Diana Camire v. The Gunstock Area Commission

Civil Immunity Granted to Ski Area Operators by Statute is Enforceable
No. 2013-258
Wednesday, June 18, 2014

In Camire v. The Gunstock Area Commission, a patron of the Gunstock Ski Area was injured when another user struck her from behind on a trail. This other person was an employee of Gunstock, as a snowboard instructor, although he was not actively teaching a class at the time of the collision.

Plaintiff sued the area operator alleging that it had been directly negligent in hiring, training, and supervising the employee, or was at least vicariously liable for the actions of the employee while on the mountain. The trial court granted the area operator’s motion for summary judgment on all counts, and the plaintiff appealed.

The Supreme Court determined that RSA 225-A:24 provided immunity to the area operator for this type of claim, because collisions with other skiers or persons was a type of risk that was specifically assumed by anyone who paid to use the mountain facilities. It did not matter that the other person was an area employee, because employees were not called out separately in the language of the statute.

While neither case involves a municipality directly, the principles discussed are applicable to municipalities. As part of the annual management of risk, each municipality should take care that it does not perform activities that it does not have a legal duty to perform. If an activity is undertaken voluntarily, a duty is created to perform that activity in a non-negligent fashion. Municipalities should also take care when reviewing contracts or reviewing claims for injury or damage that the defense of civil immunity is not waived or compromised in such documents or in the processing of such claims.