Would Montana's Recreational Use Statute Prevent Injured Skier from Suing Landowner?
Recently, a skiing accident near Beartooth Pass resulted in a skier falling 400 feet down the mountain and being seriously injured. The question in this fortunate situation is whether anyone other than himself might be responsible for his accident and subsequent injuries.
News reports were not clear as to whose property he was on at the time of the accident. As reported in our previous blog, recreational facility proprietors have a new protection against lawsuits from their customers. Liability waivers can be required by recreational providers to shield themselves from being sued by those injured on their premises.
The shield is not absolute in that negligence can still be alleged. The waiver of liability only applies to "ordinary negligence". Assuming the skier in this recent accident had been skiing at a recreational facility and had signed a waiver, he may not be able to sue. If he wandered off in an area that that posed greater danger, it might be that he was the victim of normal risk associated with skiing. If, on the other hand, the facility had consistent barriers to keep skiers from dangerous areas, but had failed to erect them in a particular spot, he may have a cause of action.
If the skier was not at a recreational facility but was skiing on private property, general premises liability law would apply. Under this theory, property owners are generally liable for injuries that occur on their premises. Not enough is known about the accident in question to ascertain whether a premises liability claim could be filed. If the skier was there with the owner's permission, or if the owner generally tolerated skiing on his property, the owner's duty of reasonable care would be heightened. If the area was not considered a ski area, and the skier was essentially trespassing, the owner may be found to have owed no duty to the skier.
If you are injured in a recreational accident, Tipp & Buley can help you determine whether a suit could be filed to recover damages. We have over 55 years of experience in litigation in Western Montana. Visit our website online or call 406-549-5186.