Michigan Ski Law
The nation’s oldest ski safety act is Michigan’s “Ski Area Safety Act of 1962,” Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. §§ 408.321 to 408.344. It was amended in 1981 to include an “inherent danger” provision. Id. at § 408.342. Each skiing participant accepts the dangers that “inhere in the sport” insofar as they are “obvious and necessary.” Id. Ski area operators and skiers are both assigned duties and responsibilities, and skiing activity is subject to the regulatory purview of a ski area safety board. Id. at §§ 408.326a, 408.341, 408.342. A person who violates provisions of the Act or of a rule or regulation promulgated under the Act is guilty of a misdemeanor. Id. at § 408.340. Ski patrol members acting in good faith immune from suit excepting only gross negligence or willful and wanton misconduct. Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 691.1507.
Review a few Ski Law cases from Michigan below.
Prior to 2006
Michigan remains one of the most reactive states, barring practically all claims. More than one court has observed that the Legislature, in adopting the 1981 amendments, was “concerned with making the skier, rather than the ski area operator, bear the burden of damages from injuries.” Kent v. Alpine Valley Ski Area, 613 N.W.2d 383 (Mich. Ct. App. 1999), citing Schmitz v. Cannonburg Skiing Corp., 428 N.W.2d 742 (Mich. Ct. App. 1988). The Act’s immunization of operators has been applied to snowboarders.Shukoski v. Indianhead Mountain Resort, Inc., 166 F.3d 848 (6th Cir. 1999). Common law premises liability claims have been preempted by the Act. Anderson v. Pine Knob Ski Resort, Inc., 664 N.W.2d 756 (Mich. 2003). Section 408.344 notwithstanding (section holds operators responsible for loss or damage resulting from their violation of the Act), Michigan courts have held that violations do not automatically destroy their statutory immunity from suit. McGoldrick v. Holiday Amusements, Inc., 618 N.W.2d 98 (Mich. Ct. App. 2000); but see the unpublished opinion in Barrett v. Mt. Brighton, Inc., 2004 WL 1222996 (Mich. Ct. App.), presently pending leave to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court (where an alpine skier was injured on a snowboarding rail in an area not marked as such in violation of the Act, and operator knew of alpine skiers in the area but failed to warn, operator not entitled to immunity under the Act). In a case involving an ice skater / ice skater collision caused by one skater skating backwards, the Michigan Supreme Court held that in the recreation context, co-participants merely owe one another a duty not to be reckless. Ritchie-Gamester v. Berkley, 597 N.W.2d 517 (Mich. 1999).