jdsupra.com - The death of a 49-year-old snowboarder has left friends and witnesses with questions about how the ski resort handled an emergency situation and whether the victim would have survived had there been a more prompt response to the tragedy.
The Tragic Accident
49-year-old Steve Anderson was snowboarding at the Donner Ski Ranch when an avalanche buried him in snow. His friend, Mike Waggoner, said in an interview that he was riding on the ski lift when he witnessed the avalanche. However, according to Waggoner, the ski patrol and officials from the ski resort made no immediate effort to account for all the skiers present on the slopes or to ascertain if anyone was injured. In fact, according to Waggoner, it was “business as usual” for the ski resort’s authorities.
When Waggoner and other friends confronted the ski patrol with the news that one of their party was missing, they were allegedly told that everything was under control and there was no cause for worry. Unconvinced, Waggoner phoned the local sheriff’s office and a search was immediately instituted, resulting in the recovery of Anderson’s body.
Questions Arise from Ski Resort’s Handling of Accident
Many questions and concerns arise as a result of this accident. First, if what Waggoner claims is true, not only did the ski patrol not institute an immediate search of the area after the avalanche, but also implied to the concerned friends that a search had in fact been instituted. Whether or not the ski patrol actually did search the area, the fact remains that they did not recover Anderson at a point in time when it might have been possible to save him.
In addition, the ski resort also continued operations while a search should have been ongoing. While it is easy to second-guess anyone’s actions during the time of an emergency, it does seem reasonable that all skiing activities should have been suspended and an account made of all the skiers present on the lifts and on the slopes to determine if anyone was missing, an action that Waggoner states was never taken.
While skiing is considered an “inherently dangerous” activity in most states, and injury-attorneys.com state law supports the ski resorts rather than the victims in the case of many ski accidents, this does not mean that the ski resorts have immunity from liability. If a victim is injured and the ski resort does nothing to prevent the injury or rescue the victim, the ski resort can still be negligent in its actions and therefore liable for the damages that result. Ski resorts can also be subject to partial liability for an accident under California’s premise of comparative liability.