The snow tubing run at Bear Creek Mountain Resort and Conference Center had become "smoking fast, " in the words of an employee, the night Andrew Roebuck was injured, his attorney said.
With Roebuck unable to control his descent on the icy slope, his tube vaulted into a net at the end of the run, where he fell on his head and injured his neck, according to a lawsuit. Before Roebuck could move out of the way, another snow tube rider flew into the net and landed on top of him, the lawsuit says.
After a trial in Berks County Court, a jury concluded last month that Bear Creek was negligent for failing to warn Roebuck of the conditions and ordered the Longswamp Township resort to pay $2.1 million to him and his wife, Jennifer.
The damages, which include lost earnings, loss of consortium compensation for Jennifer Roebuck and interest, are unusual in a personal injury lawsuit against a ski facility, said attorney Jim Griffith of Blue Bell, Montgomery County.
Under Pennsylvania law, people who engage in dangerous activities, such as skiing or snow tubing, are assumed to have accepted the risk that they might be injured. Courts have consistently held that when a person is injured as a result of a foreseeable risk, a ski slope operator cannot be held liable.
Ski slope operators require patrons to acknowledge the risk in a liability waiver printed on the back of ski lift tickets and elsewhere.
Griffith said in Andrew Roebuck's case, he was able to convince the jury that Roebuck had not been made aware of the risks associated with snow tubing, and that Bear Creek failed to ensure that the run was safe on the night Roebuck was injured or that it was designed properly to begin with.
In court papers asking a judge to decide the case in Bear Creek's favor before trial, attorney Monica O'Neill argued that Roebuck had failed to establish that the ski resort was negligent. He was responsible for the accident, she said, because he missed safety instructions and failed to take action to slow the snow tube.
Berks County Judge M. Theresa Johnson recently denied Bear Creek's post-trial motions challenging the verdict.