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Albemarle County, Virginia

The 17-year-old female plaintiff was skiing with her friends when she slid into a ski grooming machine that was being moved from one area of the resort to another on the slope. The plaintiff contended that the defendant was negligent in moving the machine on the ski slope while skiers were present and without appropriate warning or notice to skiers. The defendant contended that there was advance notice to downhill skiers but that the plaintiff was skiing at excessive rates of speed and out of control.

The minor plaintiff was skiing at defendant Wintergreen Resort with her friends on January 20, ________. She and her friends skied all day long, and took a break for dinner. After dinner, they took the ski lift to the top of "Eagles Swoop," an intermediate ski slope. At the same time, Wintergreen was beginning to transport a snow groomer, a large snow-plow type machine used to smooth snow, up the left side of the slope. Wintergreen was transporting the groomer from one snow tube park to another because the parks were becoming icy, and needed grooming to make them slower. The park’s procedure from moving the snow groomer was to have it escorted by a snowmobile traveling 50-________ feet ahead of it.

There was no other warning to skiers, but the size and orange color and lighting of the groomer made it open and obvious to descending skiers. The plaintiff was skiing downhill and was able to turn to avoid the snowmobile but was unable to turn to avoid the snow groomer. She fell and slid approximately 90 feet into the blade of the groomer. The plaintiff contended that since she was skiing on the far left side of the slope her view of the groomer was obstructed. Further, the plaintiff contended that the defendant was making snow on the upper portions of that trail, which the plaintiff argued further obscured her visibility.

The plaintiff stopped breathing at the scene and was revived by one of the individual defendants. She was transported by helicopter to the hospital where she was diagnosed with a Glasgow Coma scale of 3 and serious orthopedic injuries. The plaintiff remained in the coma for two weeks and then spent two months recuperating at a rehabilitation facility. The plaintiff recovered from the orthopedic injuries, however she was left with a large lesion on her right frontal lobe which affects her executive brain functions such as her organizational skills, social appropriateness, judgment, motivation and short and long term planning. The plaintiff has no memory of this incident.

The plaintiff contended that the ski resort was negligent in transporting the snow groomer on a trail that was in use by skiers without appropriate warnings to approaching skiers. The plaintiff contended that the defendant’s procedure of placing a snowmobile 50-________ feet in front of the groomer was inadequate to warn approaching skiers of the groomer’s existence. The plaintiff alleged that the groomer on an open and active ski trial constituted a dangerous condition. The plaintiff claimed medical expenses of $________.

The individual defendants, the driver of the snow mobile and snow groomer, testified that the plaintiff was skiing much too fast and out of control. The defendant contended that the plaintiff was negligent and it was her own carelessness and negligence that caused her injuries. The defendant maintained that had the plaintiff been skiing in a reasonable and safe manner, she would have been able to stop or avoid the snow groomer.

After two and one-half hours of deliberations the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff and against the defendant ski resort.

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