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Skiing collision wasn't 9-year-old's fault, Utah Supreme Court says

In this Jan. 14, 2012 photo, skiers make their way up the slopes near uncovered terrain at Park City Mountain Resort in Park City.

In this Jan. 14, 2012 photo, skiers make their way up the slopes near uncovered terrain at Park City Mountain Resort in Park City. (Jim Urquhart, Associated Press)

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Thursday that a skiing collision in 2012 involving a 9-year-old girl and a woman was not the fault of the child or her parents.

The 9-year-old Kentucky resident, Shelby Sutton, collided with Stephanie Donovan, a Park City resident, on a green bunny hill at Park City Mountain Resort, according to court documents. Donovan filed a civil lawsuit in 2016 against the girl and her parents, asking the court for damages and medical expenses. She claimed that the parents and the girl were negligent on the ski slope.

The initial court filing said Donovan was significantly injured in the collision and she required a toboggan to get her off the slopes. Donovan also alleged that her injuries required multiple surgeries and decreased her quality of life.

Wednesday's opinion said the girl was skiing slowly on the hill with her father who was going backwards to watch her since she was "fearful." She was riding with the tips of her skis together in a wedge to slow down, but she lost control and accelerated past her father and into Donovan who had stopped to take a photo, the court said.

Donovan heard the girl scream, "Look out," but did not have time to react and was hit from behind. Her arm and shoulder were allegedly injured in the collision.

The Utah Supreme Court agreed with decisions made at the district court and the appellate court and ruled that neither the child, nor her parents were negligent.

The court said it is reasonable that a 9-year-old beginning skier would lose control and fall. The opinion states that the girl had ski lessons the year before, they were on a beginning hill, and her father was there to help her.

"We hold that a person has a duty to exercise reasonable care while skiing. And a 9-year-old beginner skier on a beginner ski run is held to the standard of care commensurate with children of the same age, experience and intelligence under similar circumstances," the opinion said.

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Emily Ashcraft joined as a reporter in 2021. She covers courts and legal affairs, as well as health, faith and religion news.


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