A few notes:
The special Wyoming liability statute, which protects ski areas in many cases, seems to be irrelevant here. Based on the (admittedly scanty) evidence in this thread, it seems the basis of the suit is the rental shop's negligence, i.e. that the shop employees failed to exercise due care and as a result either misadjusted the bindings or sent her off with bindings that weren't functioning properly (due to a defect, damage or something like that).
(a) Any person who takes part in any sport or recreational opportunity assumes the inherent risks in that sport or recreational opportunity, whether those risks are known or unknown, and is legally responsible for any and all damage, injury or death to himself or other persons or property that results from the inherent risks in that sport or recreational opportunity.
Negligence in installing and examining bindings is not an "inherent risk" of the sport.
(b) A provider of any sport or recreational opportunity is not required to eliminate, alter or control the inherent risks within the particular sport or recreational opportunity.
See prior point; plus a suit against the rental shop isn't against the provider of the opportunity (the ski area selling tickets), but against a provider of equipment (the ski area renting equipment).
(c) Actions based upon negligence of the provider wherein the damage, injury or death is not the result of an inherent risk of the sport or recreational opportunity shall be preserved pursuant to W.S. 1-1-109.
See first point. The statute referred to is the comparative fault statute, which would allocate the loss between the skier and shop depending on how much each was at fault.
I find the 4 year gap before filing very interesting.... chances are, the actual equipment the woman was using has since been taken out of rotation.... So without the actual equipment, and the rental form being iffy, I don't see where they are going to form the evidentiary basis for negligence.
It's not all that unusual for people to sit on their claims until the statute of limitations is about to run. The statute in Wyoming for personal injury/negligence cases is, indeed, four years.
I'd be very surprised if the rental shop doesn't do some basic work with the equipment post-accident as a matter of course. If they have any kind of loss-control program, they'd have the bindings inspected after every accident, and likely save them.
If the equipment is missing, it's much more likely to hurt the defendant's case than the opposite. The woman's prima facie case is pretty simple: ski bindings are supposed to release before legs break, the ski bindings didn't release before the woman's leg broke -> something was wrong with the binding. That doesn't mean she wins. Ski bindings don't release properly 100% of the time. But they do most of the time, so absent some sort of evidence that the bindings were properly adjusted and tested, the inference is going to go heavily against the shop - particularly since they were the ones who could have preserved the evidence and failed to do so.
I'm not sure I see the relevance of the rental form. It's not like the they're going to be able to convince anyone that the equipment wasn't rented from them. The absence of the form, if it has any effect at all, could only hurt the rental shop, not help it. But it probably wouldn't matter. And - as noted above - if the shop has any remotely well-designed procedures, they preserve the forms after someone gets hurt. They likely preserve them for 4 years+ in any event.
Not disagreeing with your general point; however, there is one huge variable here that makes our justice system unfair: MONEY. People who have it can afford much better lawyers, while there are some pretty crappy / incompetent public defenders out there. Just sayin'...
In some cases, but not ones like this. The vast majority of personal injury cases are taken by the plaintiff's lawyer on contingency. Typically, the plaintiff pays nothing: the lawyer works for a share of the recovery. You don't need money, indeed wealthier clients may actually make worse plaintiffs in some cases.
As already mentioned, public defenders only work on criminal cases, which this certainly is not. If you're a defendant (or a plaintiff) in a civil case, you have no right to an attorney.
In any event, it's safe to say that Four Seasons (or, really, its liability insurance carrier) has considerably more money than virtually any plaintiff.
The way the resort will win (which they have a pretty good chance of doing) is by showing evidence that, after the accident, the windows on the bindings showed the DIN was set at X.X (in my, fortunately limited, experience, the ski patrol note the DIN setting in their accident report); that X.X is the manufacturer's recommended and standard setting for a Type I skier of the appropriate weight, age, gender & boot sole length; that an expert tested the binding after the accident and found it working properly; that they have regular procedures for periodically testing rental binding function; that those procedures are consistent with industry practice and recommendations; and that (in fact) falls at slow speeds are more likely to result in injury due to non-release than falls at fast speeds (contrary to the plaintiff's claim).
On the "marital duties" business, the reporter is being a bit goofy. It's usually called "loss of consortium," and it's a standard claim in appropriate cases. It's probably not a huge part of the damage claim in any event. The reporter probably skimmed the complaint quickly, and that stuck out because it's a separate cause of action (technically, a different plaintiff).
Edited by sjjohnston - 3/5/12 at 9:08pm