Tayar v. Camelback Ski Corporation, No. 67 MAP 2010 (Pa. July 18, 2012)
Tayar went snow tubing at the Camelback ski resort, where employees would send each rider down the hill with a push. After her fifth run, another snow tuber struck Tayar as she was climbing off her snow tube. She suffered a fractured leg from the collision that required surgery.
At the outset, Tayar signed Camelback’s required release of liability that contained the following language:
CAMELBACK SNOW TUBING ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF RISKS AND AGREEMENT NOT TO SUE THIS IS A CONTRACT – READ IT I understand and acknowledge that snow tubing, including the use of lifts, is a dangerous, risk sport and that there are inherent and other risks associated with the sport and that all of these risks can cause serious and even fatal injuries. I understand that part of the thrill, excitement and risk of snow tubing is that the snow tubes all end up in a common, runout area and counter slope at various times and speeds and that it is my responsibility to try to avoid hitting another snowtuber and it is my responsibility to try to avoid being hit by another snowtuber, but that, notwithstanding these efforts by myself and other snowtubers, there is a risk of collisions.
IN CONSIDERATION OF THE ABOVE AND OF BEING ALLOWED TO PARTICIPATE IN THE SPORT OF SNOWTUBING, I AGREE THAT I WILL NOT SUE AND WILL RELEASE FROM ANY AND ALL LIABILITY CAMELBACK SKI CORPORATION IF I OR ANY MEMBER OF MY FAMILY IS INJURED WHILE USING ANY OF THE SNOWTUBING FACILITIES OR WHILE BEING PRESENT AT THE FACILITIES, EVEN IF I CONTEND THAT SUCH INJURIES ARE THE RESULT OF NEGLIGENCE OR ANY OTHER IMPROPER CONDUCT ON THE PART OF THE SNOWTUBING FACILITY.
Tayar filed a personal injury lawsuit in the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas against Camelback and its employee who had been pushing the snow tubers down the slope. The trial court granted summary judgment to Camelback and its employee, finding that all of Tayar’s claims were barred by the release that she had signed. Tayar appealed to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, which reversed the trial court’s decision. Camelback and its employee then appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court looked at the Restatement (Second) of Torts’ definition of “reckless disregard” and the Pennsylvania Crimes Code definition of “recklessly” and concluded that recklessness requires a “conscious action or inaction” that relates it more closely to intentional conduct than ordinary negligence and therefore deserves the same prohibition in releases of liability.
The Court stated that permitting recklessness would remove any incentive to act with even a minimal amount of care and that would jeopardize the health, safety, and welfare of people. It found a dominant public policy against releases of reckless conduct, even in voluntary, recreational settings involving private parties. The Court noted that its decision was in line with many other states that have addressed this issue.
The Court affirmed the Pennsylvania Superior Court’s order to reverse summary judgment, in part, on the ground that the release was against public policy and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings.