It was widely report that a Maine ski lift failed causing injury to three or more riders this morning, at the SugerLoaf Mountain resort near Carrabassett Valley, Maine. According to eye witness reports, the chairs were approximately 20 to 40 feet above the ground. The extent of injuries is not known at this time but is suspected broken bones are involved. Over 80 other riders were stranded on the lift awaiting rescue. Rumors have circulated the that only method for rescuing the stranded riders is to provide a rope for them to escape with. It is highly unlikely that any type of ladder equipped vehicle would be able to navigate the steep snowy mountain side.
From an insurance claim perspective there is little doubt that the resort will be able to object to financial liability for the injuries sustained by riders, as this appears to be an incident of strict liability. High winds were reported but an act of god or unknown third person defense is not likely to be sustained in court, should the injured parties bring a civil complaint to the matter. The resort cannot simply waive their responsibility for operation of a ski lift located on a mountain through weather related incidents because the a mountain is an area subject to inclement weather. By law, the resort could escape liability while on the mountain for certain injuries but a ski lift is on a chair operated by the mountain, not on the land itself. Many western states employ a Premises liability statute where the injured party is classified as a licensee, trespassee or invitee, thereby applying levels of recovery for injury. We have not reviewed or determined what, if any, is the standard for premises liability claims in Maine.
Information about the insurance carrier for the ski resort has not been determined at this time. The resort is managed by Boyne Resort Management, L.L.C, based in Boyne Falls, MI. The company agent is Stephen M. Kircher, according to recent Secretary of State records. The company has multiple registered businesses in the State of Michigan and has millions in its management portfolio which includes resorts in Montana, Michigan, Utah, Washington, British Columbia, Maine and other areas.
Maine law firms dealing with injured parties related to this incident may consider conducting a full investigation into:
- The recent and historical maintenance records of the ski lift;
- The nature and extent of injuries (should be handled by medical professionals and experts)
- Certifications, requirements, experience and personal background (driving records, etc.) of the maintenance crew or mechanical staff who made repairs or certified the lifts for this season;
- The actual conditions of the ski lift, cables and motors; and other ski lifts on the mountain;
- The operators of the ski lifts and their managers;
- The historical and time of loss weather conditions and comparison to the rated load and stress capacities of the lift equipment;
- Other incidents, law suits and insurance claims that Boyne Resort Management has been a party to;
- Asset location and holdings of the managing company and partners;
All attempts to settle outside of a civil complaint should be made within reason by the insurer and injured parties. Unfortunately the full recoverable extent of the injuries to the affected parties will not be known for sometime.
If youre looking for an attorney to represent you there are some important factors to consider. Attorneys in close proximity to the resort may be overly friendly to the resort, meaning they do not want to tarnish their reputation and will settle for much less than your claim is worth. Conversely, finding one too far away from such a remote area may result in high legal expenses for travel. The nearest Maine District courts are 28-35 miles from the resort and you may find the right attorney near Farmington or Skowhegan, ME. You should consider trying to work with the insurance company that handles premises liability for the ski mountain. As always, remember that any information you give may be used as evidence in a court of law. You should contact a licensed attorney if you are unsure of your rights.