Zip lines have become a popular attraction at many outdoor venues, but they can lead to devastating injuries if proper safety precautions aren't followed. In October 2016, our client Tom expected to enjoy a fun outing with his partner speeding down the zip line at Mt. Crescent Ski Area in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Unfortunately, he ended up suffering permanently disabling injuries.
The zip line our client was on began on a 24-foot-high platform on top of the ski hill and extended 1,576 feet from start to finish. Riders reached speeds of up to 40 miles per hour before landing on a platform at the bottom of the hill. While our client's partner completed the ride safely, a facility employee failed to reset the zip line's braking system before our client reached the platform. Tom sped past the platform at approximately 35 miles per hour with no ability to brake—hitting a wooden pole at the base of the zip line and fracturing his neck.
Liability Waivers Don't Offer Limitless Protection
At first glance, it would seem that Tom would have an airtight case against the facility. However, he signed a liability waiver before riding. The waiver stated that he understood the potential danger posed by the zip line and agreed to assume responsibility for injuries that may occur.
Liability waivers are a common barrier to successful personal injury claims in Iowa. State courts have consistently ruled in favor of businesses that had customers sign waivers before they were injured—even when the injury victim didn't fully understand the risks involved or what rights they could be forfeiting.
When Tom's case was heard in district court, the court granted summary judgment in favor of Mt. Crescent. The court ruled that the liability waiver prevented him from seeking compensation for his injuries, even though our depositions revealed that the staff at the resort did not have the education and training needed to safely operate the zip line.
Believing there was ample evidence to show willful and reckless conduct caused our client's injuries, we appealed the decision to the Iowa Supreme Court by arguing that the district court's ruling overlooked the differences between "ordinary" negligence and "gross" negligence.
Parting from decades of prior case law upholding waivers, the justices held this waiver unenforceable, and our client's case is now scheduled for trial in August 2022.
Do You Need to Speak to an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney?
Have you suffered serious injuries in a ski resort or amusement park accident caused by another party's negligence? Do you have questions about your rights or how an attorney can help you? Contact the Law Office of Matthew A. Lathrop by completing our online form or calling 402-281-9668 to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.