Canadian suit would hold you liable for your ski buddy’s death. Ski buddy meaning the guy you don’t know skiing next to you.

Suit is absurd and if successful would create liability every time someone was hurt skiing. Riding the chairlift with someone might get you sued. And this is not alleged, a court is hearing this now in trial!

Sometimes you read about litigation that just knocks your socks off. This case is one of those.  A widow, with $18 million after her husband’s death (so you know she needs the money) is suing a man assigned as a “ski buddy” at a heli-ski operation in Canada.  The suit alleges the defendant was assigned to:

…was therefore obligated to stay close to him, keep him in sight, and assist or alert guides and other skiers if he observed his buddy in need of assistance.

The documents allege Coe failed to perform his duties as a “ski buddy” and therefore delayed the search and possibly a chance to rescue and revive Mark Kennedy.

The “ski buddy” was assigned by a guide for the heli-ski operation Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing. The deceased and the plaintiff did not know each other; it was something done by the guide.

Coe [defendant] says he was paired with Kennedy without any consultation, and that he alerted guides as soon as he noticed Kennedy was no longer with the group, shortly after Coe and the other skiers arrived at the bottom of the run.

So you are riding the lift, and someone leans over and says “let’s ski this run together,” are you their ski buddy now? What if a ski school instructor asks you to ride up with a minor in a ski school class to assist them on and off the lift? Are you liable if the minor falls getting off the lift? Is the minor liable if they cause you to fall getting off the lift?

Seriously, this is absurd and if allowed to continue will create untold amounts of liability in the ski industry and about any industry. Think about belayers when rock climbing.

Do Something or maybe be prepared to say “No.”

So you are heli-skiing or cat skiing, and the guide says OK, you two buddy up, what do you do? If this plaintiff is successful, you say no. You can either run the risk of skiing alone and dying or skiing with someone and getting sued if they die.

More importantly why ski with a guide service if their paperwork does not protect you. It would have cost Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing 3-5 more words on the release signed by the deceased to protect the defendant.

When you go undertake an activity where you sign a release, read it to make sure you are protected also. Normally, there is a higher standard of care between co-participants in a sport. (See Indiana adopts the higher standard of care between participants in sporting events in this Triathlon case) However, even in the US some states have allowed that to slip in skiing collision cases.

It seriously only takes a few additional words in a release to stop this litigation. If you are a guide or outfitting service make sure you are protecting your clients. You do not need to reputation of staying out of court and keeping your clients in court.

If you are in a position where an outfitter or guide can create liability for you, be prepared to make this stark and horrifying decision.

This case is in Canada. Once known for not allowing this type of crap. Let’s hope this stays up north.

See ‘Ski buddy’ sued in heli-ski death

You can read the pleadings (Complaint and Answer) here.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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