Injury at Virginia Ski Resort Prompts $150,000 Jury Award | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

What Happened

Our Virginia personal injury client was an experienced skier. She suffered a serious knee injury at the Wintergreen Resort in Nelson County, VA, when a snowboarder fell into her as they both waited for a chairlift.

The incident left our client with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. She missed two weeks of work and later underwent surgery to repair her ACL.

Though she managed to make a full recovery, she filed insurance claims against the ski resort owner for the payment of medical bills and lost wages. The company refused to offer a settlement, and the resulting jury trial ended with a decision for our client. She received $150,000 in compensation and damages, interest on that amount calculated back to the date on which she suffered her knew injury and the payment of her court costs.

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Key Legal Strategy

Our client’s claims rested on the ancient legal principle of premises liability. Stripped to its most-basic definition, premises liability means a property owner or business bears responsibility when a preventable accident injures a guest or customer.

In this case, our Virginia personal injury client was put at risk at Wintergreen Resort when a chairlift operator allowed a snowboarder to position himself in such a way that an approaching chair knocked him over and into the skier.

The resort owner argued all the way through the civil trial that it had no liability because our client knew she could get injured while skiing. We counterargued that waiting for a chairlift did not pose the same possibility for knee injuries as actually going down the slopes.

While it could be conceded that our Virginia personal injury client might not have a legitimate claim if she had torn her ACL while skiing, she had assumed no risk while waiting for a ride to the top of the expert slope. Testimony from the resort’s own representative confirmed our assertion that the woman we were representing faced no particular risk from just standing in the chairlift line.

Proving premises liability is often tough. Showing that an injury could and should have been prevented is rarely enough, especially in Virginia where a rule called contributory negligence makes collecting insurance settlements or winning civil lawsuits impossible if evidence exists that a victim brought any degree of harm upon themselves. We always fight for clients, however, knowing that negligent businesses and property owners must be held accountable.

Court and Dates: Nelson Circuit Court, Nelson Co., VA, 2003

Staff: Staff attorney