Feroleto Law, Buffalo NY

Fourth Department Denies Dismissal of Ski Lift Case

In Tone v. Song Mountain Ski Center (Fourth Department January 2014), the appellate court reversed the trial court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s personal injury action for injuries caused while on a ski lift. The plaintiff sustained injuries while using a triple chair left at defendant’s facility. Defendant claimed that plaintiff assumed the risk of her injuries in utilizing the ski facility when she “willingly engaged in the recreational activity of downhill skiing.”

Defendant submitted evidence that plaintiff, an experienced skier, was riding the triple chairlift with her eight-year-old son and another passenger. Upon reaching the sign directing passengers to prepare to unload, plaintiff noticed that her skis were entangled with her son’s skis. Defendant did not slow or stop the chairlift, and plaintiff was unable to unload from the chairlift before it passed the unloading area. Plaintiff was injured when she either jumped or was thrown from the chairlift before it reached the safety gate that would have stopped the chairlift.

The court held that “There is undoubtedly some risk of injury inherent in entering, riding and exiting from a chairlift at a ski resort. However, . . . the latter is not of such magnitude as to eliminate all duty of care and thereby insulate the owner from claims of negligent supervision and training of the lift operator or negligent maintenance and operation of the lift itself since such negligence may unduly enhance the level of the risk assumed”

The court overturned the dismissal holding that “Defendant submitted evidence that top chairlift operators are required to monitor every approach to the unloading area to ensure that skiers are unloading safely. According to defendant’s submissions, the top chairlift operators are able to see three to four approaching chairs at any given time, and are able to see to the tower where plaintiff first noticed that her skis were entangled. Once the emergency stop is activated, the chairlift is able to stop within 10 to 12 feet. Based on that evidence, we conclude that there is a triable issue of fact whether defendant was negligent in operating the chairlift.”

Sometimes the negligence of others is not as easily identified as in a car crash or slip and fall. We have experience litigating different types of cases that involve more complex situations. Please call us at Feroleto Law if you have been injured due to the negligence of others or need assistance with your case.