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Ski instructor assumes no duty to children taking class

Frederick Sieradzki suffered a fractured leg when he was struck by an out-of-control skier while taking a beginning snowboarding lesson.  His mother sued the instructor and Mt. Holly Resort, alleging that the instructor was negligent in exposing Frederick to injury.  The Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's dismissal of Frederick's claim, deciding that the instructor owed no duty to Frederick.  That would be news to most parents who sign their kid up for skiing or snowboarding lessons.

First, the Court dismissed Mt. Holly because the ski school was run independently.  (I'll bet that wasn't clear to parents who were signing up their kids, either.)    Then the judges determined that no "special relationship" existed between instructor and student that would have obligated the instructor to assume a duty to exercise reasonable care for the kid's safety.  finally, for good measure, the court held that the over-fast skiing of the skier who struck Frederick could not have been foreseen by the instructor.  That in itself seems odd, since every one of us who buckles on pair of skis needs to foresee the possibility of conflict with an uphill skier.

In a parting shot, the Court suggested that "if the students had decided to cross the hill on their own, it is likely that Frederick would still have been struck..."  That may be true, but if they chose to cross at a dangerous location where they could not see skiers approaching at high speed from uphill, they would be negligent.  If the instructor made this decision for the kids in his charge--then he violated a duty of reasonable care that was part of his commitment to Frederick's parents when they placed him in the instructor's care.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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