Combatting Exposure: Utilization of Waivers by Ski Hill and Resort Operators

Prepared by Jim Tomlinson, David Olevson, Shayan Kamalie & Victoria Mitrova

1. Introduction

With the commencement of the annual winter ski season, the legal exposure to ski hill and resort operators arising from injuries suffered by skiers and resort guests alike consequently increases. One of the most common forms of protection from this increase in risk is through the use of waivers. A waiver in this context refers to an agreement by a person to surrender a legal right, claim, or privilege, which they would otherwise have enjoyed. In particular, ski hill operators seek to have their guests and invitees forfeit their right to commence a lawsuit as against that operator for injuries sustained while participating in the ski or snowboarding activity. However, as the case law demonstrates, a waiver will not always be effective in barring a potential plaintiff’s claim. Accordingly, the aim of this paper is to examine the case law to identify various risk management strategies ski hill and resort operators can implement in order to shield themselves against potential liability. This paper will also explore the utility of summary judgment motions in defending personal injury lawsuits where an executed waiver has been obtained by the defendant(s).

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