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Recreation Liability Reforms Proposed In State Bill

SALEM, OR -- Fitness and recreation companies want state lawmakers to allow enforcement of liability waivers.

"Court rulings starting back in 2014, and then another one that kind of followed on that precedent this summer, have nullified liability waivers," says Jordan Elliott, President of the Pacific Northwest Ski Areas Association, "It’s taken things out of balance between personal responsibility -  that I think all Oregonains recognize when they’re doing something inherently risky - And then also, the business accountability when grossly negligent operations start to happen."

Senate Bill 754 was introduced with bipartisan support and is now in the Judiciary Committee. Elliott says it would align Oregon with other western states, and restore liability laws to how they were practiced prior to 2014. He tells KBND News, "When people sign up to do an inherently risky activity and they’re paying a business of any recreation or fitness type to help facilitate that, it would mean that personal responsibility of doing an inherently risky thing is acknowledged unless that business provider is grossly negligent." He adds, "Without this reform, consumers are going to start to face higher costs of insurance and recreation opportunities are going to start to become fewer. We’ve seen insurers pull out of the state in some sectors. We’ve seen providers already limit activities; and that’s going to continue." 

Mt. Bachelor President and General Manager John McLeod issued a written statement in support of the bill, saying in part:

Without this needed liability reform, ski resorts and other recreation organizations face significantly increased costs as compared to recreation businesses in other western states, as well as the very real prospect of having to significantly modify operations, such as potentially closing areas of our ski resort when certain natural conditions exist.

We firmly believe this legislation is needed to restore the balance between the responsibilities of recreation and fitness organizations and the responsibility of individuals participating in sports and fitness activities that involve inherent risks. On behalf of Mt. Bachelor, I look forward to engaging members of the Oregon legislature to share our perspective and work with them to bring this important legislation to the Governor’s desk.

Central Oregon State Senators Tim Knopp and Daniel Bonham are sponsors of the SB 754. 

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