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Ski lift maintenance may prevent injuries

According to those in the ski industry, New York residents and others are more likely to get hurt or die driving to a ski resort than on a ski lift. The National Ski Areas Association claims that the last death caused by a ski lift malfunction occurred in 1993. Overall, there have only been 12 deaths attributed to faulty ski lifts since 1973.

In many cases, a lack of vigilance on the part of ski lift operators may be the cause of malfunctions. In December 2010, a 56-year-old man and his 26-year-old son were injured when they fell roughly 30 feet from their lift chair at Sugarloaf in Maine. The father suffered a back injury while the son spent time in a brace after experiencing a compression spinal fracture. Six other people had to be taken to the hospital for treatment of their injuries.

An inspection revealed wear as well as a design modification to the 35-year-old lift. While a lift that age is considered old, there is no standard as to how long they should be kept in use. High winds were also sighted as a contributing factor to the accident. As a result of the incident, the East Spillman lift was replaced with a modern quad-chair lift, and the $3 million replacement went into service in December 2011.

Those who suffer serious injuries on another party's property may be entitled to compensation for their losses under the theory of premises liability. Property owners owe a duty of care to their guests and to others who are entitled to be on those premises, and a failure to keep equipment in reasonable repair could constitute a breach of that duty.

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