Vine v. Bear Valley Ski Co., 118 Cal. App. 4th 577 (2004)

Charlene Vine suffered a broken back, resulting in paraplegia, when she fell while attempting a snowboard jump at an employee party hosted by her employer, Bear Valley Ski Company. A Bear Valley employee had reshaped the jump, using a snow cat, for use by guests at the party. In her lawsuit, Vine contended that the reshaped jump was a dangerous condition that increased the risks to snowboarders beyond those inherent in the sport itself. A jury awarded Vine $3.727 million in special damages and $713,000 in noneconomic damages. Bear Valley appealed and contended, among other things, that the trial court had erred in refusing to rule that workers’ compensation was Vine’s exclusive remedy. The Court of Appeal affirmed that ruling, holding that Labor Code § 3352(f) exempts from workers’ compensation an employee of a ski-lift operator who is injured while not performing any prescribed duties and while participating in recreational activities on his or her own initiative. However, the appellate court held that the trial court had erred in refusing to allow Bear Valley to raise as a defense Vine’s assumption of risk and reversed the judgment. Cf. Waste Management Inc. v. Superior Court, 119 Cal. App. 4th 105 (2004) (parent corporation of employer could not be liable for employee’s wrongful death based on parent’s control of employer’s budget).