A Sydney GP is set to be awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages for an incident at Perisher Blue ski resort due to the supposed negligence of a chairlift operator. As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, Dr Ghita Nair-Smith on July 18, 2003 had been waiting with friends for a chair lift to take her to the top of a mountain. As the lift approached, Dr Nair-Smith noticed the chair’s safety bar was “down”, as did the lift attendant, who “lunged forward, grabbed the back corner of the chair with his left hand, pulled the chair back towards him, and at an angle flipped the safety bar back up with his right hand and let go.” As the Supreme Court heard in June, the chair’s handrail then struck her in the groin, damaging ligaments around her lower back and groin. The doctor claimed the damage has caused her “significant ongoing pain” and now lives with a consequent psychiatric pain disorder that has affected her ability to work full-time and reduced her quality of life.
It was reported that Perisher’s defence had claimed that the lift attendant had raised the safety bar in time for Dr Nair-Smith to board the chairlift, and had the injured woman been standing in the correct position, the collision would not have occurred. While the fine print on the organisation’s lift pass states that they are “not liable to you for any loss, damage, injury of any accidental loss to a person or property whether arising from default, negligence, misconduct or otherwise by us”, Justice Beech Jones found that the actions of the attendant were “negligent and causative of the accident”. His judgement found that Dr Nair-Smith had likely been standing in the wrong place because she had realized the safety bar was not raised and had panicked; and that although injury was “not inevitable”, Perisher had breached its duty of care to the doctor.
With the snow now falling and the ski season under way, we encourage people to read the fine print on their lift pass and take care when on the mountain.