The winter months in New Jersey can be cold and snowy, which can lead many to head off to the area ski slopes or to take their sleds or discs to nearby parks. These are fun outdoor activities enjoyed by many, but they can also be dangerous, particularly when not properly organized.
Unfortunately, the State of New Jersey, as well as several other states, have created limits on the responsibility of Ski Slope Operators and public entities that reduce the motivation for ski operators and park managers to take all available actions to make these activities as safe as possible. However, the New Jersey Ski Statute immunizes negligent operators from many claims, but it is not limitless. Likewise, there are limits to public entity and private property liability for sledders, but they too have their limits, which will be discussed in a separate blog.
The statute states that skiers and others voluntarily assume certain risks of injury on the slopes, and in these instances, there may be no recovery of damages. This does not mean that operators can avoid liability under all circumstances or that other skiers have carte blanche to cause you harm, as well.
First, nothing contained in the “Ski Lift Safety Act” limits the responsibilities of a ski area operator or prevents suing a ski area operator for negligent construction, maintenance or operation of a passenger tramway.
The Statute states:
- It shall be the responsibility of the operator to the extent practicable, to:
(1) Establish and post a system generally identifying slopes and trails and designating relative degrees of difficulty thereof; and to make generally available to skiers information in the form of trail maps or trail reports.
(2) Make generally available either by oral or written report or otherwise, information concerning the daily conditions of the slopes and trails.
(3) Remove as soon as practicable obvious, man-made hazards.
Several cases have determined the limits of the Ski Statute’s application. For example, the NJ Supreme Court in Angland v. Mountain Creek, while upholding the statute’s application against the ski resort, held that the Ski Act does not prevent claims against fellow skiers or snowboarders.
In Neustadter v. Mountain Creek, the Appellate Division reiterated that an operator is responsible for obvious man-made obstacles when it has knowledge of and fails to remove the objects or should have known of the condition and had time to correct the condition.
It should be noted that some ski resorts attempt to condition access on signing a release of liability. If you see this, cross it out. You drove all the way there and now they want to take your money and have no responsibility to you, do not allow them!
The statute requires, in order to file suit, that one report in writing to the ski area operator must prove all details of an accident as soon as possible, but in no event longer than 90 days from the time of the incident giving rise to the suit.
The report must include your name, address, a brief description of the incident, the location, the alleged cause, others involved and witnesses, if any. This requirement is not applicable with respect to a ski area unless the operator conspicuously posts notice to skiers of the requirements of the section.
A skier who fails to give the report within 90 days from the time of the accident or incident may be permitted to give the report at any time within one year after the accident or incident, at the discretion of a judge of the superior court, if the ski area operator is not substantially prejudiced by the delay. The court can allow a late report if sufficient reason for the skier’s failure to report within 90 days is presented.
So, be careful out there and enjoy the winter!!