Law Review: Skier Responsibility Code debunked by the courts
October 11, 2001
Robert Mastro was skiing at Sierra Summit Ski Ranch in the Fresno area, descending a slope called “Boulder Alley.”
Steve Petrick was snowboarding down the same slope at approximately 30 to 35 miles per hour in the usual snowboarder crouch. He did not see Mastro until immediately before colliding with him.
Mastro, who was minding his own business skiing down the hill, suffered a severe knee injury.
Mastro, the skier, sued Petrick, the boarder, claiming he was negligent, careless and reckless.
Petrick countered that while his boarding may have been negligent and careless, he was not reckless, which is more egregious. Petrick contended that because snowboarding and skiing are allowed at Sierra Summit, Mastro “assumed the risk” of a collision on the slopes and shouldn’t be able to sue.
There were no claims brought against the ski area. That’s good.
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As you regular “Law Review” readers know, players in sports activities are generally barred from suing one another – participants in a particular sporting event assume the risk of injuries and may not recover unless the other party caused the injuries intentionally or recklessly. Simple negligence, loosely defined as carelessness or “screwing up,” isn’t sufficient.
The assumption of the risk doctrine came down when the California Supreme Court denied recovery to an injured flag football player who sued an aggressive player.
The Court of Appeals declined to determine whether skiing and snowboarding were the “same sport,” but found that both sports were allowed on the mountain, and collisions on ski slopes are an inherent risk of the sport.
“In sum, snowboarding down a hill where both skiing and snowboarding are authorized, even if doing so ‘too fast’ or while arguably ‘out of control’ is at best careless or negligent conduct under the facts of this case and is not so reckless as to be totally outside the range of ordinary activity found in the sport.”
The bottom line is while you are on the slopes, if you are run over, you will not prevail unless you can make the case that the other skier or snowboarder was totally reckless.
Mastro argued that because Petrick was boarding too fast and out of control, he was in violation of the Skier Responsibility Code. The court noted that the Skier Responsibility Code constitutes the “rules of the game” of skiing and snowboarding, but is not a statute or a code.
If the Skier Responsibility Code were a state law or perhaps even a local ordinance, the court might have found for the injured skier.
Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter /Simon, with offices in Truckee and Reno. He is a mediator and was the Governor’s appointee to the Bipartisan McPherson Commission and the California Fair Political Practices Commission. He may be reached at porter@ portersimon.com or at the firm’s web site http://www.portersimon.com