Connecticut Ski Law
Connecticut’s ski act, Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. §§ 29-201 to 29-213, creates duties for both skiers and operators, under the auspices of tramway regulation. For skiers, these duties include non- interference with operation of a tramway, duty to stay at the scene of a skier/skier collision, and to use runaway ski retention devices. Id. at § 29-213. Operator duties provide for conspicuous markings around the property (§ 29-211), and also include compliance with tramway operations regulations as adopted by the Commissioner of Public Safety (§ 29-202). Under § 29-212, in suits against operators, skiers assume the “inherent” risks of skiing activity, which expressly includes collision with another skier. Exception for collisions with on-duty employees of the ski area operator who are skiing and are within the scope of their employment at the time of the collision shall not be a hazard inherent in the sport of skiing. (§ 29-212(b)). Paid and volunteer ski patrol members are granted immunity for “ordinary negligence” claims. Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 52-557b(c). (emphasis added)
Malaguit v. Ski Sundown, Inc., 44 A.3d 901, Appellate Court, (2012)
On February 17, 2006, plaintiff James Malaguit, 15 years of age at the time, attempted to ski over a snow jump in a “terrain park” within Ski Sundown, a ski area in New Hartford, Connecticut. He fell as he went over the jump, resulting in severe spinal injuries which left him a quadriplegic. The single count before the jury alleged that the defendant was negligent in the manner in which it constructed, maintained, and operated the ski jump where the injury occurred. Jury verdict for the defendant appealed on four grounds:Jury instructions referring to the Ski Statute were improper, spoliation of evidence, error in admission of rental agreement with release of liability language and inadequate time given to deliberations by the jury. Superior Court affirmed trial court on all issues determining that that general verdict rule applied, leading to presumption that the jury found every issue in favor of ski area.
Prior to 2006
Sklar v. Okemo Mt., 877 F.Supp. 85 (D. Conn. 1995)
As stated, risk of skier/skier collision is statutorily assumed by a skier . . . in an action against a ski area operator. However, in 2004, the Connecticut Supreme Court responded to certified questions from the United States District Court, declaring that the skiers’ assumption of risk statute is “inapplicable to negligence actions between skiers,” and that the “appropriate level of care demanded of co-participants in the sport of skiing” is “reasonableness.” Jagger v. Mohawk Mountain Ski Area, 849 A.2d 813 (Conn. 2004) (also holding that negligent operation of a ski area is actionable as to all services provided). In an unpublished 2002 opinion, Longley v. Whitewater Mountain Resorts of CT, Inc., 2002 WL 31894709 (Conn. Super. Ct.), the court declined to extend the statutory assumption of risk of § 29-212 to ski tubers; § 29-212 was amended in 2005 to definitively exclude ski tubing operations by ski areas from the statutory assumption scheme. Waivers or releases of liability granted to operators or rental equipment providers may be valid, but are construed strictly against the party released, and are generally disfavored when a waiver of defendant’s negligence is sought. See Id.; see also Hyson v. White Mountain Resorts of Connecticut, Inc., 829 A.2d 827 (Conn. 2003) (release not effective to excuse operator negligence because word “negligence” was not in release). It has been observed as the “well- established” common law of Connecticut that a parent “cannot waive the rights of a child to recover from another for that other person’s negligence.” Ehrenrich v. Mohawk Mountain Ski Area, 2004 WL 3090681 (Conn. Super. Ct. 2004), citing Fedor v. Mauwehu Boys Scouts of America, 143 A.2d 466 (Conn. Super. Ct. 1958).