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SENATE BILL NO. 87
INTRODUCED BY D. HARGROVE
AN ACT REVISING STATUTES REGARDING SNOWMOBILE SAFETY AND LIABILITY BY CLARIFYING THE DUTIES OF SNOWMOBILERS AND SNOWMOBILE AREA OPERATORS; CLARIFYING THE INHERENT RISKS OF SNOWMOBILING; ELIMINATING THE PROVISION REGARDING THE EFFECT OF MONTANA COMPARATIVE NEGLIGENCE LAW ON RECOVERY FROM SNOWMOBILE AREA OPERATORS FOR DEATH OR INJURY RESULTING FROM AN INHERENT SNOWMOBILING RISK; AMENDING SECTIONS 23-2-651, 23-2-652, 23-2-653, AND 23-2-654, MCA; REPEALING SECTION 23-2-656, MCA; AND PROVIDING AN IMMEDIATE EFFECTIVE DATE.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MONTANA:
Section 1. Section 23-2-651, MCA, is amended to read:
"23-2-651. Purpose. The legislature finds that snowmobiling is a major recreational sport and a major industry in this
state and recognizes that
there are inherent risks in the sport of snowmobiling that are essentially impossible for a
snowmobile area operator to eliminate but that should be known by a reasonable and prudent snowmobiler. The purpose of
23-2-651 through 23-2-656 is to define those areas of responsibility and the acts for which a snowmobile area operator is
liable for death or injury to any person or property and those risks for which a snowmobiler expressly assumes or must be
considered to have voluntarily assumed the risk of death or injury and for which there can be no recovery among the
attractions of the sport are risks, inherent and otherwise. The state has a legitimate interest in:
(1) maintaining the economic viability of the snowmobiling industry by discouraging claims based on damages resulting from risks inherent in the sport;
(2) clarifying what the inherent risks of snowmobiling are; and
(3) establishing the duties of snowmobilers and snowmobile area operators."
Section 2. Section 23-2-652, MCA, is amended to read:
"23-2-652. Definitions. As used in 23-2-651 through
23-2-656 23-2-655, the following definitions apply:
(1) "Snowmobile" means a vehicle defined in 23-2-601(10).
(2) "Snowmobile area" means those areas designated as snowmobile trails or areas open to the operation of snowmobiles.
(3) "Snowmobile area operators" means those persons responsible for the maintenance of snowmobile trails and for the designation of open areas or those persons providing rental snowmobile equipment. Operators may include but are not limited to the United States forest service, the Montana department of fish, wildlife, and parks, the Montana snowmobile association, individual snowmobile clubs, landowners or their tenants, persons who offer snowmobile equipment for rent, and private trail grooming contractors.
(4) "Snowmobiler" means any person operating or riding a snowmobile."
Section 3. Section 23-2-653, MCA, is amended to read:
"23-2-653. Snowmobile area operators -- duties
-- restriction on liability. (1) The Consistent with the duty of
reasonable care owed by a snowmobile area operator to a snowmobiler, the person responsible for the maintenance of or
operation of a snowmobile area shall mark all trail maintenance vehicles and furnish the vehicles with flashing or rotating
lights that must be in operation whenever the vehicles are working or are in movement in the snowmobile area. (2) A snowmobile area operator is liable for death or injury to a snowmobiler or other person or property only for an act
or omission that constitutes gross negligence.
(2) The snowmobile area operator owes a duty of reasonable care, as required by 27-1-701, to a snowmobiler except for the risks inherent in the sport of snowmobiling.
(3) Except as provided in this section, a snowmobile area operator has no duty to eliminate, alter, control, or lessen the
risk risks inherent in the sport of snowmobiling. A snowmobile area operator who attempts to eliminate, alter, control, or
lessen the risk inherent in the sport of snowmobiling is liable only for an act or omission that constitutes gross negligence."
Section 4. Section 23-2-654, MCA, is amended to read:
"23-2-654. Snowmobiler's assumption of responsibility -- duties. (1) A snowmobiler
shall accept all legal
responsibility for injury or damage of any kind to the extent that the injury or damage results from risks inherent in the sport
of snowmobiling and has the duty to regulate personal conduct at all times so that injury to self or other persons or property
that results from the risks inherent in the sport of snowmobiling is avoided. The risks inherent in the sport of snowmobiling
include variations in terrain, surface or subsurface snow or ice conditions, cornices, avalanches, poor visibility, bare spots,
rocks, trees, other forms of forest growth or debris, and plainly marked trail maintenance equipment shall operate a
snowmobile at all times in a manner that avoids injury to self and others and must be aware of the inherent risks in the sport
(2) A snowmobiler
is responsible for shall:
knowing know the range of the snowmobiler's own ability to snowmobile any slope, trail, or area and for
snowmobiling snowmobile safely within the limits of the snowmobiler's that ability considering the conditions; and the
snowmobiler's equipment so as to negotiate any section of terrain or snowmobile trail safely and without injury or damage.
A snowmobiler must be aware that the snowmobiler's ability may vary because of terrain or trail changes caused by weather,
grooming changes, or snowmobile use.
maintaining maintain control of speed and course at all times while snowmobiling so as to prevent injury to self and
heeding heed all posted warnings; and
refraining refrain from acting in a manner that may cause or contribute to the injury of anyone.
(3) A snowmobiler shall accept all legal responsibility for injury or damage of any kind to the extent that the injury or damage results from risks inherent in the sport of snowmobiling. Risks inherent in the sport of snowmobiling are:
(a) variations in terrain, including surface or subsurface snow or ice conditions naturally occurring or resulting from weather changes, snowmobile use, or grooming or snowmaking operations;
(b) bare spots or thin snow cover caused by limited snowfall, melting, wind erosion, snowmobile action, grooming, or unconsolidated base;
(c) rocks, trees, or other forms of forest growth or debris;
(d) clearly visible or plainly marked improvements or trail maintenance equipment; and
(4) The provisions of this section do not affect a products liability cause of action based upon the design or manufacture of snowmobile equipment or products or safety equipment used incidental to the operation of a snowmobile."
Section 5. Repealer. Section 23-2-656, MCA, is repealed.
Section 6. Effective date. [This act] is effective on passage and approval.
- END -
Latest Version of SB 87 (SB0087.ENR)
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