In January of this year, six friends were skiing at a Colorado ski resort when tragedy struck. An avalanche released from the top of the mountain, catching one of the skiers and transporting him through a spruce forest. The 13-year-old boy ultimately came to rest against a tree, but not before he suffered the blunt force trauma that caused his death.
Last summer, the boy’s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Vail Resorts, the operator the ski mountain on which the boy was killed. In their suit, the parents claim that the resort did not take the necessary precautions to protect their son from the avalanche that caused his death, and as such, that they did not comply with Colorado’s Ski Safety Act.
Recently, Vail Resorts filed a response to the parents’ lawsuit, stating that the avalanche was not covered by the Ski Safety Act because it is “one of the inherent dangers and risks of skiing,” and that it is therefore not actionable under the law. The parents have countered that claim, stating that the law says nothing about an avalanche and that the lawmakers who created the act did not intend “inherent dangers and risks of skiing” to include such an incident.
Specifically, the parents claim that a risk that “may be eliminated by the employment of reasonable safety measures” is not an inherent danger under the act. As such, they claim, the resort’s failure to protect their son from the risk of the avalanche, by closing the ski run on which he was killed, makes the resort ultimately responsible for his death.
Under Colorado law, wrongful death awards are capped at $250,000 for children. It remains to be seen how this suit will be resolved.
Source: Vail Daily, “Avalanche not an ‘inherent’ skiing risk, lawsuit says,” Randy Wyrick, Oct. 14, 2012