Man-Made Structures in Oregon

Ski area operators are afforded a lot of latitude by the law, but nonetheless, a succinctly stated by the Vermont Supreme Court, “[A] ski area’s own negligence, however, is neither an inherent risk nor an obvious and necessary one in the sport of skiing. Thus, a skier’s assumption of the inherent risks of skiing does not abrogate the ski area’s duty ‘to warn of or correct dangers which in the exercise of reasonable prudence in the circumstances could have been foreseen and corrected.’” Dalbury v. S-K-I, Ltd, 670 A.2d 795 (Vt. 1995). In that case, the injured skier collided with a support structure for a ski lift line. The plaintiff ultimately prevailed due to an release agreement that was held to be unconscionable against public policy (see page on WAIVERS AND RELEASES). However, it demonstrates the types of issues that can come up with man-made structures.

Many structures placed by ski area operators pose a great risk to skiers. Lift towers pose a danger to high-speed skiers due to their solid construction. Fences are sometimes constructed of a flexible mesh, but are often made of wood or metal, increasing their potential to cause injury after a collision. Warnings and protections need to be adequate in order that these dangers are “reasonably obvious, expected or necessary” for the inherent danger and assumption of risk doctrines to apply in Oregon.

While skiers are said to have assumed the risks of skiing, a resort may nonetheless be liable for the negligent design of a ski run that creates an unreasonable risk of harm to skiers. This is an area that has caused some disagreement among judges. For example, in Collins v. Schweitzer, Inc., 21 F.3d 1491(9th Cir. 1994), a ski racer was rendered paraplegic after smashing into a ski tower near the bottom of the dual skier slalom run. The end of the racecourse was steep, and the ski area operator had set up net fencing and some limited padding on the ski tower. Mr. Collins sued for negligent setting of the racecourse, and vicarious liability for the event organizer. The majority of the court ruled in favor of the defendants, finding that the operator owed no duty under Idaho law to reduce the risk of Collins striking the tower. The majority also found the race organizer not liable for negligent inspection or supervision, and that its manual gave only general suggestions as to racecourse design.

However, the dissenting Circuit Judge Leavy argued for the opposite result. He noted that the organizer’s manual specifically warned against steep finishes for racecourses, and yet the ski area operator had placed the new finish line in a steeped area above the ski tower making it more dangerous. He observed how an expert had questioned the efficacy of the type of mesh fencing used, and how the amount of padding was designed to protect skiers not necessarily ski racers. Judge Leavy rejected the idea that there should be any distinction between skiers and expert ski racers in the assumption of risk doctrine, and argued the ski statutes did not require any skier to assume the risk of “the operator’s negligence in laying out a dangerous race course.” He believed the operator had clearly generated the risk by it dangerous placement of the finish line.

Judge Leavy would have remanded the case for a trial on the issue of fact whether or not the operator had set up the finish line and netting “to eliminate, alter, control, or lessen the inherent risks of skiing.” If the operator had not set them up for those purposes, then the operator, he argued, would owe a duty not to negligently cause injury.

Ski area operators are shielded to an extent by the law, but if you have been injured in a collision with a fence or tower, you may still have a claim for damages. Richard Rizk can advise you on the best course of action.

Protect Yourself From A Skiing Accident

If you have been injured while skiing on a man-made structure at a resort, you need to call Richard Rizk, Attorney at Law at (503) 245-5677 for a free consultation and ensure that your injuries are taken care of.

Learn More About Oregon Ski Accidents