Skiing is a fun winter-time sport that the whole family can participate in. However, skiing injuries can be permanently disabling. The use of helmets while skiing has greatly improved safety on the ski slopes. Skiers often collide with each other and fixed objects like trees. If you have a helmet on, you greatly increase your odds of avoiding a permanent, disabling brain injury or even death.
A case in the past few years against the Wintergreen Ski Resort in Virginia resulted in a multi-million dollar verdict. A girl ran into a snowmobile operated by the resort’s staff. Unfortunately, the girl suffered severe brain injuries, which permanently disabled her for the rest of her life. The amount of the verdict surprised the insurance defense lawyers for Wintergreen.
Our firm successfully handled cases against ski resorts, including Wintergreen in Virginia. My law partner, Francis Hajek, had a case where a woman skier was hurt because of mistakes made in the lift operation by the youngsters hired by the Resort to run this important, and potentially very dangerous, equipment. Our client suffered severe knee injuries requiring surgery. We got a substantial verdict for her. One of the key issues was overcoming the defense of assumption of the risk. This doctrine holds that if a person voluntarily takes on a risky activity, they cannot complain if they get hurt from that adventure. In this case, the judge wisely decided that the risk she assumed at skiing was not the same as assuming the risk that Wintergreen would negligently run the lift causing her an injury. In fact, ski resorts often depend upon cheap foreign labor, but do not bother to give them sufficient training in the important equipment that they are asked to operate.
Some states such as Colorado have complete bans on any suit against a ski resort no matter how negligent they are. The State of Colorado does this to protect its skiing industry at all costs. Evidently, it does not matter to that state if consumers and tourists are hurt, as long as the money keeps rolling in.