“It’s unconscionable to introduce an industrial shredding machine on to a slippery playground.” –Attorney Jae Y. Lee

Kathleen Willhide-Michiulis lost her leg and suffered multiple facial lacerations and fractures after getting run-over by a snowcat at Mammoth Mountain back in 2011. 

Apparently the snowcat suddenly turned in front of her and she was pulled under and her leg got caught in the snow tiller.  NBC4 reports Mammoth argued successfully that the collision was part of the risk of snowboarding, which is listed on a liability waiver signed with the purchase of a lift pass. 

“Here I’m thinking I’m going up for a good day with my family and friends – and I don’t come home for a year. My right leg was broken in 17 places and my face was, multiple lacerations and multiple fractures.” –Kathleen Willhide-Michiulis

A Mono County judge ruled the resort’s alleged actions did not rise to the level of gross negligence and a state appeals court recently upheld the judge’s decision citing that a tractor was part of the inherent risk and that warning signs had been posted.  Attorney Lee thinks that decision appears to conflict with other gross negligence rulings in California and said he wants to present the evidence to the California Supreme Court:

“I would like the California Supreme Court to hear this case and rule that a case such as this deserves a day in court.”

If the appeal decision stands or if it goes to the Supreme Court and its ruled against the injured party it would be come even more difficult for someone who signed a liability waiver and was then injured as a result of negligence to try to sue. Consumer Watchdog Carmen Balber had this to say about the potential outcomes if the lawsuit is dismissed:

“It raises the bar for consumers to bring suit against a company that harms them. It makes it harder to recover your medical costs, it makes it harder to hold a company accountable, in this circumstance, by taking away the jury’s right to make the decision about negligence. All the decisions were made before the consumer got to make their case.”

We will be sure to update this story as it develops. Stay tuned.