John E. Fagan


  • John E. Fagan
  • Phone: +1 530 550 2055

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  • Duane Morris LLP
    11209 Brockway Road, Suite 302
    Truckee, CA 96161-2220

John E. Fagan is a trial lawyer. He focuses his practice on the defense of serious and catastrophic injury cases against the operators of resorts, ski areas and golf courses in premises liability suits. He also has represented a variety of sports product manufacturers, including manufacturers of bicycles, helmets, climbing equipment, water sports equipment, boats and personal watercraft. Through representation of resort operators and sports product manufacturers, he and members of his firm have helped develop case law on implied and express assumption of risk. He regularly is retained to provide advice to clients in the sports and recreation industries on risk management and corporate matters. He has acted as national coordinating counsel for many sports clients, including those in the ski industry, the bicycle industry, the helmet industry and many sporting goods retailers. He works closely with and is regularly engaged to speak before the California Ski Industry Association and the Water Sports Industry Association.

Mr. Fagan is special counsel to the National Ski Areas Association. He is a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates, the Association of Ski Defense Attorneys, the American Society for Testing and Materials, and the Defense Research Institute. He has published many articles on sports and recreation liability issues.

Mr. Fagan is a 1982 graduate, with distinction, of the University of Michigan Law School and a graduate of the University of Michigan.

Representative Matters

  • Alpine Meadows Avalanche Trial: Successfully defended ski area in wrongful death actions arising out of a catastrophic avalanche at ski resort that left seven people dead. Plaintiffs alleged the resort was negligent in its avalanche hazard forecasting and control efforts. Trial lasted 4.5 months. Defense verdict after 12 days of jury deliberations.

  • Brown v. Bieffe Helmets, s.r.l: Successfully defended Italian motorcycle helmet manufacturer in wrongful death action arising out of a fatal motorcycle accident in Sacramento County, California. Plaintiff alleged the helmet decedent was wearing was defectively designed and manufactured. Trial lasted three months. Defense verdict after 15 minutes of deliberations.
  • Quinlin v. Bieffe Helmets, s.r.l: Successfully defended Italian motorcycle helmet manufacturer in personal injury action arising out of a motorcycle accident in Yolo County, California. Plaintiff suffered severe brain injury in the incident. Plaintiff alleged the helmet buckle failed and helmet ejected during incident. Trial lasted three weeks. Defense verdict after one-half day of deliberations.
  • National Marine Manufacturers Assn., et al., v. Tahoe Regional Planning Authority: Successfully negotiated a settlement on behalf of recreational boating industry to phase in an ordinance banning two stroke engines on Lake Tahoe.
  • Bicycle Distributors and Wholesalers Assn.: Assisted in drafting model bicycle owner's manual for most major bicycle distributors in North America.

  • Willig v. Mammoth Mountain Ski Area: Successfully defended ski area in personal injury action arising out of a snowboarding accident which left plaintiff paralyzed. Plaintiff alleged ski area was negligent in operating the ski resort and that it had committed willful misconduct in allowing an erosion control device to be left on the hill in a dilapidated state and that the device caused his fall and injuries. Trial lasted five weeks. Defense verdict after three days of deliberations.
  • Numerous summary judgments which have been appealed have resulted in published case law which has helped establish and revitalize the doctrines of primary and express assumption of risk in California.

  • Filed amicus curiae briefs in California Supreme Court which also have helped better define the doctrine of primary assumption of risk in recreational injury cases.


  • California


  • University of Michigan Law School, J.D., with distinction, 1982
  • University of Michigan, B.G.S., 1978

Professional Activities

  • American Board of Trial Advocates
  • American Bar Association
  • Bar Association of San Francisco
  • Tahoe-Truckee Bar Association
  • National Ski Areas Association
    - Special Counsel, 2010-present
  • Association of Ski Defense Attorneys
  • American Society for Testing and Materials (Committee F8 on Sports Equipment)
  • Defense Research Institute
  • Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association's Sports Litigators

Honors and Awards

Board Memberships

  • California Ski Industry Association
  • Coalition of Americans to Protect Sports (Subsidiary of Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association)

Selected Publications

  • Co-Author, "Counseling Clients in Extreme Sports and High-Risk Activities," Entertainment and Media Law Client Strategies: Leading Lawyers on Case Strategies, Exceeding Client Expectations, and Negotiating Deals (Inside the Minds), Aspatore Books, October 2007
  • Co-Author, "Counseling Clients in Extreme Sports and High-Risk Activities," chapter in Inside the Minds: Leading Lawyers on Case Strategies, Exceeding Client Expectations, and Negotiating Deals, Aspatore Books, October 2007
  • "Avalanche Control: Negligence Over Strict Liability," United States Federal Law Review, 1986
  • "Ski Area Liability for Downhill Injuries," Insurance Counsel Journal, January, 1982

Selected Speaking Engagements

  • "Operational Challenges for Ski Resorts in the Sierras," Association of Ski Defense Attorneys Conference, March 12, 2024
  • "Legal Issues in Live Entertainment III: Legal Liability Issues—Lessons Learned from Spiderman, Survivor, Sheffield and Stow," ABA's Forum on the Entertainment & Sports Industries, Las Vegas, Nevada, October 8, 2016
  • "Recent Trends in Wage-and-Hour and Civil Rights Class Actions in California," Duane Morris Employment Law Seminar, Truckee, California, September 30, 2010
  • California Ski Industry Association Maintenance and Operations Seminar, Heavenly Ski Resort, May 17-18, 2001
  • "Issues and Considerations in Defending Lift Accident Cases," Association of Ski Defense Attorneys, March 11, 2001
  • "The Van Dyke v. Bear Mt. trial: How competitors cooperated to obtain a defense verdict in a multimillion dollar case," NSAA Annual Mid-Winter Meetings, Vail, Colorado, January 31, 2001