Slippery Slopes: Attorneys Say Court of Appeals Decision Lets Ski Resorts Sidestep Responsibilities
Appellate court rules waivers can limit liability for ski lift injuries, but plaintiff plans to appeal

by Jessica Folker

A division of the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled Dec. 31 that ski area operators may use liability waivers to protect themselves from lawsuits arising from the negligence of ski lift operators. But personal injury lawyers worry the ruling erodes statutory protections for skiers and chair lift passengers under Colorado law.

Plaintiff Charlotte Redden was injured while getting off a ski lift at Loveland Ski Area. A skier on the chair ahead of Redden had fallen while getting off the lift and, she claims, the lift operator did not slow or stop the lift to allow the fallen skier to leave the unloading ramp. As a result, Redden couldn’t navigate around the fallen skier and was injured when her chair knocked her down.

Redden sued Clear Creek Skiing Corporation, the operator of the ski area, for negligence and negligence per se under the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Act and the Ski Safety Act of 1979.

Clear Creek argued it was immune from liability because of two waivers — one Redden had signed when purchasing ski boots and having her bindings adjusted at its ski shop, and another printed on the back of her ski pass. Clear Creek moved for summary judgment, and the district court dismissed the case.

On appeal, Redden argued the waivers failed to meet a set of criteria, known as the Jones factors, required for exculpatory agreements to be considered valid in Colorado. Specifically, Redden said the waivers failed the Jones test because they weren’t entered into fairly, as she was forced to sign the waiver in order to retrieve her new boots, and she was not able to review the ski lift disclaimers until after she had paid for an expensive ski pass. She also claimed the language of the waivers was ambiguous — another disqualifier under Jones.

This complete article appears in the Jan. 11 issue of Law Week Colorado. To read other articles from that issue, order a copy online. Subscribers can request a digital PDF of the issue.