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Soderberg v. Anderson

Supreme Court of Minnesota

January 23, 2019

Julie A. Soderberg, Respondent,
v.
Lucas Anderson, Appellant.

          Court of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts

          James W. Balmer, Falsani, Balmer, Peterson & Balmer, Duluth, Minnesota; and Wilbur W. Fluegel, Fluegel Law Office, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for respondent.

          Nathan T. Cariveau, Eden Prairie, Minnesota; and John M. Bjorkman, Larson King, LLP, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for appellant.

          Brian N. Johnson, Peter Gray, Nilan, Johnson, Lewis, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota, for amicus curiae Minnesota Ski Areas Association.

          Peter F. Lindquist, Jardine, Logan & O'Brien, P.L.L.P., Lake Elmo, Minnesota; and Thomas P. Aicher, Cleary Shahi & Aicher, P.C., Rutland, Vermont, for amicus curiae National Ski Areas Association.

          Jeffrey J. Lindquist, Pustorino, Tilton, Parrington & Lindquist, PLLC, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for amicus curiae Minnesota Defense Lawyers Association.

          Matthew J. Barber, James Ballentine, Schwebel, Goetz & Sieben, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota, for amicus curiae Minnesota Association for Justice.

         SYLLABUS

         The doctrine of implied primary assumption of risk does not apply to a claim in negligence for injuries arising out of recreational downhill skiing and snowboarding.

Affirmed.

          OPINION

          LILLEHAUG, JUSTICE.

         In 2016, a ski area outside Duluth, Spirit Mountain, was the scene of an accident that caused severe injuries to a ski instructor. While teaching a young student, the instructor was struck by an adult snowboarder performing an aerial trick. The instructor sued the snowboarder for negligence, but the district court dismissed her claim based on the doctrine of implied primary assumption of risk, which is a complete bar to tort liability. The court of appeals reversed. Soderberg v. Anderson, 906 N.W.2d 889 (Minn.App. 2018). This appeal requires that we decide, for the first time, whether to extend that doctrine to recreational skiing and snowboarding. We decide not to extend it and, therefore, affirm the court of appeals' decision, though on different grounds.

         FACTS

         On the morning of January 3, 2016, appellant Lucas Anderson, age 35, went snowboarding at Spirit Mountain near Duluth. Spirit Mountain welcomes both skiers and snowboarders to enjoy runs marked "easiest," "more difficult," and "difficult." Anderson considered himself to be an expert snowboarder. He began skiing in elementary school and took up snowboarding when he was 15.

         When Anderson snowboarded at Spirit Mountain, he typically warmed up by going down less challenging runs. That morning, Anderson went down part of a "more difficult" run called Scissor Bill, which merges with an "easiest" run called Four Pipe. As he left Scissor Bill and entered Four Pipe, Anderson slowed down, looked up for other ...


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