N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 225-A et seq. provides for statutory assumption of inherent risks and hazards of skiing and tramway use, regardless of safety measures taken by operators. All skier and passenger claims against an operator must be brought within two years. Id. at § 225-A:25. Operators are not common carriers. Id. Approved legislation pending full effect expands the act to include not only skiing but also “snowboarding, snow tubing, and snowshoeing;” it also supplements the Passenger Tramway Safety Board governing trams and ski jumps with a Commission to study “additional winter sports” that “may need to be included in the ski area exemption from liability and skier safety.” 2005 N.H. Laws 145 (H.B. 619). This appears to be a legislative response to cases such as the New Hampshire Supreme Court’s decision inSweeney v. Ragged Mountain Ski Area, Inc., 855 A.2d 427 (N.H. 2004), that refused to extend the act’s protections to a ski area sued for a snow tubing injury.
Review a few Ski Law cases from New Hampshire below.
Pursuant to New Hampshire statute, a skier is “a person utilizing the ski area under the control of a ski area operator for the purpose of utilizing the ski slopes, trails, jumps or other areas.” This definition encompasses both actual skiers and snowboarders. Man-made terrain variations are an inherent risk of skiing.
Christina Porter a sophomore at Dartmouth College was participating in the college’s introductory ski class at the Dartmouth Skiway. While in the class Christina suffered catastrophic injuries on February 3, 2004, on January 16, 2005 Christina died due to this injuries. Her parents the filed suit against the school, during discovery the Porters found that they had not become administrators of their daughters estate automatically.
Dartmouth argues that the Plaintiffs do not holding standing if they are not the appointed administrators of the state. New Hampshire state statue states the administrator of the deceased has the right to bring a wrongful death action. Plaintiff immediately began applying to become the administrators. The court found that in the past the position of administrator had been applied in different ways. Therefore the court denied Defendant’s motion to dismiss the lack of standing.
Plaintiff, Marcella McGrath was snowboarding at Crotched Mountain Ski Area, on February 20, 2004. On this day Plaintiff was involved in a collision with a snowmobile driven by an employee of the ski resort. As part of the season pass the Plaintiff was using while snowboarder that day she had signed a Liability Release Agreement. Plaintiff moved to file suit against the ski resort and its owners claiming negligence in operating the snowmobile. Defendant responded with a motion for summary judgment citing under the release signed by the Plaintiff the Defendant was not liable for any injuries.
The summary judgment was granted. Plaintiff appealed the case, stating that the release she said was ambiguous and never stated negligence in the form of snowmobile. In addition, Plaintiff asserts that assumption of risk is not applicable because a reasonable person would not understand the release to include snowmobiles. The court believes that there is no ambiguity in the use or wording of the release form, stating the form covers any liability relating to negligence of the ski area and its employs. Therefore the court affirmed the summary judgment.
Adie v. Temple Mountain Ski Area, Inc., 238 A.2d 738 (N.H. 1968), holding that risk of injury is on the skier, except in cases of negligent instruction; accord, Beringer v. Meadow Green-Wildcat Corp., 945 F.2d 4 (1st Cir. 1991), which held that ski areas not liable to skiers for injuries resulting from the inherent risks of skiing. However, rules and regulations promulgated by the Department of Safety pertaining to tramway safety do not eliminate common law claims arising from negligent maintenance and construction of tramways. Ford v. Black Mountain Tramways, Inc., 259 A.2d 129 (N.H. 1968). If a ski area customarily charges for spectator access, non-paying spectators’ claims are properly subject to the ski safety act, not the general recreational use statute. Soraghan v. Mt. Cranmore Ski Resort, Inc., 881 A.2d 693 (N.H. 2005).