NJ Supreme Court Considers Immunity for Skiers
On January 14, 2013, the New Jersey Supreme Court heard oral argument in Angland v. Mountain Creek Resort, A-57-11. The primary question before the Court is whether New Jersey’s ski statute, N.J.S.A. 5:13-1, et seq., (the “Ski Act”) governs the liability of individual skiers.
On whether snowboarder, William Brownlee’s motion for summary judgment was improperly denied, Brownlee contends that “there is no standard of care between skiers,” and that the Ski Act only applies to the relationship between the skier and the resort, not between a skier and another skier.
The litigation stems from a tragic skier/snowboarder collision at Mountain Creek Resort in January 2007. Defendant / Appellee William Brownlee claims that he swerved to avoid an unknown skier who came into his path and he then collided with Robert Angland. The two slid for approximately 100 feet before Angland struck a concrete bridge. He died of head injuries.
Angland’s estate sued Mountain Creek Resort and Brownlee. The Sussex County Superior Court granted summary judgment for Mountain Creek under the Ski Act, but denied Brownlee’s motion for summary judgment, finding material facts in dispute regarding Brownlee’s conduct leading up to the accident. The Appellate Division affirmed, agreeing with the trial court’s analysis that “although the main legislative intent behind the Ski Act was to define the responsibilities of skier and ski area operators toward each other, the Legislature also intended to create a standard of conduct for skiers towards other skiers.” Angland v. Mountain Creek Resorts, Inc., et al, Docket No. A-3100-10T4, N.J. Super. A.D. Oct.7, 2011; N.J.S.A. 5:13-4.
At oral argument, Brownlee argued that the Ski Statute is only applicable to ski area operators and, thus, can only proscribe a standard of care for ski area operators. Counsel for Angland’s estate countered that the portion of the statute which expressly addresses “[d]uties of skiers,” sets forth the standard of care for skiers. Nonetheless, Brownlee contends that this portion of the statute is only intended to describe additional responsibilities, or standards of care, on the ski area operators, and that it is not intended to erode the common law duties recognized between co-participants in an athletic event, e.g. skiers.
A decision from the Supreme Court is not expected until early summer.
Download Angland v. Mountain Creek Resorts, Inc., et al, Docket No. A-3100-10T4 (N.J. Super. A.D. Oct.7, 2011) here.