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Pietruska v. Craigmeur Ski Area

March 20, 1992


Ariel A. Rodriguez, J.s.c.


The issue presented in this pretrial motion to dismiss the complaint is whether a person who is injured as a result of the negligent operation of a ski lift is required to comply with the notice provisions of N.J.S.A. 5:13-7. There are no reported opinions on this subject. For the reasons that follow this court holds that the notice requirements do not apply in such a case.

The matter comes before the court on the a motion of defendant Craigmeur Ski Area (Craigmeur) for an order dismissing the plaintiff's complaint for failure to comply with the notice provisions as set forth in N.J.S.A. 5:13-7. Plaintiff has filed a cross-motion for an order directing Craigmeur to produce its file on this matter and compelling the deposition of its general manager.

The plaintiff Michelle Pietruska contends that on February 11, 1990 she was a patron at the ski area operated by Craigmeur. She rented skis and boots and purchased a lift ticket. After skiing for approximately six hours she had an accident. Throughout that day, and each time she rode the chairlift to the top of the mountain, she noticed that there was always an operator inside the booths at the bottom and the top of the lift. On what was to be her final run of the day, and while boarding the chairlift, one of her skis fell off and landed on the ground. She began to scream to the bottom operator to stop the lift so she could get off to secure her ski. The operator failed to stop the lift. She traveled the entire length of the mountain with one ski. Upon approaching the drop-off point at the top, she began to scream to the top operator to shut down the lift so she could safely dismount. Despite her screams no one stopped the lift. Plaintiff observed that the operator at the drop-off point was not in the booth. He was at some distance shoveling snow, leaving his post unmanned. Plaintiff slipped and caught her arm in the metal bars of the chairlift. She was dragged eight to ten feet before the operator shut down the lift. The operator asked her if she needed assistance and advised her to report to

the main office. She reported to the main office and was then directed to the Ski Patrol. At the Ski Patrol office, she made a written report of the incident. She provided the Ski Patrol with her name, address, location of accident and how it occurred, name of eyewitness, and brief description of her injuries and physical complaints. Plaintiff contends that as a result of her being dragged by the chairlift she sustained bodily injuries. Thereafter Pietruska filed the complaint alleging inter alia that Craigmeur was negligent in its operation of the ski lift. Plaintiff further alleges that four days after the accident her attorneys mailed to Craigmeur a "notice of claim" letter. She also contends that on February 22, 1990 her counsel spoke on the telephone regarding her claim with Raymond Schank, Vice-president and General Manager of Craigmeur. Furthermore she asserts that a second "notice of claim" letter was mailed to Craigmeur on July 16, 1990.

Craigmeur contends that it did not receive any notice or phone calls from the plaintiff until it received the July 16, 1990 letter. Counsel for Craigmeur argues that that letter did not provide any information regarding the accident other than the claimant's name and date of occurrence. Craigmeur also alleges: that it has no record of a written report by the plaintiff to the Ski Patrol; and that it mailed a letter to the plaintiff on December 26, 1990 requesting information concerning the accident. Pietruska maintains that she has never received Craigmeurs' letter.

Craigmeur moves for a dismissal of the complaint for failure to comply with N.J.S.A. 5:13-7. That statute reads as follows:

Report of injury; precondition to suit; limitation time.

As a precondition to bringing any suit in connection with a skiing injury against an operator, a skier shall report in writing to the ski area operator all the details of any accident as soon as possible, but in no event longer than 90 days from the time of the incident giving rise to the suit. The report shall include at least the following: name, address, brief description of incident, location, alleged cause, others involved and witnesses, if any. If it is not practicable to give the report because of severe physical disability resulting from a skiing

accident or incident, the report shall be given as soon as practicable. This section is not applicable with respect to a ski area unless the operator conspicuously posts notice to skiers of the requirements of the section.

Pietruska argues that since this accident occurred as a result of negligent operation of a chairlift, her claim falls within an exception to the statute, to ...

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