N.H. Court: Injured Snow Tuber Can Sue Ski Area

July 21, 2004

A ski area is not protected from a lawsuit brought by an injured snow tuber, the New Hampshire Supreme Court recently ruled.

State law helps shield ski areas from lawsuits by saying a skier assumes the risk of injury by participating in the sport. The Ragged Mountain Ski Area cited the law, saying it applied to snow tuber Alaina Santoro Sweeney of Warner.

But the court said the ski area immunity statute applies to skiing, not snow tubing.

Sweeney filed the suit in Merrimack County last year, alleging that she collided with another snow tuber and suffered a lasting head injury at the Danbury area in 2001.

Her lawyer, Peter Hutchins, said she appears to suffer a loss in hearing, memory and balance.

Ragged Mountain lawyers said Sweeney assumed the risk of injury when she went snow tubing and asked that the case be dismissed. A judge did so.

But the state Supreme Court agreed with Sweeney that the law, which refers to the “sport of skiing,” doesn’t bar her claim and returned the case to the trial court.

“Given that the statute broadly defines ‘skier,’ Ragged Mountain argues that the ‘sport of skiing’ must be similarly broadly defined. We disagree,” the court wrote.

Hutchins said the court handed down “a very strong case and said that snowtubing is not skiing, that skiing has to be done on an alpine slope or a cross-country trail.”

Sweeney said he anticipates the high-court ruling will be significant in his wrongful death case against Loon Mountain in which a 21-year-old snowboarder from Hudson, Louis Cicere, was killed not on the ski slope but a terrain park designed for aerobatic snowboarding.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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