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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New Zealand Government argues Mountain Guides are taking too much risk and must make mountaineering safe

A Classic argument between those who ride a desk and those who live, and sometimes die enjoying life

The New Zealand Labour Department in a report released after the death of a mountain guide on Mt. Cook in 2008, states mountain guides are resistant to eliminate or minimize risk of harm when guiding.

How do you climb a mountain (altitude, chance of falling, rock and ice fall) covered with snow (avalanches, hypothermia, slabs, cornices), and glaciers (crevasses) and eliminate the risk of doing so?

The article about the report does not state whether the report makes any suggestions on how climbing a mountain was supposed to be made safer. The article is more of a “he said she said” response to the report.

See Zero-risk approach ‘would kill outdoor guiding’

Copyright 2010 Recreation Law 720 Edit Law,

Commercial drowning on the American River in California

It is being reported that a 20 year old man died of a foot entrapment while training to be a whitewater rafting guide. The victim was in a boat on the South Fork of the American River when the boat tipped or flipped and the victim was thrown in the water. The boat had hit Gunsight (rock) in Troublemaker rapid. The victim got lodged 70 yards downriver of the accident.

For more details see Man drowns rafting American River

Well it’s happened: K2 will have its first true commercially guided climb this season

Fabrizio Zangrilli is working with Field Touring Alpine to lead a guided climb on K2 this late summer season. This is probably the first true commercial, guided climb on K2. By commercially guided I mean a guide is being paid to take clients up a mountain versus some people going for free or a trip leader making money on his group of climbers. By clients I mean people who may but probably do not have the total ability/skill/experience necessary or maybe desire to climb the mountain without a guide.

It was to be expected. Most people consider the 1984 guided climb of Dick Bass and Frank Wells as the first commercially guided trip on Everest. However commercial Everest expeditions took off after the 1996 mess. (I refuse to call a natural weather event a disaster.) Publicity good or bad does not deter either mountaineers or those with money and a desire to check a box. It has always been an unconfirmed rumor that after the 1996 Everest mess Mountain Madness added more phone lines, even though its owner and founder had died on the mountain.

This guided expedition occurs after a year where 11 people died on K2 which was reported worldwide for weeks. Publicity good or bad does not deter, just highlight.

See K2’s First Commercial Expedition

Criminal Charges brought against Everest Guide in the UK

The Yorkshire Post UK, Everest killing charge , reported on what appears to be the extreme result of frustration, anger and loss. The father of a climber lost on Everest in 1999 has brought criminal charges against three of the outfitters and guides on the climb. David Matthews’s, 62, millionaire father of the missing and presumed dead Michael Matthews, 22, an Everest summiter, brought the prosecution. Charged where Jonathan Tinker, Henry Todd and Michael Smith with unlawfully killing and manslaughter in Central Criminal Court, London. The charges were eventually dismissed by the court. (See Everest verdict that frees the mountain.)

Michael Matthews disappeared as he was descending from the summit in 100 mile per hour winds. Mr. Matthews has also sued the outfitter and guides in this matter. The civil lawsuit is still pending in the US.

As most readers to this blog know, any mountain holds the lives of the climbers on its flanks and consequently the lives of those relatives sitting at home. Those who tackle these mountains accept that risk, in fact thrill in revel in it. However families at home may or may not understand both the risk and our acceptance of it.

Complicate this lack of understanding of the motivation with the question what happened? We have grown up learning each day how our world works. Green cheese once formed the moon we then saw a rock that came from the moon. Transplanting hearts from the dead to the living was the subject of movies and nightmares; today there is someone in every community who lives because of it. Yet, how and why someone dies on the summit of Everest, at least for now is a mystery. We can speculate based on those who have come close and survived as well as the research done by our scientist, but we want a body and we want to know why and how a loved one died.

My father had a large life insurance policy on me for many years. He figured half would go to get my body home. I never cared and told him to spend the money, rather than bring me home but he said “your mother would insist on it.”

At what point do those unanswered questions require an answer so badly that we not only sue someone, but we have them charged criminally. At what point does the loss of a loved one, require the destruction of the people the deceased wanted to spend time with. No more answers are going to be forthcoming. No answers at all will be found in either the criminal or civil courtroom. In fact, rarely are any answers found in court.

This lawsuit and these criminal charges will bring no satisfaction and no answers. At best it may create some level of retribution, possibly justice to the father when it is done, but even that is doubtful. At some point in life, you just must accept the fact that a loved one lived and died doing what they enjoyed and accept as much comfort as you can from that.