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Was a Waiver on a Lift Ticket Enough to Absolve a Ski Resort of Guilt After a Guest Was Injured on that Lift?

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In Raup v. Vail Summit Resorts, Inc., No. 17-103, (10th Cir. May 8, 2018), the United States District Court for the Tenth Circuit decided the case.

Vail Summit Resorts, Inc. (“Vail”) operates the “Fun Park” in Breckenridge, Colorado. The park’s “Colorado SuperChair” provides chairlift rides. Carolyn Raup (“Raup”) visited the Fun Park in June 2013 with her daughter and the daughter’s husband.  The lift tickets says: “IMPORTANT WARNING ON REVERSE.” On the top of the backside is printed, “WARNING,” followed by several bullet points purporting to limit Vail’s liability for ticketholder injuries.

At the summit, staff allegedly told Raup to prepare to get off the chair well beyond the point where they should have. She claims that she tried to comply but stumbled when she hopped off the chair and was hit by the chair from behind. She was knocked off the platform and severely injured her leg and ankle. To recover damages for her injuries, she sued Vail. The lower Court granted summary judgment in favor of Vail because of the waiver on the lift ticket. Raup appealed.

Raup claims the waiver is unenforceable because it does not satisfy the common-law requirements for waiver of liability established, and the Premises Liability Act (“PLA”) does not recognize a waiver defense, and the waiver is contrary to public policy established by the PLA.

Raup argued a waiver provision must be accessible to a customer who wishes to read it. It should be legible without resort to a special device and it should be readily comprehensible by a layperson. Vail does not dispute Raup’s assertion that the warning on the ticket’s front and the release on its back both appear to be in five-point font. Certainly, anyone who uses reading glasses to read a newspaper would need such glasses to read the language on the ticket. But this Court agrees with the district Court that the print, although small, does not require a magnifying glass. And the words “WARNING” and “VOLUNTARILY ASSUMES ALL RISKS” are printed to attract attention to the essentials of the waiver.

Raup’s PLA public-policy argument is unpersuasive. It points to nothing particular in the PLA that suggests a public policy against exculpatory contracts. The District Court’s decision is affirmed.

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