In a landmark decision for consumer safety, the Oregon Supreme Court decided today that ski areas cannot escape responsibility for their own negligence when their wrongful conduct harms skiers. Our client, eighteen year old Myles Bagley, was seriously injured while snowboarding over a jump at Mt. Bachelor. He filed an action and alleged that the jump was defective, but the ski area claimed that because he signed a release, they were not responsible for his injuries. The trial court upheld the release, as did the Court of Appeals.
Relying on well established common law principles, in Bagley v. Mt. Bachelor, Inc., the Supreme Court held that the release was unconscionable and against public policy. The court stated, “It is axiomatic that public policy favors the deterrence of negligent conduct. * * * Skiers and snowboarders have important legal inducements to exercise reasonable care for their own safety by virtue of their statutory assumption of the inherent risks of skiing. By contrast, without potential exposure to liability for their own negligence, ski area operators would lack a commensurate legal incentive to avoid creating unreasonable risk of harm to their business invitees.”
Senior partner Arthur C. Johnson briefed and argued the case with Kathryn Clarke. The decision is here.