Originally Posted by HRPufnStf
^^^ Agreed. Not just in this case, but everywhere. The world gets to be more of a Nanny State every year.
Trying to be optimistic here, but there is a slim thread of a chance that this case will be decided in a sane manner, which could help set legal precedent for this kind of nonsense suit at the federal level.
Hey, if you don't have hope, you don't have anything!
A few quick observations.
I don't know why this case is in federal court because the decision doesn't discuss the basis of federal jurisdiction (something that really pisses off federal appellate courts). While a citizen of state X can sue a citizen of State Y in federal court (diversity jurisdiction), foreign nationals cannot. My best guess is that someone on the plaintiffs' side has dual citizenship with a state other than Montana. The federal court in such a case applies state law. Here it's obviously Montana law. Whether the judge is 100% right or 100% wrong, it won't be binding on Montana state courts, or even other federal courts.
Denying summary judgment just means that there is a question of fact, even a small one, that must be decided by a jury. Trial courts are hesitant to grant summary judgment on any close question because an appellate court can just send it back for trial if it finds a question of fact.
Although every state may interpret it differently, in general the doctrine of assumption of risk, as applied to skiing, is that the skier assumes all risks inherent in the sport. So, since snow is slippery, ice forms when the temperature falls, trees are hard if you hit them and tend not to move out of your way, etc., and you get injured or worse, you have no right of recovery against the ski area (which doesn't mean you can't sue them anyway). I would think that tree wells would be included in the category of risks inherent in skiing, especially off-piste skiing. You don't have to warn about every conceivable risk. Also, as a general rule, remedial measures taken after the fact, like amending a law or rule to specifically include a risk that wasn't previously mentioned, do not amount to negligence.
So why would they sue? Because defendants might settle, just because it might be cheaper than defending it. Happens all the time.