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Proposed WI Ski Area Law Bad for Skiers and Tourism?

February 8, 2012

WAUSAU, Wis. – Skiers would take on nearly all the risk associated with a day on the ski hill or cross-country trail under legislation that gets a public hearing on Wednesday. Christine Bremer Muggli, a Wausau trial attorney and past president of the Wisconsin Association for Justice, says the proposed law goes too far.

"You can go on the worst roller-coaster in the state of Wisconsin and have more protections than you would have under this bill if you get on a ski lift."

Muggli strongly disagrees with supporters of the bills, SB 388 and AB 495, who say the change would bring Wisconsin law into line with Colorado.

"That's absolutely not the case. We've spoken with counsel in Colorado who practice in this area. They've been very clear that this bill now pending in Wisconsin violates the existing national standards regarding skier and snowboarder collision cases, and regarding snowmobile or groomer accidents."

In addition to making the skier responsible for being in control at all times, Muggli says, the bill would make the skier responsible to assess every risk – even the ones created by the ski area, in the way it has designed the course. She disagrees with those who claim the bill simply clarifies everyone's responsibilities.

"Absolutely false statement. What this bill does is, it puts all the responsibilities on the skiers and almost none on the ski area operators."

She says the argument that the bill would result in lower insurance costs is false, too.

"Insurance companies still charge about the same; things don't change that way. All that happens is a creeping immunity where people's rights are taken away."

Muggli says the proposal brings back the doctrine of "assumption of risk," which Wisconsin and most other states did away with decades ago. She believes it would make Wisconsin a far less desirable skiing destination than Michigan, Colorado and other states known for their inviting slopes and fresh powder.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI