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Tenth Circuit Upholds Skier Exculpatory Clause

Blogs, Risk Management

This week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, in Robinette v. Aspen Skiing Co., L.L.C.  2010 WL 258273 (10th Cir. Jan. 25, 2010), affirmed a district court’s enforcement of an exculpatory clause, resulting in the dismissal of a  claim for personal injury arising out of a snowboarder’s collision with a snowmobile operated by an Aspen employee.

The plaintiff had argued that the the exculpatory clause was “unenforceable because: (1) it purports to cover reckless conduct; (2) it violates public policy; and (3) its terms are unclear and ambiguous.”  The Appeals Court rejected these arguments, and also found that because the plaintiff had not raised a claim of recklessness in the trial court, he cannot raise such a claim on appeal. 

A copy of the District Court’s April 23, 2009 order, affirmed by the Tenth Circuit, can be viewed here.  The facts set forth in the District Court opinion are as follows:

On February 24, 2006, Mr. Robinette was snowboarding at Snowmass Ski Resort, a property owned and operated by Aspen. He approached a small incline on the trail, intending to perform a jump. Unbeknownst to Mr. Robinette, an Aspen employee, Eric Hill, was driving a snowmobile uphill on the other side of the incline. Mr. Robinette and Mr. Hill collided. Mr. Robinette sustained serious injuries as a result.

Robinette v. Aspen Skiing Co., L.L.C  2009 WL 1108093, 1 (D.Colo.,2009).

The Tenth Circuit, in affirming the enforceability of such an exculpatory clause, joins a recent Eighth Circuit decision which also enforced a skier’s exculpatory clause.