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Skiers and snowboarders may want to take note of a recent ruling by the Oregon Supreme Court regarding ski resorts and blanket liability waivers.
In a somewhat unusual decision, the Oregon high court ruled in Bagley v. Mt. Bachelor Inc. that the liability waiver preventing a paralyzed man from suing the resort over his snowboarding injuries was legally unenforceable. The Oregonian reports that this may change the entire ski industry, as many resorts make use of similar waivers.
So what five things should you know about this ski waiver decision?
1. 'Unconscionable' Waivers Are Unenforceable.
Much of the reason that the Oregon Supreme Court refused to enforce the Mount Bachelor liability waiver was that it was unconscionable. Contracts or contract provisions that are so unfair or offensive to public policy may be legally worthless since courts are unlikely to uphold them.
2. Liability Waivers Are Mostly Enforceable.
While unconscionable waivers aren't likely to be enforced, the Bagley case is the exception, not the rule. Most liability waivers are part of explicit language in an agreement which you have signed, from mundane gym membership agreements to skydiving waivers. Unless these waivers attempt to remove all liability for damage to the signing party, they're typically enforced.
3. Most Waivers Only Remove Liability for Negligence.
With some exceptions, enforceable waivers will typically only excuse a business for injuries or damages stemming from that business' or its employees' negligence. Waivers which attempt to remove responsibility for intentional or malicious acts by companies or their employees are overbroad and typically unenforceable.
4. You Don't Need to Sign to Accept a Waiver.
Although waiver provisions are often included in contracts you sign, they are also included in the fine print on the backs of admission tickets, entry signs, or season passes. As long as these waivers are unambiguous and fairly conspicuous, a court will assume you had a chance to read them and accept their terms.
5. The Ruling Is Only Binding in Oregon.
The Oregon Supreme Court's Bagley decision is only binding in Oregon, although other states may attempt to follow suit.
If you've been injured in a skiing or snowboarding accident, you'll want to meet with a personal injury attorney to discuss your options for recovery.