The BC Court of Appeal has ruled that Ziptrek Ecotours is liable after a woman was injured in a company bus accident.
This reverses an earlier judgment by the BC Supreme Court, which dismissed Karen Niedermeyer's action against the company.
Niedermeyer, of Australia, claimed she suffered significant injuries in 2008 when the Ziptrek van she was riding in with a group of international students went off a gravel road and rolled. She filed a lawsuit against the driver of the van, and the company, alleging the company and the driver were liable.
Supreme Court judge Trevor Armstrong ruled that Niedermeyer surrendered her right to sue when she signed the waiver that all zip line riders are required to sign.
The decision was appealed and three B.C. Court of Appeal judges overturned the earlier ruling in a decision released April 30.
The Appeal Court decision found that Armstrong erred in finding that the waiver signed by Niedermeyer protected the company from being sued for the van crash.
"British Columbia has a statutory scheme of compulsory universal insurance coverage for damages for personal injury arising from motor vehicle accidents," wrote Judge Nicole Garson in the decision
"I believe it would be contrary to public policy to permit the respondents to enforce the release of liability for a claim that arose not from an injury that occurred in the course of the Ziptrek activity, but rather in the course of transportation to the site of that activity."
Niedermeyer said in court that she assumed all vehicle passengers would be protected from a driver's negligence and indemnified by their insurer. The van was insured by ICBC, the province's only provider of basic vehicle insurance.
Niedermeyer, a teacher, was visiting Whistler at the time of the crash with six students from Singapore.
Ziptrek Ecotour co-founder Charles Steele said May 5 that the crash wasn't related to the company's core activity.
"It had nothing to do with the zip lines and it was a simple vehicle accident that could happen to anyone," said Steele.
His company tries as much as possible to keep its customers out of vehicles to keep the company's greenhouse gas emissions at a minimum, added Steele.
"It was the individual driver's terrible error," he said.
Steele said all of his company's guests at Mont Tremblant and New Zealand use gondolas to get to the top of the zip lines. He also said Whistler customers will be transported using the lift system on Blackcomb Mountain this season.
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