Assumption Of Risk Doctrine Won’t Protect Ski Resort For Falling Chairlifts

You have probably heard or read about the recent tragic accident on Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine. A chairlift cable derailed sending several skiers plunging into the snow-covered slope below. Luckily, a generous snowfall had recently blanketed the Mountain, and that helped pad the landing. Still, several skiers are recovering in local hospitals. We wish them well.

What caused the derailment? We still don’t know. But one thing I can tell you as a New York personal injury lawyer; the Sugarloaf folks are almost certainly liable (unless the chairlift system was defectively built or designed, in which case the manufacturer would be liable). An “accident” like this does not happen without some negligence. My very educated guess is that the Sugarloaf folks failed to properly inspect or maintain the chairlift, or they allowed it to operate in unsafe weather conditions (winds of 40 miles per hour were reported).

This accident demonstrates an important principle in New York sports injury law: While those who voluntarily participates in a sport such as skiing are deemed to have “assumed the inherent risks” of the sport, and therefore can’t sue for injuries caused by those risks (see my prior blog post about this here), when the risk that caused the accident is not one of those inherent in the sport, they can sue.

For example, if you are skiing and hit a patch of ice, or a tree, or another skier skies into you, you would, in most cases, be barred from suing the Ski Resort. Those are all dangers inherent in the sport of skiing, and if you don’t want to “assume” those risks, well, put those skis back in the attic!

On the other hand, you have a right to assume that the mechanical lifts that bring you to the top of the mountain are safe, well maintained, and aren’t going to derail and send you hurling to the ground. A derailing ski lift is not one of the risks inherent in the sport of skiing. Rather it is a risk caused by the Ski Resort not fulfilling its duty of maintaining and operating safe machinery!

If you or a loved one has a possible New York sports injury case, you should consult with a New York sports injury lawyer to see if New York law will deem you to have “assumed the risks” of the injury or not.

Keep safe!

Mike Bersani
Email me at: I’d love to hear from you!

Michael G. Bersani, Esq.
Central NY Personal Injury Lawyer Michaels Bersani Kalabanka


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