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JayB

Jury gives $14 mil to skier paralyzed at Snoqalmie

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Looks like we have several topics here.

 

With respect to Bug's comment, I know that here in Oregon they have made an obvious effort to crack down on out of control skiers and snowboarders, probably in response to a death and a serious injury on Hood this season. If you are seen out of control they take your pass or ticket. And, it is absolutely at the patrol's discretion. There is no appeal. Granted, this may not be much of a deterrent to someone who bought a day pass, but there is definitely a big add campaign, etc. I've seen the same thing in Utah.

 

As that relates to hitting jumps and being out of control, it certainly is the responsibility of the skier/rider to investigate before hitting it.

 

But, it is the responsibility of the resort to properly design, build, and place jumps, rails, etc. I'm not saying that it was done incorrectly in the Snoqualmie case, as I don't really know the specifics. And, it's obviously arguable as to how much responsibility the resort has vs. that of the individual.

 

I would use the analogy of our roads and highways. They are supposed to be designed correctly with the intent of being safe for the public. If the DOT sees a ton of accidents at one area, like an intersection, they typically make changes to reduce the danger. Similarly, if there are tons of injuries at one jump, I expect the resorts to make changes.

 

To carry the analogy further, there are a lot of folks who, for one reason or another, are going to get into accidents - some their fault and some not.

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I would use the analogy of our roads and highways. They are supposed to be designed correctly with the intent of being safe for the public. If the DOT sees a ton of accidents at one area, like an intersection, they typically make changes to reduce the danger. Similarly, if there are tons of injuries at one jump, I expect the resorts to make changes.

 

I'm not sure this analogy is appropriate since the purposes of an intersection and a ski jump are different. Jumps are built precisely to increase the risk (=fun) of otherwise boring terrain, and there is always a less risky way down the run. That said I would be a much happier customer if I knew that management was at least paying attention.

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hmmm...i wonder where attractive nuisance theory fits into this...

 

if you have the skills, then its fun...if you don't its dangerous...

 

kinda goes to serenity's comments about media and image and all that other bullshit...

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I agree with the idea that

People need to take some g@d-damned rsponsibility for their actions.

as long as "people" does not exclude managers of recreational businesses. I mean, they are people too. :blush:

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If someone finds a way to make a kickers with 25 foot-plus tables "safe" by any means other than having a snow-cat mow them down, that'd be quite a feat.

 

The reality is that hitting kickers - even hypothetical kickers custom tuned by a panel of NASA engineers between each hit - is inherently dangerous. There was a kid in Colorado who had pro-caliber skills that died attempting a 360 on a moderately sized jump. This is about as probable as Dean Potter falling to his death while soloing a fourth class ridge - but it happened.

 

 

 

 

As with Diving Boards, so it will be with Terrain Parks.

 

"I'm now an official victim of the trial lawyers. So are my kids and the 800 members of our community pool that opened this summer without a high diving board.

 

The three-meter board had been a fixture of our pool at Chesterbrook Swim Club in Fairfax County, Va., for as long as anyone can remember. But the county has declared that it can no longer afford to pay the liability insurance for it--and so we've been grounded.

 

Most of the parents and kids share my disappointment at being cheated out of one of the great joys of summertimes past. No high board means no more "atomic" cannonballs, can openers, jack knives and watermelons, the kind of attention-grabbing dives that boys love to perform, sending a quarter of the pool's water spraying onto unsuspecting sunbathers nearby. And no more graceful teenage girls either, performing double flips with a twist, entering the water with hardly a ripple.

 

So why can't we just have a sign that reads: "Jump off this board at your own risk"? Some of our club members, many of whom are lawyers, say the elimination of the high board is for the safety of "the children."

 

And not just the children in Fairfax County, mind you. Diving boards are disappearing across America. The insurance industry says that most pool-construction companies won't even install the boards anymore out of fear of lawsuits. Texas lawmakers earlier this year enacted a de facto prohibition on diving boards by making the safety standards so stringent that few existing pools can meet them without spending millions of dollars. (The law would require, for instance, that the deep end be made several feet deeper.) As Dallas Magazine informed its readers a couple of weeks ago: "You can kiss your cannonball goodbye."

 

But why? Has there been an epidemic of diving accidents? I asked that question of our own pool manager. He assures me that the number of serious high board injuries at Chesterbrook pool since it was first erected more than 20 years ago is exactly zero. Under a rational insurance model, our premiums should be going down, not up--after all, we've proved that we're not a gang of drunk divers.

