Skiing lawsuit against Sun Peaks fails

'No doubt a large number of the accidents occur during lift loading and unloading,' judge says

An expert skier injured in a lift accident at Sun Peaks Resort seven years ago failed in a bid to sue the mountain for her injuries.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Susan Griffin ruled against skier and local realtor Cathy Morgan, who sued the mountain for negligence following an accident in December 2006.

Morgan suffered injuries, including dislocation of a hip, when a chair on the newly installed Elevation chairlift ran over her.

Two versions of what happened - after Morgan became entangled and fell somewhere between the loading line and wait line - were presented in court.

After she fell, Morgan said the operator ran to her in an attempt to catch the approaching chair, then ran back to halt the lift. The corporation said the operator immediately hit the 'stop' button, then ran to assist.

"The plaintiff's theory of the case suggests the outcome may have been different if the operator had pressed the stop button immediately rather than trying to come to the plaintiff's assistance first," Griffin said.

Sun Peaks said the outcome would have been the same, because the lift takes time to stop. Even if the operator did the wrong thing, the corporation said it is protected by an air-tight release form that all skiers must sign.

Morgan had purchased a season's pass for 15 years and each time signed a waiver intended to protect the corporation in the event of skier injury. The release is intended to safeguard Sun Peaks from nearly every claim, except when injuries occur due to mechanical failures of lifts and related equipment.

"If the employee operating the chairlift did so negligently, could that conduct fit within the description 'mechanical breakdown or failure of ski lifts, tows, or any related equipment?" Griffin asked.

Dismissing the claim, the judge ruled the answer is "no."

"No doubt a large number of the accidents occur during lift loading and unloading," Griffin said.

"The language of the release in my view uses plain language to bring home to the user of the ski hill that liability for lift operator negligence is being excluded if it is not related to mechanical breakdown or equipment failure."

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