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.
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.
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.