Willhide-Michiulis v. Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, LLCAnnotate this Case
Plaintiff Kathleen Willhide-Michiulis was involved in a tragic snowboarding accident at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. On her last run of the day, she collided with a snowcat pulling a snow-grooming tiller and got caught in the tiller. The accident resulted in the amputation of her left leg, several skull fractures and facial lacerations, among other serious injuries. She and her husband, Bruno Michiulis, appealed after the trial court granted defendant Mammoth Mountain Ski Area’s (Mammoth) motion for summary judgment finding the operation of the snowcat and snow-grooming tiller on the snow run open to the public was an inherent risk of snowboarding and did not constitute gross negligence. Plaintiffs contended the trial court improperly granted Mammoth’s motion for summary judgment and improperly excluded the expert declarations plaintiffs submitted to oppose the motion. They also argued the trial court improperly denied their motion to transfer venue to Los Angeles County. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded the trial court did not abuse its discretion by excluding the expert declarations. Further, although snowcats and snow-grooming tillers are capable of causing catastrophic injury, this equipment was an inherent part of the sport of snowboarding and the way in which the snowcat was operated in this case did not rise to the level of gross negligence. Because of this conclusion, the Court of Appeal held the trial court properly granted Mammoth’s summary judgment motion based on the liability waiver Willhide-Michiulis signed as part of her season-pass agreement. With no pending trial, plaintiffs could not show they were prejudiced by the court’s denial of their motion to transfer venue; thus the Court did not reach the merits of that claim.