Yard Sale – Skier Not Liable for Collision with Ski Instructor (CA)

by

Rees v. Crawford (Calfornia)

The plaintiff ski instructor filed a negligence lawsuit against a skier who collided with her.  The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that the plaintiff had voluntarily assumed the risk of being injured from a collision with another skier.  Defendant further asserted that her conduct was not reckless because it was “neither completely outside the range of ordinary activity involved in the sport, nor done with a deliberate disregard of the high degree of probability that an injury would result.”  The trial court agreed and granted the defendant’s motion.  Plaintiff appealed.

The Court of Appeal for California affirmed the decision.  Plaintiff acknowledged that the assumption of risk doctrine applied to the sport of snow skiing, but she argued that there was a triable issue of material fact as to whether the defendant’s conduct was reckless (i.e. “totally outside the range of ordinary activity involved in the sport”).  In support of her argument, plaintiff alleged that the defendant was “skiing at a speed that was in excess of her abilities and was excessive for the conditions.”  Plaintiff’s evidence in support of this argument was her own judgment about the force of the impact and a lack of any other explanation for the incident.

First, the Court noted that there was no evidence that the defendant was skiing at a speed that was excessive for the conditions.  Additionally, the Court explained that even assuming the defendant was skiing at an excessive speed, the Court had previously held that fast, aggressive skiing does not constitute reckless behavior.  The Court also looked at factors of the incident itself, noting that the plaintiff was moving (albeit slowly) at the time of the incident, the collision did not occur in a rest area, and the defendant was not racing anyone.  Ultimately, the Court concluded that the trial court properly found that fast skiing “could arguably rise only to negligent conduct, which is inherent in the sport of skiing.”

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