By Scott Hammers

The Bulletin

If you go

What: Meeting on recreation liability

When: 6 to 8 p.m. Monday

Where: The Tap Room at Deschutes Brewery’s downtown location, 1044 NW Bond St.

A group formed in the wake of an Oregon Supreme Court decision opening the door to liability lawsuits against recreation businesses will be holding a public meeting in Bend on Monday.

The Oregon Big Tent Recreation Coalition was formed following a ruling by the court in the case of Bagley v. Mt. Bachelor. In 2006, 18-year-old Myles Bagley was paralyzed when he crashed while jumping in a terrain park at the ski area. Bagley sued seeking $21.5 million, but the Deschutes County Circuit Court and the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that by signing a liability release when he bought his season pass, Bagley had waived his right to sue.

Last December, the Oregon Supreme Court overturned the earlier rulings, allowing the case to resume. A pretrial conference in the suit is scheduled for January.

Greg Leo, a lobbyist who’s represented Mt. Hood Meadows and served in various roles for the state Republican Party, is heading up the new group. Leo said ski areas were the first to take notice of the Bagley decision, but over the last year, raft guides, bicycle rental companies and other smaller recreational operations that require customers to sign liability waivers came to realize they could also be affected.

“It’s amazing, it could extend even into youth sports, it could affect state parks and recreation, any city or parks and recreation program,” he said.

Leo said there have been productive discussions on the issue between the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association and the Pacific Northwest Ski Areas Association and that he believes a solution acceptable to all sides is possible.

Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, introduced a bill last year that would have limited the circumstances under which ski areas could be held liable by injured visitors, but the bill failed to make it out of committee.

On Friday, Knopp said the Democratic majority in Salem and the state trial lawyers association both opposed his bill, but he plans to try again with a similar bill that could provide legal protection to a wider range of recreation providers.

He said he’s unlikely to pursue the issue during the short legislative session scheduled for February, as legislators already have a number of complicated issues to deal with and the liability question is not a high priority for many of his colleagues.

Leo said he expects it could take a while for the full impact of the Bagley decision to become clear, and he doesn’t expect the issue will be able to gain traction in the legislature before 2017.

Leo, attorneys representing Mt. Bachelor and Mt. Hood Meadows, and a representative of the National Ski Area Association will be discussing current liability law and seeking input from people employed in the recreation industry at Monday’s meeting. The meeting is open to the public.

— Reporter: 541-383-0387,