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Rutherford v. Talisker Canyons Finance Co., 2019 UT 27 (June 27, 2019)

Jun 27, 2019

In reviewing a denial of summary judgment for the owners of the Canyons Resort, the Utah Supreme Court took the opportunity to evaluate two prior decisions dealing with personal injury liability arising from recreational activities.  First, although the decision was technically superseded by a subsequent statute, the court unanimously upheld the reasoning of Hawkins ex rel. Hawkins v. Peart, 2001 UT 94.  The court held that, absent specific legislative enactments to the contrary, preinjury releases signed by parents on behalf of minors are against public policy and unenforceable as a matter of law.

A majority of the court also reaffirmed the interpretation of Utah’s Inherent Risks of Skiing Act laid out in Clover v. Snowbird Ski Resort, 808 P.2d 1037, but “streamline[d]” Clover’s two-step interpretive test by collapsing it into a single reasonableness inquiry.  In a lengthy partial dissent, Associate Chief Justice Lee argued that Clover’s test is incompatible with the plain statutory text, unworkable in practical terms, and ripe for overruling.