Sonnenberg v. State of New York

COURT OF CLAIMS
Torts

New York Law Journal

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Judge Terry Jane Ruderman

Claimant Sonnenberg sought damages for injuries she sustained while riding down a snow-covered hill in an inflatable tube at Mill-Norrie State Park. She argued the state, as the owner and operator of the park, was on notice that snow mounds on the hill were hazardous, but breached its duty to clear those hazards. The state argued the condition was open and obvious, and the mounds were an inherent danger in the activity Sonnenberg pursued. The court found the state did not monitor or supervise sledding, which was allowed in the park without a fee. It rejected Sonnenberg's contention that by erecting a sign allowing sledding, the state assumed a duty to regulate and monitor the activity, and its failure to do so constituted willful and malicious conduct sufficient to remove the statutory immunity afforded the state. The court found the state was entitled to immunity from liability under General Obligations Law §9-103, and was not liable for Sonnenberg's accident. Further, Sonnenberg's own testimony established she was aware that she could not steer the tube and risked encountering a snow jump. Thus, in addition to finding the state was not liable, the evidence supported a finding that Sonnenberg assumed the risk of injury.

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