, and other recreational sports and hobbies generally have inherent risks associated with them, which can result in participants suffering serious injury or death in the event of an accident. Activities that involve multiple people of various skill levels recreating in the same space can be a recipe for accidents and injuries. The recently popularized negligence trial involving actress Gwenwth Paltrow and a man she allegedly crashed into while skiing at a Utah ski resort has brought attention to the liability for accidents occurring at shared recreation areas.
The case against Ms. Paltrow was relatively simple. The plaintiff sued the actress after allegedly suffering injuries in a skiing accident. The main dispute in the trial was over which of the skiers was at fault for the crash. When skiing, the person farther down the hill generally has the right of way, and another person who causes an accident by failing to yield that right of way could be held accountable for any injuries suffered by the other skier. The jury in the Gweneth Paltrow trial found that the plaintiff could not prove, by the preponderance of the evidence, that the actress failed to respect the plaintiff’s right of way. As a result of the verdict, Ms. Paltrow will not be responsible for any of the other skier’s injuries.
Who Is Liable in a Skiing Accident?
When recreation is enjoyed in a public or private place, there may be other parties who can be held accountable for an accident. A private business, such as a ski resort, race track, or marina does have a duty to ensure that their customers are not placed in unreasonable danger by the actions of the owner. Businesses often attempt to reduce their liability by requiring their customers to sign an express waiver of liability, or implicitly assume the risks of that activity by agreeing to participate. Although these waivers reduce the liability of the business, they are not absolute. Businesses still have the responsibility to adequately train their staff and prevent acts of gross negligence by their employees. If employees act outside the scope of their job description, they may be held accountable in their individual capacity.