Virginia Ski Law
Virginia’s “good samaritan” statute, Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-225, immunizes ski patrol members and ski area operators that provide a ski patrol, from all civil liability arising from rescue activity, excepting only their gross negligence or wilful misconduct. Passenger tramways are regulated as “amusement devices” under Va. Code Ann. §§ 36-98.3. Localities are granted statutory authority under Va. Code Ann. § 15.2-1806 to create parks, recreation facilities, and playgrounds, including trails. Localities also have authority to provide for the protection of persons whose property or personal liability interests may be “related to or affected by the use of such trails.” Id.
Grigg v. Wintergreen Partners, Inc., Case # CL03-9452 (Va. Cir. Albermarle Cty.), Jury Verdict July 16, 2004. Jessica Grigg, 17, came over a crest, fell, and struck a large groomer driven directly up her open run and advanced only by a snowmobile. Grigg sustained significant orthopedic injuries as well as a skull fracture that resulted in permanent brain injury with extensive loss of function. The ski area operator specifically approved the policy of moving groomers onto open slopes with an escorting snow mobile but prohibiting actual grooming on open ski slopes. The jury awarded $8.3 million the largest verdict ever obtained in a ski case in the United States. The Supreme Court of Virginia dismissed the Defendant’s Petition of Appeal on July 7, 2005. James H. Chalat of Chalat Hatten Law Offices, P.C. served as Plaintiff’s counsel in the case.
In deciding Hoar v. Great Eastern Resort Management, Inc., 506 S.E.2d 777 (Va. 1998), the Virginia Supreme Court reinstated a $6M jury verdict in favor of the guardian of a 41 year old firefighter who suffered disabling brain damage in a skiing incident at defendant’s resort. In reversing the prior appeals court decision, the court held that questions for the jury included: 1) whether unmarked ski slope drop off was clearly visible, and 2) whether skier assumed the risk of injury.