New Mexico offers a lot of outdoor recreational activities for its residents and tourists. These activities, like skiing, bungee jumping, and horse-back riding, all have inherent dangers as a part of the activity. Because of these inherent risks, owners of activity companies often require participants to sign “waivers of liability” or “assumption of the risk” forms where the participant acknowledges he or she is aware of these risks and is choosing to participate anyway. These forms are designed to shield the activity operator from liability in a civil suit.
New Mexico has enacted a law specific to the skiing industry, N.M. Stat. Ann. §§ 24-15-1, known as the “Ski Safety Act.” This places responsibility on the operators to maintain the lifts and tramways, but responsibility for skiing safety lies on the individual. The operators must also carry insurance, maintain a ski patrol, and post or announce appropriate warnings and notices. If a skier contributed to his or her own injury, the operator can only be held liable if there was negligent operation, maintenance, or repair.
It can sometimes be difficult to tell whether an injury occurred as a result of operational negligence or the fault of the skier. In Wood v. Angel Fire Ski Corporation, a woman riding the chair lift hopped off the lift and became stuck with her crossed skis, remaining in the path of oncoming chairs and skiers. According to the woman’s complaint, the lift operator observed her situation but didn’t stop the lift, only shouting for her to move out of the way. As the woman fell forward to get out of the way, she severely injured her knee. The woman had to have three knee operations and extensive physical therapy as a result of this injury. Continue reading →