Could Dismissal of NJ Ski Injury Lawsuit Affect Ski Resorts Nationwide?

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on March 19, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A New Jersey appellate court has upheld the dismissal of a personal injury suit brought against the operator of Mountain Creek , the state's largest ski resort. This wouldn't ordinarily be news, but the ruling may have just kicked off a nationwide trend.

Derek Dearnley filed the Mountain Creek lawsuit after being injured during the 2008-2009 season. When he purchased a 2009-2010 season pass , he unknowingly gave up his ability to continue pursuing these claims.

This is because Mountain Creek, as with many ski resorts, requires season pass holders to sign an agreement releasing the resort from liability. But in addition to the usual releases, the 2009-2010 agreement included the following terms:

I further release and give up any and all claims and rights that I may now have against Mountain Creek Resort, Inc. This releases all claims, including those of which I am not aware and those not mentioned in this release. This release applies to claims resulting from anything which has happened up to now.

The resort argued that Dearnley's agreement to these terms barred him from further pursuing his personal injury claim. Both the trial and appellate courts agreed, and dismissed the Mountain Creek lawsuit.

Practically speaking, this ruling means that individuals waive all liability for prior injuries if they purchase a season pass at the resort. Individuals who want to ski and sue must ski elsewhere or risk having their suit dismissed.

It's very possible that ski resorts across the country will update their season pass agreements in light of this decision. But it's also possible they won't. The court applied New Jersey law to the contracts at issue in the Mountain Creek lawsuit. Your state's law may be different. Either way, skiers should be aware of what they are signing.

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