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Slope owners not liable for teen's skiing accident and paralysis

As downhill skiers know, there is some risk when getting on a slope. However, skiers and visitors to commercial downhill skiing areas do have some protections, even when on a mountain or man-made ski hill. Skiers should be able to assume that the grounds are safely maintained and that any dangerous spots are marked to avoid slip and fall accidents and injuries.

In a recent Connecticut case, a state appellate court found that the owners of an area ski slope cannot be held liable for a ski injury lawsuit that sought damages for a teenager's paralysis. A 15-year-old boy suffered severe paralysis and spinal cord damage in 2006 and is now a quadriplegic. The accident occurred at New Hartford, Connecticut's Ski Sundown.

In 2006, the victim's lawyers brought a first lawsuit against the ski company, but the court found that the victim was at least partially to blame. On appeal, appellate court agreed with the jury and has dismissed his claim for a second time. According to the complaint, Ski Sundown, Inc. was negligent in building and maintaining a jump. Jurors sided with the ski slope ownership company which argued that the victim assumed the risk of injury.

In cases that involve dangerous sports or other activities that involve risk, this defense can be successful if a victim understands the risks involved. However, the ski slope cannot avoid all liability because of the assumed risk. In this case, it was not reported what was left unmaintained on the property and what exactly caused the victim's injuries. Under Connecticut law, a victim is barred from receiving any award if his negligence is greater than the negligence of a defendant.

The victim is considering an appeal to the Connecticut Supreme Court. If successful, he may be entitled to compensation for all medical expenses, future medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, as well as any additional economic or personal losses he has endured.

Source: Reuters, "Ski Slope Not Liable for Teen's Paralysis," Andrew Chow JD, June 21, 2012.

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