Eighteen years would appear to be the age at which a person should be held to adult responsibility in tort matters.
On February 21, 1972, plaintiff, an experienced skier, was serving as a first aid advisor on the ski patrol at the Mad River Glen ski resort in Vermont. The facility includes a beginners slope which near its end makes an abrupt left turn. The accident occurred some 60 feet beyond the end of the slope in a flat area where plaintiff and a friend happened to be standing taking pictures. Plaintiff had been working in the first aid room which is adjacent to the area where plaintiff and her friend were standing.
Defendant, then 17 years of age, was a beginning skier who had limited cross-country skiing experience but had never attempted a downhill run. Nor had he ever been to Mad River Glen before. Upon arrival, defendant was sent to the beginners' slope. However, instead of riding the mechanical T-bar lift to the top, defendant confined his first run to the lower portion of the slope. He walked a quarter of the way up the hill and started to ski down, successfully completing the comparatively short run of 30 feet or so until he came to the abrupt left turn. In attempting to negotiate the turn, defendant lost control over his momentum and direction. He saw the two girls ahead of him but because of the short distance remaining, his efforts to regain control and his lack of experience, he did not call out until he was almost upon the girls. Plaintiff attempted to get out of the way but was unable to do so and was struck and knocked down by defendant.
The experienced skier filed a negligence action for injuries sustained in a skiing accident against the minor. The trial court charged the jury that the applicable standard of care was that degree of care which a reasonably prudent person of the same age and experience as the minor would have exercised under the circumstances. The jury returned a verdict, which specifically found that the minor was not. The injured skier sought review and the superior court reversed on the ground that the proper standard of care was that of a reasonably prudent adult under similar circumstances because skiing was primarily an adult activity.
Is the minor liable for the injuries sustained by the skier in the skiing accident?
The reinstated the jury's verdict in favor of the minor. The court held that the proper standard of care was as the trial court stated, that of a person of similar age, intelligence, and experience. Moreover, the court held that the trial court properly instructed the jury that the appropriate standard of care was that standard of care that was generally applicable to minors.