top of page


Snow Doubt About It: Pennsylvania Supreme Court Defers to the Snow Tubing Experts (PA)

December 18, 2020

Share to:

<p style="text-align: justify;">In<em> <a href="">Bourgeois v. Snow Time Inc</a>.,</em> the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reopened the plaintiff’s dismissed claims against a snow tubing facility because it determined that the lower courts failed to view the expert reports in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Bourgeois was riding a snow tube headfirst when he collided with a folded kitchen floor mat that Defendant’s employees had placed at the end of the track to slow riders.  The collision abruptly stopped the tube and sent Bourgeois flying into the snow.  As a result, he hyperextended his spinal cord, resulting in quadriplegia.  He brought his personal injury action against the snow tube facility operator and its parent company, claiming that the operator allowed its employees to negligently and recklessly place the kitchen mats down, which then created unsafe conditions.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">On defendants’ motion for summary judgment, the trial court dismissed Bourgeois’ negligence claims because it determined that Bourgeois had agreed to a valid, enforceable, and sufficiently conspicuous exculpatory agreement in his snow tubing pass.  The trial court dismissed Bourgeois recklessness and gross negligence claims because it determined that the facility placed the mats to help riders, and not in a conscious disregard for riders’ safety.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;"></p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment, reasoning that Bourgeois did not establish a prima facie case of recklessness or gross negligence. Specifically, that Court held Bourgeois did not proffer an expert who adequately established the standard of care owed by a snow tubing facility.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The Pennsylvania Supreme Court herein reversed and remanded.  It determined that the Pennsylvania Superior Court had abused its discretion by excusing the trial court’s failure to view Bourgeois’s expert reports in the light most favorable to him (as the non-moving party).  The Pennsylvania Supreme Court reasoned that, although the reports might not have explicitly opined on the standard of care, the reports created a sufficient issue of fact, which should have been submitted to the jury.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Ultimately, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the high bar facing defendants when attempting to have a case dismissed on summary judgment.  Courts will go to lengths to permit plaintiffs be heard by a jury.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Thanks to John Lang for his contribution to this post. If you have any questions or comments, please contact <a href="">Thomas Bracken</a>.</p>


bottom of page