Colorado Supreme Court declines to hear case challenging ski areas’ use of waivers to avoid lawsuits
Charlotte Redden appealed her argument against the blanket immunity provided to resorts in liability waivers to Colorado’s highest court, which declined to hear her case
The Colorado Sun
DENVER — The Colorado Supreme Court will not consider a case that questions ski areas’ use of waivers to protect themselves from lawsuits filed by injured skiers. Attorneys fighting for skier safety fear the end of legal challenges to now-ubiquitous resort liability waivers may mean the death of the venerable Ski Safety Act.
The state’s highest court on Tuesday, Sept. 7, announced it would not hear the appeal filed by Charlotte Redden, who was hit by a chairlift at Loveland ski area in March 2017. Redden argued the lift attendant violated regulations in the 1979 Ski Safety Act and the 1964 Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Act when a chair hit her and broke her pelvis as she slowed to avoid a skier who had fallen getting off the lift in front of her.
Clear Creek Skiing Corp., the owner of Loveland ski area, argued that Redden had waived her right to sue when she purchased ski boots and had her bindings adjusted in the resort’s shop in 2016. In that transaction, Redden signed a waiver promising to “assume all risks” when skiing at the resort and “agree to hold harmless, please, defend and indemnify” the ski area “for any and all liability” in claims for injury or death. A lift ticket she purchased had the same small-print waiver on the back.
Redden lost her case at the district court level and in January, the Colorado Court of Appeals sided with the resort and rejected her case. The Supreme Court decision to not hear her final appeal “is bad news for the state and for skiers,” said attorney Jim Chalat, who has argued against ski resorts’ waivers for decades, saying the waivers eliminate resort responsibilities outlined in the Ski Safety Act. That legislation, which details both resort and skier responsibilities, “is now officially dead letter,” Chalat said, describing a law that is in effect but cannot be enforced.
“I think this is a tragedy for ski safety in Colorado,” Chalat said. “All of the protections the industry sought in the 1979 Ski Safety Act are not adequate and instead resorts now are insisting on total immunity. No other industry in the state has that privilege. I really expected the Supreme Court to uphold the policies articulated by the General Assembly when they legislated the Ski Safety Act.”
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