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Ski Hill Lawsuit Results in Settlement

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Genoa Township, MINow that the snow is falling in some areas, thoughts of fun and recreation turn from amusement parks to ski hills, and with that change comes a focus on the safety at ski hills. Following a summer that saw some devastating theme park accidents, and related lawsuits, thrill seekers are encouraged to be careful while on the slopes. Of course, even those being cautious could wind up in a ski hill accident, through no fault of their own.

A ski hill lawsuit filed after a boy was injured by a grooming machine has been settled for a confidential amount. According to The Associated Press (12/2/13), a 12-year-old boy was run over by the grooming machine in 2008, while he was on a field trip with his school.

According to the lawsuit (case number 2:11-cv-10233-DPH-MJH), Austin Miles had completed a few runs down the bunny slope when he was run over by the grooming machine. He became trapped in the groomer and was dragged for more than 200 feet. He was reportedly unconscious for at least an hour while workers attempted to rescue him from the groomer, while also saving his leg. Austin suffered multiple leg fractures and endured numerous surgeries and physical therapy.

According to The Windsor Star (12/2/13), Austin, a Canadian citizen, was in the hospital in the US for two weeks before being transported to a Canadian hospital.

The lawsuit was filed against Mt. Brighton and the driver of the grooming machine, alleging negligence and recklessness in causing the injuries.

Although there are inherent risks in skiing, and the skier accepts those risks by going down the slopes, ski hills may still be liable for negligence or recklessness if they result in harm to the skiers. In responding to Mt. Brighton’s motion to dismiss (3/27/13) the lawsuit, the judge noted that Michigan’s Ski Area Safety Act (SASA) bars recovery for injuries under common law premises liability or negligence.

Miles, however, argued that Mt. Brighton violated SASA by not posting signs that grooming was taking place, potentially making Mt. Brighton liable for injuries. “In this case, it is clear [Austin Miles] assumed the risk of skiing,” the judge wrote. “However, A.M. has created a genuine issue of material fact as to whether there was a notice at or near the top of or entrance to the ski run, slope, or trail indicating that snow grooming operations were being performed.”

The judge denied Mt. Brighton’s motion to dismiss and a settlement was ultimately reached.


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