New Jersey Ski Law
The New Jersey Ski Statute, N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 5-13 et seq., defines skier and operator responsibilities and provides for skiers’ (tobogganers and tubers included) assumption of the “inherent risks” of their sport (§ 5-13:5). This includes obvious, man-made hazards that are impracticable for the operator to remove. Id. at § 5-13:3. Tramways and lifts are regulated separately at §§ 34:4A-1 et seq. In addition to statutory assumption of inherent risks, skiers are completely barred from recovery where they have breached their own duties. New Jersey’s comparative negligence statute, §§ 2A:15-5.1 et seq., is only applicable where an operator has breached their duties under the Act, provided they had knowledge of the breach and a reasonable time and manner in which to comply. Id. at § 5-13:3. Injured skiers must provide written notice to an operator within 90 days as a precursor to suit, and must bring suit within two years, unless they are minors, in which case the statute of limitations is tolled until they reach the age of majority. §§ 5-13:7 to :9. Skiers without proper lift tickets are treated as trespassers. §5-13:4. Volunteer ski patrol members granted immunity for good faith emergency service provision, excepting anything related to use of a motor vehicle, or willful and wanton misconduct. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:53A-12.
Review a few Ski Law cases from New Jersey below.
Prior to 2006
Murray v. Great Gorge Resort, Inc., 823 A.2d 101 (N.J. Super. Ct. Law Div. 2003) held that by virtue of express duties to post notice of daily ski conditions and other warnings, operators have an implied duty under the Ski Statute to inspect runs. Verdict for plaintiffs in tobogganing accident applying the New Jersey Ski Statute and comparative negligence, in Brett v. Great American Recreation, Inc., 677 A.2d 705 (N.J. 1996). In this well-written opinion, the court succinctly distinguishes between the pure assumption of risk regimes of some states, compared to the view that certain hazards, manmade and natural, can, in exercise of due care, be reduced or eliminated. Brett and five others slid down a slope at night, lost control, and went off an embankment into a utility pole; although they were there without permission, tobogganing and sledding at night on the hill was a common practice known to the defendants. Under the statute, operators have a duty to remove or lessen obvious, manmade hazards; a breach of any statutory duty is negligence per se. Under Pietruska v. Craigmeur Ski Area, 614 A.2d 639 (N.J. Super Ct. Law Dev. 1992), “any claim alleging the negligent maintenance, construction or operation of a chairlift removes that cause of action from the reach of [the Ski Statute].” Regarding minors, the court in Goss v. Allen, 360 A.2d 388 (N.J. 1976) took notice of the fact that skiing is a recreational activity enjoyed by persons of all ages, determining that skiing is not so inherently hazardous as to warrant the automatic application of an adult standard of care (standard of care to be determined on case by case basis; 17 year old novice only held to duty of a minor).