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Dong Lin et al. v. Spring Mountain Adventures

December 17, 2010

DONG LIN ET AL.
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
SPRING MOUNTAIN ADVENTURES, INC.,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Tucker, J.

MEMORANDUM

Presently before this Court is Defendant Spring Mountain Adventures, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 (Doc. 10) and Plaintiffs' Response in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 13). Upon consideration of the parties' motions with exhibits and declarations, this Court will grant Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

This diversity suit filed pursuant to 29 U.S.C.§ 1332, arises from the losses sustained by New Jersey residents Dong Lin and Yaning Wang ("Plaintiffs") as the result of a skiing accident. Said accident occurred at the Spring Mountain ski area in Spring Mount, Pennsylvania, owned by Pennsylvania corporation Spring Mountain Adventures, Inc. ("Defendant"). (Compl. ¶ 1, 2, 6.) Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that Plaintiff Lin suffered physical injuries, and as a result, her husband, Plaintiff Wang suffered loss of consortium due to the Defendant's carelessness, negligence, gross negligence, recklessness, and wanton disregard for the Plaintiffs' safety and interest. (Compl. ¶ 16, 25, 28.)

On or about February 16, 2008, Plaintiffs accompanied friends to visit the Defendant's Spring Mountain ski area. (Compl. ¶ 8.) Prior to skiing and renting ski equipment, Plaintiff Lin signed the required form provided by the facility, titled "Equipment Rental Form and Release From Liability" (Spring Mountain Ex. D-1) (Lin Dep. 25:1-17, Apr. 16, 2010.)

As Plaintiff Lin was skiing, she lost control and fell or slid into a snow making machine that was located on the slopes and was partially padded. Allegedly, the blue padding used to cover the snow making equipment separated, allowing Plaintiff Lin to violently strike the unprotected pipe behind the padding. (Compl. ¶ 14.) As a result of her collision with the equipment, Plaintiff Lin suffered several permanent and many disfiguring injuries, including but not limited to injuries to her face, jaw, skull, pallet, nose, teeth, gums, neck, back, bones, brain, muscles, and nerves. (Compl. ¶ 16.) Due to her injuries, Plaintiff Lin underwent surgical procedures and incurred medical expenses. Plaintiff Lin alleges that her injuries caused her pain and suffering, lost ability to engage in activities of daily living, emotional harm, lost wages, and both current and future medical expenses. (Compl. ¶¶ 17-21.)

On January 26, 2010, Plaintiffs filed this suit in the United States District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against the Defendant. Plaintiffs seek damages in excess of $75,000, in addition to interest and costs. (Compl. ¶¶ 6, 25, 28.)

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate where the moving party establishes that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that [it] is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56. See Levy v. Sterling Holding Co., LLC, 544 F.3d 493, 501 (3d Cir. 2008). A factual dispute between the parties will not defeat a motion for summary judgment unless it is both genuine and material. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986); Dee v. Borough of Dunmore, 549 F.3d 225, 229 (3d Cir. 2008). A factual dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-movant, and it is material if, under the substantive law, it would affect the outcome of the suit. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Fakete v. Aetna, Inc., 308 F.3d 335, 337 (3d Cir. 2002).

The moving party must show that if the evidentiary material of record were reduced to admissible evidence in court, it would be insufficient to permit the non-moving party to carry its burden of proof. See Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986). Once the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56, "its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S.574, 586 (1986)). Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(e), the opposing party must set forth specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial and may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of its pleadings. See Martin v. Godwin, 499 F.3d 290, 295 (3d Cir. 2007).

At the summary judgment stage the court's function is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter, but rather to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249; Jiminez v. All American Rathskeller, Inc., 503 F.3d 247, 253 (3d Cir. 2007). In doing so, the court must construe the facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 600-01; Horsehead Indus., Inc. v. Paramount Communications, Inc., 258 F.3d 132 (3d Cir. 2001). The court must award summary judgment on all claims unless the non-moving party shows through affidavits or admissible evidence that an issue of material fact remains. See, e.g., Love v. Rancocas Hosp., 270 F. Supp. 2d 576, 579 (D.N.J. 2003); Koch Materials Co. v. Shore Slurry Seal, Inc., 205 F. Supp. 2d 324, 330 (D.N.J. 2002).

III. DISCUSSION

Defendant Spring Mountain Adventures, Inc. proposes two arguments in support of its summary judgment motion. First, Defendant submits that the Equipment Rental Form and Release From Liability (the "Release") signed by Plaintiff Lin contained a valid release of liability in favor of the Defendant, where Plaintiff Lin agreed not to sue the Defendant. In addition, the Defendant proposes that Plaintiff Lin's accident was a result of the inherent risk associated with the activity of skiing, for which the Defendant should not have any liability.

A. Equipment Rental Form and Release From Liability was Valid

On February 18, 2008, prior to skiing, Plaintiff Lin signed the Release, which included the following title line on the front page in bold capitalized print: ...


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