U.S. Tenth Circuit - The FindLaw 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Colorado Ski Resort's Injury Waiver Ruled Enforceable, Again

While taking a beginners ski lesson from an unlicensed, non-certified, instructor from a Vail Summit Resorts employee, Dr. Brigance was instructed to use a ski lift. When trying to get off the lift, her ski boot became stuck.

Rather than stopping the lift, the employee running it only slowed it down, apparently, per resort policy. This resulted in Dr. Brigance suffering a complex fracture to her femur. After filing an injury lawsuit in the federal district court (on diversity grounds as Dr. Brigance hails from Florida and the surgeries alone were about triple the $75,000 jurisdictional limit), the doctor's complaint was dismissed, partly on a motion to dismiss, and the remainder on summary judgment, as a result of the liability waiver she signed for the lesson and the waiver on the back of her ski lift ticket.

Colorado Recreational Sports Waivers Generally Enforceable

As the attorney for Dr. Brigance noted, the waiver individuals are required to sign at Vail Summit Resorts is rather heavy handed, pretty much disclaiming any and all liability, and even goes so far as to tack on attorney fees and costs. But that seems to be in keeping with Colorado public policy where anything short of willful and wanton conduct, or a reckless disregard, won't get around a liability waiver.

The ski resort, on the other hand, believes that the district and appellate court decisions were in keeping with the state's public policy and its legislature's motives. After all, Colorado is a state that draws tourists for the express purpose of skiing and other winter sports. And while protecting the tourists is clearly an important state interest, ensuring that local businesses can afford to stay open to cater to the tourists is also important. The state's Ski Safety Act was passed in 1979, and clearly, it serves to protect the businesses and states rather than the skiers, as it expressly states that skiers in the state are assuming the risks.

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