Facing a Superior Court Appellate Opinion tossing out 50 years of Release law, Attorneys Gerard J. Cipriani and Jamie L. Lenzi, of the Firm worked together representing Hidden Valley Ski Resort to gain the attention of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to review the issue.
Drawing on her years of experience as a Supreme Court law clerk and Appellate litigator, Ms. Lenzi crafted a Petition for Certiorari, pointing out the inherent deficiencies in the legal analysis offered by the three Judge Superior Court panel, which deviated from settled Pennsylvania law and completely ignored one of the Resort’s two grounds for Appeal.
After several months, the Supreme Court advised the parties that it would consider the Appeal and directed focus on several issues.
Following the filing of an extensive Brief, Mr. Cipriani appeared for oral argument before a reconfigured Supreme Court which now included two of the Judges who authored the negative Opinion while members of the Superior Court below. While the two new Justices were prevented by protocol from participating, there was a noticeable chill in the air at oral argument.
Regardless, a spirited debate occurred and the four Justices able to participate were interested in the points made by both parties. Fortunately for the sports industry in general, Hidden Valley received all four votes needed to reverse the Superior Court’s Opinion.
It has now been clearly re-established that Releases can be effectively drawn, are a respected part of Pennsylvania law once again, and it is possible to insulate your business from liability when Releases are properly drafted. Additionally, the Supreme Court, while chastising the Lower Court for failing to consider the Assumption of the Risk argument, also agreed with the Ski Resort that the injured plaintiff had assumed the risk, finding in favor of the Resort on that ground as well.
While the ruling came with little fanfare, the effect of this ruling saves the sport of downhill skiing in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and any other participatory sport reliant on the use of Releases. Congratulations to our Team for an important job well done!