Killington Resort in Vermont has settled a lawsuit with Alfred Rocks of Egg Harbor, N.J. Rocks filed suit against Killington claiming it failed to maintain a trail in a “reasonably safe condition”. The 53-year-old skier sustained leg fractures in the fall in 2009, and claims to have suffered additional injuries due to ski patroller negligence when a toboggan he was strapped into over-turned. The suit was filed in 2010. Two days into the trial Killington settled. While both sides confirmed a settlement, details on it were not released.
According to court filings, Rocks was on Ovation, a double black diamond trail, and seriously injured himself in a fall when he hit hit a bare spot and then careened into rocks. He says the spot was not marked, and that it should have been even though it was spring conditions. Rocks said that he was further injured when the ski patrol decided to take him down Ovation on a snowmobile, which lost control and overturned. At trial, counsel for Killington attempted unsuccessfully to bar the plaintiff from talking about the snowmobile incident.
According to the Rocks’ lawyer Thomas Bixby, skiers in Vermont shouldn’t assume that the ski area is not liable for injuries once a skier signs the release attached to a ski lift ticket acknowledging the risks inherent in the sport. He claimed that it is the mountain’s responsibility to ensure that trails are maintained in a “safe and reasonable manner” and that the same is true with the operation of the ski patrol and rescue workers.
It would be interesting to know more about what was asserted, and what the facts of the case were from the resort’s perspective. It appears the two key issues that will be left unanswered for now are whether (1) the use of a snowmobile on a double black diamond trail under those conditions constitutes gross negligence, and (2) if not marking a bare spot in above freezing temperatures on a wet day constitutes gross negligence.