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SCRANTON – A release on the back of a ski-lift ticket at a Poconos resort may not be enough to bar liability in the case of a skier injured in an accident in early 2017, a federal judge ruled last month.
In his 23-page memorandum opinion issued Dec. 12, U.S. District Court Judge Robert D. Mariani, on the bench in Pennsylvania's Middle District, denied a motion by the ski resorts that were named defendants in the case for judgment in their favor on all claims.
JFBB Ski Areas Inc., which does business as Jack Frost Ski Resort near Winter Haven in the Pocono region, and Big Boulder Ski Resorts in Lake Harmony maintained the case was barred by the Pennsylvania Skier's Responsibility Act, common law under that act and the release on its ski-lift tickets.
"Defendant does not dispute that a release does not protect a defendant from liability for acts of gross negligence and/or reckless conduct as such releases would jeopardize the health, safety and welfare of the people by removing any incentive for parties to adhere to minimal standards of safe conduct," the memorandum said.
"Because the question of gross negligence and/or reckless conduct remain at issue, the validity of the lift-ticket release provision cannot be decided on summary judgment."
Plaintiff James Kozlowski, "an experienced skier who had skied for over 40 years," claims he was injured in a skiing accident at Big Boulder Ski Resort in January 2017, the background portion of Mariani's memorandum said.
"A member of plaintiff's family purchased his lift ticket for him to ski that day," the memorandum said. "Plaintiff did not read the back of his lift ticket before his incident."
Kozlowski claims he was following tracks that lead to an embankment at the end of a catwalk and "as he skied down the embankment, he suddenly and unexpectedly collided with partially exposed snowmaking pipes which could not be seen from from a reasonably safe distance," the memorandum said.
"He alleges that he was rendered unconscious as a result of the collision and had to be dug out from under the pipes before he was transported to the hospital by ambulance," the memorandum said.
No markers had been placed uphill of the snowmaking pipes prior to the accident but were placed after Kozlowski's injuries, according to the memorandum.
Kozlowski's amended complaint included a count each of negligence and gross negligence/recklessness.