RICHMOND, Va. (Legal Newsline) - The Virginia Supreme Court said in a ruling this month that a ride at a snow tubing park did qualify as an amusement device under state regulations.
The Court, in its 10-page opinion filed Jan. 13, reversed the judgment of a trial court and remanded the case.
Great Eastern Resort Management, Inc., owns and operates the Peaked Mountain Express, a snow tubing park on a mountainside in the Massanutten Resort.
On Jan. 27, 2006, Jeanne Vuich says she went to the snow tubing park and rode down the slope on a tube. Allegedly, Vuich's tube slid onto the run-out area at the end of the chute-like lane, but the tube did not stop and she hit the blue wall located at the end of the run-out area, sustaining serious spinal injuries.
Vuich then filed a complaint against Great Eastern, seeking compensatory and punitive damages. She asserted her injuries resulted from "negligent design and operation of the snow tubing ride."
She also alleged that her injuries resulted from Great Eastern's failure to comply with the state's Amusement Device Regulations, relating to the design and construction of gravity rides. In response, Great Eastern filed a motion for partial summary judgment and for a declaration that the regulations did not apply to the operation of the snow tubing ride.
The Circuit Court of the City of Charlottesville determined that the snow tubing ride was not an amusement device because "a device or structure... that typically would be a building, a structure that is manufactured and is not a slope."
The circuit court entered an order granting Great Eastern's motion for partial summary judgment, and Vuich filed a petition for certification of an interlocutory appeal.
Senior Justice Elizabeth B. Lacy, who wrote the Court's opinion, disagreed with the circuit court's opinion, pointing to the ride's different elements.
"The mountain slope upon which the snow tubing ride is located, while providing the platform on which the ride occurs, does not do so in its natural, undisturbed state," she wrote.
It was, she wrote, "considerably reformed."
Furthermore, Lacy wrote, an integral part of the ride was the blue wall made of stadium padding.
These elements, the Court said, satisfy the requirement that an amusement device be a structure.
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.