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Bachelor boarders weigh in on waiver challenge

By Katie Higgins
Published On: May 09 2014 10:05:23 PM CDT
Updated On: May 11 2014 05:41:59 PM CDT

NewsChannel 21's Katie Higgins talked to both sides of a case that could affect skiers and snowboarders.

BEND, Ore. -

The Oregon Supreme Court is being asked to decide whether Mt. Bachelor's liability release makes the resort immune to a lawsuit filed by a paralyzed snowboarder.

Anyone skiing or snowboarding on the mountain agrees to the release in some way -- and plenty of them have opinions about the legal dispute. (So do KTVZ.COM visitors, who have posted more than 120 comments on the initial story on this week's legal arguments, linked to here.)

"If you look at the back of the lift ticket, it says you're responsible for your own injury," skier Lincoln Farnsworth said Friday.

The language in the release reads, "I agree to release Mount Bachelor LLC... From any and all claims... Of injury or death..."

In 2006, expert snowboarder Myles Bagley broke his back and was paralyzed on Mt. Bachelor.  He was boarding through a terrain park and went off a man-made jump. The season pass holder signed the release. His defense, however, says the table-top jump was flawed.

"You have a lip that goes up, and then it's flat, and then you have a down curve that you want to land in," said snowboarder Josh Court.

Bagley and his legal team want the release thrown out.

Kathryn Clark, Bagley's attorney, said, "It's a risk that could have been avoided by a reasonable design."

But Mt. Bachelor's attorney says risk is a part of the sport.

"Right, I mean you don't just stumble into a terrain park," Andy Balyeat said Friday.

If one does happen upon the area, there are signs at the terrain parks that warn skiers and snowboarders of the dangers.

"There's a warning that says this is extra dangerous," Balyeat said.

Experienced boarders, like Bagley, say they know what the sign says.

"Oh yeah, it says, you know, this is not for beginners, and please look at the jumps even," Farnsworth said. "Oh and and it even reminds you that you're at your own risk."

If the release is found to be ineffective, things could change at Mt. Bachelor and at parks around the state.

"We will then go back to the trial courts and put together a case and try it to a jury," Clark said.

Balyeat said, "It wouldn't just affect terrain parks. It would affect any purchaser of a ticket or season pass," as costs would go up.

A handful of snowboarders weighed in on the issue Friday and said they feel responsible for their own safety at the mountain.

"You'd be saying what Bachelor being responsible for people on the mountain is saying you'd be responsible for surfers in the ocean, which is next to impossible," said Jay Clark.

Balyeat said they don't expect a ruling on whether the liability waiver is effective in the case for four to eight months, possibly a year.

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