The operators of Mt. Hood Skibowl in Oregon have decided to suspend bike park operations following a recent verdict against them in an injury lawsuit. The Oregonian reports a jury awarded $11.4M to Gabriel Owens, a rider who was injured after crashing into a sign at the park back in 2016. The legal complaint can be viewed here.
A post on the park’s website says, “In light of a recent unprecedented plaintiff verdict in a mountain biking lawsuit against Mt. Hood Skibowl, we have made the difficult decision to suspend all mountain bike operations for the summer of 2022. After 32 years without a serious mountain bike claim of any kind, the winds have shifted. Our industry has focused heavily on user education and operational best practices, while working hard toward mitigating risk where possible. Eliminating all risks with recreational activities—especially in downhill mountain biking through forests at high speed— is something that is just not possible.”
The post goes on to say that other western states offer better protection for outdoor recreation providers against lawsuits than Oregon currently offers. Colorado law, for example, says skiers assume “the risk of and all legal responsibility for any injury to person or property resulting from any of the inherent dangers and risks of skiing.” Oregon’s law doesn’t go so far as to label skiing as a dangerous sport, stating only that “an individual who engages in the sport of skiing, alpine or nordic, accepts and assumes the inherent risks of skiing insofar as they are reasonably obvious, expected or necessary.” In both states facility operators are responsible for providing proper signage and a reasonably safe environment.
The Mt. Hood Skibowl statement seems to leave open the possibility of re-opening the bike park at some point in the future. “Given the current legal landscape in Oregon, the future of Mountain Biking at Mt. Hood Skibowl remains uncertain while we work through the judicial process with hopes to find more effective ways of protection for offering these popular—albeit inherently risky—recreational activities.”
It’s unclear whether other bike parks in the state will modify their operations as a result of this verdict.
This dude’s buddies probably hate him now .. I’ve gotten hurt mountain biking, and would never dream of suing the park I was riding in ..
It’s an inherently dangerous hobby.
Dude must’ve had a great attorney.
I think most judges would throw this case out.
It’s sobering to read the account of the fall. Came off on a double black diamond and hit a 4 x 4 signpost, it caused horrendous injuries. He’s paraplegic and it doesn’t sound as if he’ll live very long.
This is a vexed question for mountain biking-it is inherently dangerous and he could have suffered an injury like this hitting a rock or a tree on the same trail.
However he did not do so, and the signpost was constructed contrary to clear trail building rules which require all signage to be erected on breakable posts.
Hopefully the award will have been covered by insurance, but what should we do about risks like this? If we hit a man-made object on a downhill trail, we might think about criticising the trail builder ourselves.
I suggest that the facts of this case are digested by every trail builder/maintenance crew, and all should go and look at their work, checking that they are not putting riders at risk unnecessarily.
The only reason he succeeded at trial was the breach of the clear requirements as to sign safety. If he had hit a natural object, he would not have got home.
Also he doubtless would rather have his spine intact then be receiving the damages award, which will probably substantially be eaten up by health care and legal fees.
Insoluble conflict between fun and consequences of modest errors perhaps?
Are there actual trail building rules that require all signage to be erected on breakable post?
Yes the legal claim document (‘Particulars of Claim’ as we would call it in England) contains the details of the specification at about paras 14-16.
The bike park erected signs using 4“ x 4“ wood rather than breakable posts and, as the rider was coming down a double black diamond called Cannonball. I think, he came off and connected with one of the sign posts, presumably still going very fast. He broke multiple bones in his back and neck and suffered other injuries at the time and since the accident I don’t think he’s done very well medically-injuries were v severe.
Well, knowing this info, I could see having a strong case… We use flexible plastic posts for all of our trail markers… Suing to make a point and get the park to change their signage, and be more aware when building trails is one thing… Suing for an amount to ruin someones livelihood and shutting the park down is another… I can see both sides…
Similar to a person getting sued because they made a mistake (Maybe hit a kid crossing the road because they were looking down to change the radio station) But does a person deserve to be sued for an innocent mistake for a high enough amount that it ruins their life?
I broke my neck 4 years ago doing something stupid on a bike… Could’ve been in a wheelchair the rest of my life… I definitely feel for him…
First, I’m delighted that you escaped paralysis after your fall-kudos to you. I hope you are still enjoying riding!
But yes, you highlight what is clearly a conundrum whatever we do. Drivers who glance away from the road but kill or injure someone are covered by insurance, and big awards like this are paid out of the pockets of many other drivers‘ premiums. We don’t begrudge the injured person’s payout.
Perhaps the answer is we should as mountain bikers recognise the risks of ghastly injury and be prepared to cough up much more in terms of insurance each time we go to ride on a site where there is high risk? The owners of this site will have been insured, but this year the premium was probably too high for them to reopen, bad news for all riders.
Did you actually read the filing? He didn’t “… came off on a double black diamond and hit a 4×4”. He “lost control of his mountain bike and slid down the hill crashing into the post”.
He probably should have his medical bills paid for. Lost wages? That’s on him.
Durr. I read the thing from beginning to end, but it would seem that you haven’t bothered to read a word of it before leaping down my throat. I should take on the link provided by Jeff Barber and then read paragraphs 29 to 34, if nothing else. First the Cannonball is a double black diamond on which Mr Owens was riding his MTB and second he did the 4 x 4“ signpost to the side of the trail when he lost control of his bike. That’s what caused the injuries.
In future, please check your facts before you are rude to people
Yep. Thanks loser. Probably got a trophy for coming in second to last as a kid!
Is there a link to the actual decision? I just found the complaint
Anybody know his injury? Probably strained his crotch. At 54 I up my over the bars card yearly, bleed and eat some serious rocks and dirt, limp back to the car only to say ,dam that was a lot of fun and hopefully i’ll get it next time
There is a list of his injuries in the article.
I see now he sustained serious injury. Good chance he was out of his skill zone. No doubt on the attorney and 11 million? WOW Gonna put a lot of parks in concern I would think, not good
Do you have any information (photos) of what this “ditch” was like?
………..and of exactly where the 4×4 post was placed.
Here’s a copy of the complaint:
How freaking lame. Loser. Thanks for ruining that park.
I am 76 years old and still ride. I can’t tell you how many crashes I have had. I would never think of sueing a business who owned the trail I crashed on. Grow up dude.
Never have I ever got on my mountain bike and didn’t think that I had a chance of seriously wiping out!
and on that note this case should never have been won by the rider. In a day and age where it is becoming harder and harder to find places to ride this news is disappointing.
incredible 11m plus ? this dude better be brain dead or a quadriplegic to get this amount of bling. Otherwise absolutely ridiculous.
It doesn’t matter what kind of injury he got.
He knew what he was doing. He knew the risk.
Why did’t he filled a complain against his mother when he was born? Being alive is a big risk. Everyone alive will certainly die…