Court Upholds Ski Area’s Release From Liability Clause

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A federal court recently affirmed a lower court decision finding that the release signed by a skier was valid and prevented her from suing for injuries she suffered after hitting a trail sign.  The skier had rented skis at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and later fell and slid into the sign.  The accident severely injured her spine, rendering her a quadriplegic.  The release she signed stated that she agreed to release JHMR from any claims brought under any theories of liability, including negligence.

The court rejected the skier’s argument that the release was not sufficiently conspicuous, noting that it made up the bulk of the overall agreement and was set out in capital letters.  While the print was small, it was still legible and there was no indication that the skier could not read it.  The court also rejected the argument that the release was too broad given that it purported to cover all injuries but was set out in a ski equipment rental agreement which suggested that it would be limited only to injuries caused by the ski equipment.  The court noted that releases signed when renting equipment are allowed to bar claims for injuries unrelated to the equipment.   In addition, while willful or wanton conduct could create liability for the ski area, the court found that the placement of the trail sign was, at worse, negligent because no one had been injured by it in the 30 years it was in place.  Thus, the release applied because it explicitly addressed negligence.

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