N.H. Bill Would Assign Snow Sport Liability

February 9, 2005

New Hampshire law makes skiers assume responsibility for much of the risk of the sport, and ski areas say the same should be true of snowboarders and snow-tubers.

The sponsor of a bill to do just that says the 1978 law that made skiers accept the inherent risks of their sport did not include snowboarding and tubing because those activities barely existed.

The state Supreme Court ruled in July that tubing is not covered by the skier responsibility law. Manchester lawyer Peter Hutchins said he expects the law to be part of Loon Mountain’s defense in a lawsuit stemming from the death of snowboarder Louis Cicere, 21, of Hudson, in a terrain park.

No hearings have been scheduled on the bill.

Dickinson, R-Conway, said New Hampshire’s law became a national model because it spelled out the responsibilities of both ski areas and skiers without exempting the former from liability for gross negligence. The law made it more difficult for skiers to sue over injuries or deaths.

The law states that skiing “involve risks and hazards which must be assumed as a matter of law.”

Hutchins opposes the bill. He said New Hampshire’s immunity laws, which also apply to horseback riding and the use of off-road vehicles, apply to activities in which participants can acquire skills to control their movements.

“In tubing, there is no control. They take no lessons. None of the elements of skiing as a sport applied,” he said.

“From an intellectual standpoint, it is more like a water park and no ‘inherent risk’ should apply,” he said. Water parks are not covered by the inherent risk statute.

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