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Mandell v. SKI Shawnee

January 11, 2007

DANIEL MANDELL AND DOLLY CARABALLO, H/W, PLAINTIFFS
v.
SKI SHAWNEE, INC., DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Munley

MEMORANDUM

Before the court for disposition is Defendant Ski Shawnee, Inc.'s motion for summary judgment in this case involving a snowtubing accident. Defendant asserts that a release executed by Plaintiff Daniel Mandell precludes suit. Plaintiffs oppose the motion for summary judgment. The matter has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.

Background

This case involves allegations that Plaintiff Daniel Mandell suffered injuries in a snowtubing hill accident at the Shawnee Mountain snowtubing facility on February 11, 2005. (Compl. ¶ 6). While coming to the end of the snowtubing course, plaintiff's tube spun around so that he faced backwards. (Pl. Dep. at 28). As he proceeded backwards, the tube struck "something" and plaintiff flew off from his tube, doing a backwards flip. (Id.) Plaintiff's right foot landed between or on the mats located at the bottom of the course, and his body twisted causing him injuries. (Id.). Before snowtubing on the day in question, plaintiff executed a document entitled "Snow Tubing Acknowledgment of Risk and Agreement Not to Sue" (hereinafter "release"). (Pl. Dep. at 24-25).

Plaintiff has brought suit to recover for the injuries that he suffered in the snowtubing accident. The complaint alleges that the accident caused the plaintiff to suffer great physical pain and anguish, severe shock to the nervous system, humiliation and embarrassment. (Compl. ¶ 12). He asserts that the accident was a direct result of the carelessness and negligence of the defendant. (Id.). Dolly Caraballo, the wife of Plaintiff Daniel Mandell, has asserted a cause of action for loss of consortium. (Compl. ¶¶ 16-17). At the close of discovery, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment. Defendant claims that it is entitled to summary judgment because plaintiffs' claim is barred by the release.

Jurisdiction

This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to the diversity jurisdiction statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The plaintiffs are citizens of New York state, and the defendant is a corporation with a principal place of business in Delaware, Pennsylvania. Because we are sitting in diversity, the substantive law of Pennsylvania shall apply to the instant case. Chamberlain v. Giampapa, 210 F.3d 154, 158 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing Erie R.R. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938)).

Standard of Review

Granting summary judgment is proper if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Knabe v. Boury, 114 F.3d 407, 410 n.4 (3d Cir. 1997) (citing FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)). "[T]his standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original).

In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must examine the facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. International Raw Materials, Ltd. v. Stauffer Chemical Co., 898 F.2d 946, 949 (3d Cir. 1990). The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate that the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248 (1986). A fact is material when it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id. Where the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the party moving for summary judgment may meet its burden by showing that the evidentiary materials of record, if reduced to admissible evidence, would be insufficient to carry the non-movant's burden of proof at trial. Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the moving party satisfies its burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party, who must go beyond its pleadings, and designate specific facts by the use of affidavits, depositions, admissions, or answers to interrogatories showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324.

Discussion

As noted above, defendant argues that it is entitled to summary judgment because plaintiffs' claim is barred by the release. Plaintiff's position is that the release is inapplicable to claims of "gross negligence" or "defendants' placement of hazards and obstacles that are not fixed, nor the maintenance of such obstacles." (Doc. 18, Pl. Brief at 7). Therefore, according to the plaintiffs, the release does not relieve the defendant from liability in the present case.*fn1

Three conditions must be met for an exculpatory provision to be valid. If these conditions are met, several other standards must be met before a release can relieve a party from liability. These conditions are: 1) The clause cannot violate any public policy; 2) the contract relates entirely to the private affairs of the parties; and 3) "the contract is not a contract of adhesion to which one party simply adheres to a contract because he has no power to alter it." Topp Copy Products, Inc. v. Singletary, 626 A.2d 98, 101 (Pa. 1993).

The parties raise no argument as to these conditions. The release at issue does not violate any public policy, it relates entirely to the private affairs of the parties and is not a contract of adhesion as each party is free to participate or to choose not to- that is, the plaintiff was under no compulsion, economic or otherwise to engage in ...


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