United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
JAMES B. ASHMEN, JR., Plaintiff
BIG BOULDER CORPORATION d/b/a JACK FROST/BIG BOULDER SKI RESORTS, JFFB SKI AREAS, INC. d/b/a JACK FROST/BIG BOULDER SKI RESORTS and PEAK RESORTS, INC., Defendants
M. MUNLEY JUDGE
the court for disposition is a motion for summary judgment
filed by the defendant in this negligence action. The motion
is fully briefed and ripe for disposition.
case arises from a snowboarding accident that occurred on
January 24, 2015. (Doc. 19-1, Def. Stmt. of Mat. Facts
(hereinafter “SOF”) ¶ 1). Plaintiff James
Ashmen collided with snowmaking equipment while snowboarding
down a closed trail at Big Boulder Ski Area in Lake Harmony,
PA. (Id. ¶ 2). The plaintiff, who was unaware
that the trail was closed due to improper signage,
encountered the snowmaking equipment in the middle of the
trail while he was in motion. (Id. ¶ 9). Unable
to avoid collision, he struck his leg on the snowmaking
equipment. (Id. ¶ 10). Plaintiff suffered
injury as a result. (Id. ¶ 2).
upon these facts, the plaintiff filed a two-count complaint
on January 20, 2017, against the following entities that
owned, operated, maintained and/or controlled Big Boulder Ski
Area: Defendant Big Boulder Corporation d/b/a Jack Frost/Big
Boulder Ski Resorts (hereinafter “Big Boulder”),
Defendant JFBB Ski Areas, Inc., d/b/a Jack Frost Big Boulder
Ski Resorts (hereinafter “JFBB”), and Defendant
Peak Resorts, Inc. (hereinafter “Peak Resorts”).
Plaintiff raises a negligence claim as well as a gross
negligence claim. The defendants collectively filed the
instant motion for summary judgment on September 20, 2017,
bringing this case to its present posture.
case is before us based upon diversity of citizenship. 28
U.S.C. § 1332(a). Cases are properly brought in federal
district court under the diversity statute when the action
involves citizens of different states and an amount in
controversy, exclusive of interest and costs, in excess of
$75, 000.00. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).
Instantly, Plaintiff Ashmen is a citizen of New Jersey. (Doc.
1, Compl. ¶ 3). Defendant Big Boulder is incorporated in
the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, with its principal place of
business in the same. (Id. ¶ 4). Defendant JFBB
is incorporated in Pennsylvania, with its principal place of
business in the same. (Id. ¶ 6). Defendant Peak
Resorts is also incorporated in Pennsylvania, with its
principal place of business in the same. (Id. ¶
8). As a federal court 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
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).
considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must
examine the facts in the light most favorable to the party
opposing the motion. Int'l Raw Materials, Ltd. v.
Stauffer Chem. 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 establishing 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
demonstrating that there is a genuine issue for trial.
Id. at 324.
defendants move for summary judgment on plaintiff's
negligence claims, asserting that they had no duty to protect
the plaintiff because the plaintiff assumed the inherent risk
of colliding with snowmaking equipment by engaging in the
sport of snowboarding. Plaintiff counters that there are
genuine issues of material fact in this case that preclude
summary judgment on whether colliding with such equipment was
an inherent risk. After careful review, we agree with the
Pennsylvania, the elements necessary to plead an action in
negligence are: (1) the existence of a duty or obligation
requiring a certain standard of conduct; (2) a failure to
conform to that duty, or a breach thereof; (3) a causal
connection between the breach and the harm; and (4) actual
loss or damage suffered. Atcovitz v. Gulph Mills Tennis
Club, Inc., 812 A.2d 1218, 1222 (Pa. 2002). In the
instant motion, the defendants challenge the existence of a
duty. “A duty, in negligence cases, may be defined as
an obligation, to which the law will give recognition and
effect, to conform to a particular standard of conduct toward
noted above, the defendants argue that here, they did not owe
a duty to the plaintiff because he “assumed the
inherent risk of colliding with snowmaking equiptment while
snowboarding at Big Boulder.” (Doc. 20, Def.'s Br.
in Supp. of MSJ, at 2). This language used by the defendant,
however, appears to conflate two discrete doctrines: the
voluntary assumption of the risk doctrine and the inherent
risk doctrine. We ...