Woman Who Lost Leg in Collision with Snowcat at Mammoth Mountain, CA to Appeal Dismissed Lawsuit

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A Kassbohrer Pisten Bully snow groomer (file photo: GOC53)

A woman who suffered catastrophic injuries in a snowboarding accident at Mammoth Mountain, CA plans to appeal to the California Supreme Court after she had her lawsuit against the ski resort dismissed due to the liability waiver she signed. Kathleen Willhide-Michiulis, 51 claims she has struggled to recover from the trauma of the incident seven years ago when she was run over by a snowcat while visiting Mammoth Mountain.

The resort denies any responsibility for her injuries and successfully argued in court that a collision with a snowcat was part of the risk of snowboarding, something that was listed on a liability waiver signed with the purchase of a lift pass.

“Here I’m thinking I’m going up for a good day with my family and friends – and I don’t come home for a year,” Willhide-Michiulis said.

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Kathleen Willhide-Michiulis says she has struggled to recover from the trauma of the incident in 2011.

It was late one afternoon when a snowcat suddenly turned in front of her whilst she was snowboarding on the intermediate Mambo run, pulled her underneath and the spinning blades from a towed snow tiller tore off her left leg.

“My right leg was broken in 17 places and my face was, multiple lacerations and multiple fractures,” she said.

Her attorney, Jae Y. Lee said he thought the liability waiver should not apply because he believed the resort showed gross negligence in operating the snow tractor on a ski slope that was still open to visitors, reported NBC4:

“Not only do I feel that they violated their own safety policy, but it’s unconscionable to introduce an industrial shredding machine on to a slippery playground,” Lee said.

A judge in Mono County said the resort’s alleged actions did not rise to the level of gross negligence, and therefore, Willhide-Michiulis could not proceed with the lawsuit. A state appeals court also recently upheld the judge’s decision, affirming the reasoning that a tractor was part of the inherent risk and that warning signs had been posted. Lee said that decision appears to conflict with other gross negligence rulings in California and said he’d like a jury to hear the evidence.

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Kathy Willhide-Michiulis would hate to see this happen to someone else. Credit: Michele Lutes/The Signal

An attorney for Mammoth Mountain Resorts told NBC4 the company plans to challenge the appeal. The lawyer said the resort, “is not cavalier about peoples’ injuries,” and puts an “incredible effort,” into making the property safe, but said the lower courts already made the correct rulings to dismiss the lawsuit.

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4 thoughts on “Woman Who Lost Leg in Collision with Snowcat at Mammoth Mountain, CA to Appeal Dismissed Lawsuit

  1. What I understand is that there were reports of her drinking previously at the bar, as well as first responders smelled the “strong smell of alcohol” emitting from her. So, I understand the liability of the snowcat and its functions. As I also understand, she ran into it. But if a skier is under the influence, how can he/she be capable of evasive maneuvers while under the influence. Every thing we do as a physical sport has inherent risks. Even riding a bicycle has its hazards, compound that with alcohol and its not a good combination.

  2. Thank Clifford Mann for that.. VP of operations. I don’t know how he can sleep at night. I would have resigned personally.

  3. Unfortunate, but this is part of the reason lift tickets cost so much.
    Mt Hood Meadows used to do an evening groom on 2 trails to smooth out things for night skiing. But now they don’t as insurance doesn’t allow skiers be on the hill when a groomer is operating.

    1. I somewhat agree, UR. And as a long time skier, I understand grooming, and hill maintenance. But if the groomer actually did “suddenly” turn in the path of this woman, that’s just wrong. Just like I can’t turn my car in front of you on the freeway w/o ck’ing and clearing that lane.
      I, too, hate to see frivolous lawsuits, as they are a major reason tix are way over priced. Again, I don’t know all of the circumstances but she now doesn’t have a right leg, and that’s sad.

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