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Skier to Skier Standard of Care is Recklessness

Robert Angland was skiing down a slope at Mountain Creek when suddenly he collided with William Tucker Brownlee who was snowboarding down the same path. Angland fell as a result of the accident and slid down the mountain. He was unconscious and laying by a concrete bridge near the slope by the time Brownlee found him. Angland was taken to a hospital and died days later with the doctors saying his injuries were consistent with his head having hit the concrete bridge. Angland v. Mountain Creek Resort, Inc., 2013 N.J. LEXIS 570.

Brownlee claimed that he and Angland collided into each other only after another person on the mountain cut Brownlee off and he was unable to regain control of his snowboard.

Angland’s estate sued Brownlee, maintaining that Brownlee acted negligently in violation of the New Jersey Ski Act and therefore was liable, in part, for Angland’s death. Brownlee disagreed, contending that the New Jersey Ski Act did not apply to incidents between skiers and that he could only be held liable if his conduct rose to the level of recklessness rather than the negligence standard of the Act.

Both the trial and appellate courts agreed with Angland that the NJ Ski Act did apply to incidents between skiers, not just to situations between skier and ski resort operator, and that the standard was negligence.

The New Jersey Supreme Court disagreed. The Court found that the Ski Act does not apply between skiers, and the proper standard for this situation is recklessness, not negligence. However, the Act is not irrelevant. “A skier who violates one of the duties identified in the Ski Act, but who is merely negligent in doing so will not be liable to another skier; but a skier who violates one of those duties and does so recklessly will be liable to the other participant who is injured as a result.” Id. at 35.

This standard of recklessness is the standard used in common law for almost all recreational sports activities.

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