In Teresa Brigance v. Vail Summit Resorts, Inc. No. 17-1035 (10th Cir. 2018), the United States Court of Appeals Tenth Circuit decided the case.
Vail Summits Resorts, Inc. (“VSRI”) is the operator of Keystone Mountain Resort, which is located in Keystone, Colorado. During a skiing lesson at the resort, Plaintiff’s ski boot became stuck between the ground and the chairlift. As a result, she suffered a fractured femur because she was unable to unload while the chairlift kept moving. Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against Vail Summit Resorts, Inc. in the United States Court for the District of Colorado, claiming negligence, negligence per se, negligent supervision and training, negligence under respondeat superior and negligent hiring. The lawsuit also claimed that VSRI was in violation of the Colorado Premises Liability Act.
VRSI attempted to dismiss the claims, with the exception of the respondeat superior and Premises Liability Act claims. The court dismissed the negligence claim as preempted by the Premises Liability Act and dismissed the negligence per se claim on the grounds that the plaintiff could not identify requirements of the Colorado Ski Safety Act that VSRI had violated. The court did not dismiss the negligent supervision/training and negligent hiring claims.
After discovery concluded, VSRI moved for a summary judgment to dismiss the other claims. VRSI argued that Plaintiff’s remaining claims were barred by the two waivers she had signed prior to the skiing lesson. Before participating in the lesson, Plaintiff signed two liability waivers (Ski School Waiver and the Lift Ticket Waiver). Colorado courts consider four factors (the Jones Factors) when determining the enforcement of an exculpatory agreement, such as a liability waiver.
Courts determine whether the service involves a duty to the public, the nature of the services provided, whether the waiver was fairly entered into and whether the intention of the parties is expressed in clear and unambiguous language.
The district court considered the four factors and determined none of them precluded enforcement of either waiver. In addition, the court determined that factors established in the Colorado Ski Safety Act and the Premises Liability Act did not invalidate the waivers. Therefore, the remaining claims fall within the scope of the waivers, barring the remaining claims. An appeal followed the court’s decision.
The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the waivers Plaintiff signed before participating in the lesson are enforceable. As such, the court found no error in the district court’s decision. The district court’s decision is affirmed.
Nationally recognized litigation attorney Thomas Metier practice areas include traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, trucking accidents and motor vehicle accidents. He is licensed to practice in Colorado, Wyoming, the U.S. District Court–District of Colorado, and the U.S. District Court–District of Wyoming, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.