The Second Department, ordering a new trial, determined defendants’ motion to set aside the verdict should have been granted. The jury should have been instructed on implied assumption of risk in this skiing accident case involving a nine-year-old novice skier. Plaintiff struck a pole and fractured her femur. The jury awarded $3,000,000 in past damages and $15,000,000 in future damages. If defendants are found liable in the second trial, there will be a trial on damages unless the plaintiff stipulates to $950,000 past damages and $1,250,000 future damages:
… [O]n their motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint, the movants failed to establish their entitlement to judgment as a matter of law on the ground that the action was barred by the doctrine of assumption of the risk … . The evidence submitted in support of the motion demonstrated that the injured plaintiff was a nine-year-old novice skier on a bunny slope, which is a part of the ski area specifically designed for beginners who are learning how to ski. The evidence submitted also included the injured plaintiff’s deposition testimony that she believed it was safer to continue beyond the devices than to be struck by a passing skier if she fell. The devices warned skiers to slow down but did not warn them to stop. These facts presented a triable issue of fact as to whether the injured plaintiff was aware of and fully appreciated the risk involved in downhill skiing and the terrain of the bunny slope such that she assumed the risk of injury … .
At the close of the trial on the issue of liability, the Supreme Court denied the defendants’ request to instruct the jury on express assumption of the risk and implied assumption of the risk. While there was no evidence elicited at trial that the injured plaintiff expressly assumed the risk of injury, the evidence did support an instruction on implied assumption of risk. Specifically, a factual issue was presented regarding whether the injured plaintiff assumed the risk of skiing in the area where the PVC pipe was located. Although the injured plaintiff testified that the PVC pipe “blended with the snow,” the pipe had a brightly colored guide-rope attached to it on the day of the accident and was behind warning devices past which the injured plaintiff skiied … . Therefore, the court should have granted the defendants’ request to instruct the jury on implied assumption of the risk. Under the facts of this case, the failure to instruct the jury on implied assumption of the risk is an error warranting a new trial … . Zhou v Tuxedo Ridge, LLC, 2020 NY Slip Op 01206, Second Dept 2-19-20