Even at base of run, law protects ski resorts, court says

PITTSBURGH - A state law that protects ski resorts from being sued by skiers injured on the slopes also applies to skiers that are injured after reaching the end of a run, the state Supreme Court said.

In a decision made public Wednesday, the high court ruled in favor of Seven Springs, one of the state's largest ski resorts, in a lawsuit filed by Charity Hughes, who was hurt during a high school trip in 1992.

The case was the court's first test of a law saying skiers assume some risk when they visit a resort, Justice Ronald Castille said.

Hughes, now 24, was hit by another skier moving at high speed after finishing a run at a bowl-shaped spot where several trails converge at the resort 50 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

Hughes missed several weeks of school with torn cartilage in her right knee and wore a leg brace for several months, said her attorney, Simon John.

''This gives the resorts some pretty broad protection,'' John said.

Hughes previously lost her civil case in Fayette County Court, then won a new trial on appeal in Superior Court. She argued that the 22-year-old Pennsylvania Skiers' Responsibility Act did not protect the resort because she was no longer heading downhill when she was hit.

Superior Court said a waiver that Hughes signed covered only her skis, not peril from another skier. The lower court also said it was unable to determine whether Hughes' injuries were unavoidable and therefore covered by the state law.

However, Castille said Hughes, who had been skiing for two years, should have been aware of the risks. He said Hughes had seen other accidents and been warned of the potential for injury when she bought a lift ticket on Jan. 29, 1992. Castille dismissed Hughes' argument as ''extremely narrow,'' ''unrealistic'' and overly technical.

''Such a tortured and artificial interpretation of the (law) and the sport would defy common sense and lead to absurd results,'' the justice said.

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