Oregon Appellate Review – Court rejects ski releases for resort’s own negligence in Oregon

Just before Christmas last year, the Oregon Supreme Court decided Bagley v. Mt. Bachelor, Inc., 356 Ore. 543, 340 P.3d 27 (2014), a case involving a young and promising snowboarder left paralyzed by what was asserted to be a bad jump at the Mt. Bachelor ski resort.  That young man, Miles Bagley, took a jump on a terrain park that caused him to fall badly, breaking his neck.  As a result, he sued the resort because a poorly designed jump is not an “inherent risk” of snowboarding.  His case was dismissed based on the release he signed as part of his season pass.  The release absolved the resort of all responsibility for anything that happened at all on the mountain.  Such a broad and unthinking release is not legitimate in my opinion, and the result here was particularly unjust.

I wrote an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief on behalf of the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association, showing how widespread these “complete” releases really are.  You can read the brief her: Amicus MERITS Final (8MB file).  I hope it was helpful to the Court, but more importantly, the Oregon Supreme Court made a strong statement in favor of consumers and “little guy” by saying that complete releases were unconscionable in certain circumstances—including Miles’ case.

He hasn’t won yet, but at least now he has the chance to prove his case.  The analysis that went into the unconscionability analysis will be discussed more when I look at the Hoodoo Ski Bowl decision from last month.