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Tag: Kennedy v. Coe

No Legal Duty of Care Between "Ski Buddies"

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing a novel claim; whether ‘ski buddies’ owe each other a legal duty of care.
This week’s case (Kennedy v. Coe) involved a heli-skiing expedition.  The Plaintiff’s husband and the Defendant never met before.  The skiers were to ski in a buddy system for certain runs and the two were paired up for this purpose.
During a run which did not require buddy supervision the Plaintiff’s husband had a fatal accident.  The Defendant did not notice at the time but when he realized the Plaintiff’s husband was absent he alerted the group and a search was undertaken.  The Plaintiff sued for damages arguing that had the Defendant paid better attention the search could have been undertaken sooner and possibly saved her husband’s life.
Madam Justice Fischer dismissed the claim finding the Defendant acted reasonably in the circumstances and even if he did not there was no legal duty of care in these circumstances.  In reaching this conclusions the Court provided the following reasons:
[99]         There is no question that there are many inherent risks in back-country heli-skiing such that all skiers and snowboarders who agree to be buddies should look out for each other so far as is practicable in whatever circumstances they may find themselves. However, translating a moral obligation into a legal one requires as a first step a relationship of proximity that meets the factors established in the jurisprudence I have reviewed. For the reasons I have outlined, I conclude that none of the three factors in Childs support the imposition of a positive duty to act in the circumstances of this case, and the plaintiff has failed to establish aprima facie duty of care. A skier participating in guided, back-country skiing who agrees to be assigned as a ski buddy with another skier on a particular run is not, without more, in a relationship of sufficient proximity to give rise to a duty of care to the other skier when they are not skiing as buddies on other runs. The “more” may require clear instructions from the guides or a clearly defined mutual understanding between ski buddies of their roles and responsibilities to each other in varying terrain, snow conditions and other circumstances, which would be subject to an analysis of the contrary policy considerations at stage two of the Annstest…
[121]     The plaintiff’s claim is dismissed. It is indeed very sad that Mr. Kennedy met a tragic and untimely death, but he did so after a terrible accident while participating in a high-risk sport and responsibility for his death cannot be placed on Mr. Coe.