As many of us buy passes to ski or snowboard, we sign legal releases or see them on the back of our tickets or posted around the ski area. Such releases typically say that skiers and snowboarders cannot sue the ski area operator for injuries caused by the operator’s negligence. Are these releases enforceable?
In a recent decision, the Supreme Court of Oregon ruled that a release used by Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort could not be enforced against a skier injured in its terrain park. Mt. Bachelor’s release, in other words, did not get the resort out of legal liability in this precedent-setting case.
Everyone in the case agreed that the release language was conspicuous and clear. Lawyers for the ski area noted that plaintiff and his father had agreed to the anticipatory release, and that the release was valid because skiing is not an essential public service and it always involves some risk of injury. Still, the court based its ruling largely on its findings that the parties had unequal bargaining power and that public policy considerations should focus on property owners’ duty to maintain reasonably safe conditions for their customers.
This ruling will affect those of us who enjoy the sport. We won’t be legally out of luck, for instance, if a snow-cat driver isn’t paying attention as he runs us down on the slopes. On the other hand, ticket prices will go up even further and operators may restrict access to terrain parks or to expert slopes.
Releases by Oregon ski areas and other businesses may still sometimes be valid. But the court narrowed when.
At Dawson Law Group, we have won skiing injury cases for plaintiff clients. If you or somebody you know needs to inquire about such a case, here are links to our homepage and our firm history. Here is our sitemap, if you’d like to explore other aspects of our Portland, Oregon law practice.
You might also enjoy reading some of our Oregon attorneys’ other blog posts, including this popular one about the impact of Oregon’s legalization of marijuana on personal injury law.[Posted December 30, 2014 by Portland injury attorney Bryan Dawson]