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Hugh Emory Successfully Defends Ski Resort

On October 4, 2012, a Carbon County, Pennsylvania jury returned a defense verdict for Cipriani & Werner client, Big Boulder Ski Area, and its operating company, JFBB Ski Areas, Inc., in the case of Donnelly v. JFBB Ski Areas, Inc., No. 10-0060 (Carbon County 2010). Mrs. Donnelly alleged that she suffered a fractured right wrist and related injuries as the result of a slip and fall accident on severe, icy conditions of the Big Boulder parking lot on January 15, 2008. The accident was not reported to Big Boulder at the time, and the Plaintiff did not seek any first aid from the Big Boulder Ski Patrol, so Big Boulder had no record of the accident or any investigation as to conditions at the scene. However, a credit card transaction showing the purchase of lift tickets and medical records made it clear that Mrs. Donnelly was at Big Boulder on the date of her accident.

The trial took place over three days in the Carbon County Courthouse in Jim Thorpe, PA. The Plaintiff presented evidence that the parking lot was ice-covered, uneven, bumpy, had ridges of ice and “waterfalls” of ice and snow. Much of this testimony was contradictory to deposition testimony of the same witness, and the contradictions were effectively argued to the jury.

Because the accident had not been reported to Big Boulder, it did not have any direct evidence as to conditions at the time. However, it did present evidence as to its customary practices and maintenance activity conducted earlier on the day of the accident. The trial judge, Judge Steven Serfass, approved Big Boulder’s proposed jury charge that the case was governed by Pennsylvania’s “hills and ridges” doctrine. The jury presumably rejected Plaintiff's evidence as to the presence of “hills and ridges”, and returned a verdict of no negligence after just thirty minutes of deliberation.

Trial counsel for Big Boulder was Hugh Emory. Hugh joined Cipriani & Werner on January 1, 2012 as “of counsel” after practicing law for 39 years with Duane Morris & Heckscher and then his own firm, Ryan, Emory & Ryan. During that time, Hugh had developed an extensive practice in the representation of ski areas and other resorts in eastern Pennsylvania, a practice which he brought with him to Cipriani & Werner. This supplemented a similar practice which has been developed in the western part of Pennsylvania by named partner Gerry Cipriani. Hugh’s practice over the years in the recreational law area has been exclusively on the defense side and has included the defense of downhill ski and snowboard cases, alpine slide cases, water park cases, skating rink cases as well as general, premises liability cases on behalf of ski areas and other recreational facilities.

Please feel free to contact Hugh as 610-862-1867 or at