The word “Safe” comes back to haunt outfitter and travel agent

Jackson Hole News is reporting that a lawsuit has been filed over a rafting accident that occurred in 2006. Robert and Patricia Rizas are suing Vail

English: Grand Tetons Barns The John Moulton B...

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Resorts, Grand Teton Lodge Company and Tauck Inc. for loss of income, earnings, medical expenses, pain and suffering and physical disability and loss of enjoyment of life and hoping for punitive damages

The accident that gave rise to the litigation occurred at Deadmans Bar on the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park. Three people died in the suit, two of whom were the brother and sister in law of the plaintiffs. However none of the claims being alleged assert a claim for the loss of life of their relatives.

Few states allow a sibling to recover for the loss of life of another sibling. Those states that do allow a sibling to recover for the loss of another sibling only allow recovery of minimal damages. In order to recover damages, the person who survives must have a direct and past or future monetary relationship with the deceased. By that I mean parents and children can sue for the loss of the other as well as the spouse for the loss of a spouse. Very rarely do courts allow or provide monetary damages for the loss of a sibling.

The defendants in this case are a little hard to sort out. <

Grand Teton Lodge is a lodge located in Grand Teton National Park. The lodge as part of the activities it offers guests is river trips on the Snake River. Grand Teton Lodge is owned by Vail Resorts Management Company, Inc. is a company selling tours, which in this case included nights at the lodge and the river trip. The river trips are described on the Grand Teton Lodge website as

The general allegations are the lodge and Vail conspired with the tour company to mislead and defraud the plaintiffs into taking a river trip which was described as safe.

The plaintiff’s state the Tauck brochure described the river trip as a “serene float through magnificent mountain scenery” which is very similar to how the Grand Teton Lodge website describes the

They are also claiming the brochures, the lodge and the raft guide described the river trip as safe. The river was running at run off levels at the time of the trip.

The complaint states the shuttle driver said the river trip was safe. The complaint also states the shuttle ride was more dangerous than the river trip.

The complaint states the companies were negligent in failing to warn of the dangers of the river during peak run off. The defendants were also negligent for not properly training the passengers, failing to provide a competent guide and equipment suitable for the conditions.

They plaintiffs are also claiming fraud because the defendants hid the dangers of the river. Had the plaintiffs known of the dangers of the river they would not have gone on the river trip. The complaint allegedly states the defendants place corporate profit above the personal safety

There are several interesting legal issues floating around in this case. The first is an attempt to have any release or acknowledgment of risk form thrown out of the case. The accident occurred inside the Grand Teton National Park so supposedly the river outfitter would be operating under a Permit or Concession contract with the

National Park Service

As a permittee the only document that can be used to reduce liability is the NPS Here claim that there was fraud involved will void any contract between the parties. The second is the use of the word safe. When people hear the word safe it is not a word that brings up a comparison of how safe, but to most people means absolutely risk free. So when any person, website or brochure states an activity is safe, that activity is risk free. Families take safe trips, they do not take dangerous ones. Fathers and mothers do not take their kids on risky activities.

Yet safe is a relative term. The most dangerous place in the US is the home bathroom. It is more dangerous, in most cases, to drive to the river than to raft the river. Although who knows based on the description of the shuttle ride in this case.

However here, the defendants are going to have an uphill battle if the statements are proved that the river trip is safe. People were injured, people died and people did not have a good time, therefore the river trip was not safe.

Safe is not a word that you should use in any communication with a possible client. Life is not safe.

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