It is typical for visitors of a ski resort to be required to sign a waiver excluding the resort from liability before being allowed to hit the hill. These waivers generally state that the person signing the waiver understands the risks involved in snowboarding and skiing and takes responsibility for their own potential liability. If a visitor does not sign the waiver, they will not be permitted to ski or snowboard at the resort.
A common misconception about liability waivers is that they are not enforceable. In fact, liability waivers are enforceable and can protect recreation service providers against claims of negligence, provided they are drafted and used properly.
When is the Resort Liable?
One example of a ski resort not being allowed to hide behind a waiver can be found in the B.C. court of appeal’s decision to overturn a lower court’s ruling in Apps v. Grouse Mountain Resorts Ltd., that Jason Apps was bound by the terms of a waiver of liability. With the overturning of the ruling on appeal, Apps is now able to proceed with a lawsuit.
The appeal court did not rule on whether or not the resort is actually liable. Apps was catastrophically injured after a snowboarding accident in March of 2016.
The ticket that Apps bought, as well as signs posted on the property, indicated that customers waive their right to sue the resort for personal injury.
After buying his ticket, Apps went with friends to the top of the mountain and then to the terrain park. The sign at the entrance to the terrain park is clear and easy to read, Justice Murray found in her original ruling. That sign reads:
“When using the freestyle terrain, you assume the risk of any injury that may occur. The ski area operator’s liability for all injury or loss is excluded by the terms and conditions on your ticket or season pass release of liability.”
But the fact that this warning sign was clear and easy to read is not key to the case, Justice Christopher Grauer suggested for the appeal court in its unanimous ruling. What matters is the warnings Apps got before he bought his non-refundable ticket.
Originally, Justice Murray commented on the main text in a notice posted near the ticket booth at the main entrance to the resort. She found the main text in that notice is hard to read because it is one long paragraph with many commas and semicolons.
By taking into account the sign at the terrain park entrance, Justice Murray made an error in law, the appeal court ruled. This was because Justice Murray considered what was posted on a sign that the plaintiff could not have seen until well after he purchased his lift ticket.
What is key is what was done to bring the relevant terms of the waiver to Apps’ attention before he agreed to buy his non-refundable ticket, the B.C. appeal court ruled.
“What was said on the signs at the entrance to the Terrain Park is relevant only to the question of whether it gave reasonable notice of the risks of using that park, a question that is not before us,” Justice Grauer wrote. “By the time Mr. Apps arrived at the Terrain Park, he had paid for his non-refundable ticket, taken the lift up the mountain, and had begun snowboarding. It was far too late to give notice of what was in the waiver. That had to be done at or before the ticket booth.”
Get Help from a Lawyer
If you have been injured in a skiing or snowboarding accident and believe that your circumstances are similar to the above case, you may be able to obtain compensation with the right legal team by your side. Talk to a lawyer at Hoogbruin and Company today to determine whether you have a case and what your best next steps are.