 

The Consumer Product Safety Commission calculates that there are about 50,000 serious injuries or drownings at pools each year. That's a big number. But diving board accidents are actually rare. Hard data are difficult to come by, but Pool and Spa News estimates that, out of the millions of jumps and dives off high boards each year, there are, on average, fewer than 20 spinal injuries. Most head injuries actually occur from people diving off the pool's ledge into the shallow end. Diving boards actually reduce these types of injuries because they visually tip off swimmers about which end of the pool is deep. Moreover, the number of annual injuries from diving boards is a fraction of the number from bicycles, playgrounds, tackle football, bungee jumping, skiing and even walking across the street.

 

Which brings us back to the trial lawyers. Diving accidents may be rare, but when they occur, lawyers become relentless in their quest for a jackpot jury verdict. In one famous 1993 case, a 14-year-old boy in Washington state took a "suicide dive"--headfirst with no arms out for protection--off the board of a neighbor's pool. He was tragically paralyzed from the neck down when he hit his head on the bottom of the pool. Despite the boy's own unsafe behavior, the parents' legal team sued every imaginable party--the neighbors, the pool-construction company, the diving-board manufacturer, the pool industry--and the family won a $10 million jury award.

 

Ever since, it's been off to the races. Even cases in which there is no negligence on anyone's part can lead to jury awards of $5 million or more. The plaintiff attorneys often walk off with up to half the loot. "This day and age, you can pretty much sue anyone for anything if there's an injury involved," a spokesman from the Pool and Spa Institute tells me.

 

But the diving-board dilemma is not just a legal matter; it's a cultural one. We Americans have become so risk averse when it comes to our children that we now see unacceptable dangers from even the most routine activities. We have created peanut-butter-free school zones, "soft" baseballs, army figures without guns, parks without seesaws, and full body armor for bike riding.

 

It's not even clear that all these risk-reducing measures keep us safer. The research shows that boys will be boys (the vast majority of sporting accidents involve young males). If they can't get their thrills from diving boards, they will find other risky activities.

 

When I was in college, I lived in a two-story apartment complex with a pool in the middle. There was no diving board, so we climbed on the roof--sometimes drunk--took a running start, leaped across 10 or 15 feet of cement walkway and plunged into the pool. It was incredibly dangerous and incredibly exhilarating. And we did it not even knowing that, if we undershot and broke our necks, we would have had grounds for a million-dollar lawsuit."

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I would like to speak out against the manufactureres of jawbreakers.

If you heat one up in the microwave and put it in your mouth it might explode.

That should be on the lable to avoid injury or death to stupid kids.

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Although I've been as bad as anyone posting to this thread with my off-topic comments, my understanding is that the resort was in some way negligent, having incorrectly engineered and built a jump. My understanding is that this faulty engineering resulted in multiple injuries, and that even after that, the resort did nothing.

 

While no jump is safe for everyone, riders probably have the right to expect that jumps are built properly and that they will be fixed if they are not.

 

Perhaps I can use another car analogy that's a bit more on the mark than my last. Driving a car is dangerous, but if your Pinto explodes in a minor fender bender, it might be an engineering problem. You shouldn't sue car manufacturers becuase you're stupid and wrecked. But if they built a faulty product, had it reported to them and did nothing, they need to be sued. And, that is what I usually see happening.

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That's what the attorney representing the skier claimed. IMO the whole notion of "engineering" jumps in terms of known, definable inputs in the same manner that one would engineer a suspension bridge or an electrical circuit is a ludicrous.

 

Anyhow - more inputs from the rumor mill concerning the other major injuries on this feature:

 

"You really need to dig deeper before you come to a conclusion like that. The guy that broke his back was an idiot hucker that was trying a backflip with no backflip experience (even on a trampoline) And the kid that died dropped into a jump from approximately 300 vertical feet higher than was needed to land in the sweet spot, he also had no shirt on, and was on drugs."

 

"Ironically, Booth Creek owns and operates Snow Park Technologies, an internationally renowned terrain-park design firm run by Chris Gunnarson, who is considered one of the world's leaders in development, design and construction of terrain parks. Gunnarson and SPT designed several Winter X Games courses and are in charge of designing parks at all six Booth Creek resorts, including Snoqualmie. While Gunnarson and his team designed the park and the park guidelines at Snoqualmie, local crews are in charge of maintaining the park."

 

 

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I agree with you on the engineering thing, though I think the folks that lay these out can do a pretty good job when they carefully exmine the terrain (and I think most times they do).

 

For example, when they lay out the first jump in a park and they cord off everything except one entrance, everyone has to stop at that entrance, and essentially take off from the same spot.

 

Given that, they shouldn't have a 20' tabletop when no one can possibly get that speed from the takeoff. Similarly they shouldn't have a 2' tabletop and a 20' drop when everyone would have way too much speed for it. (Obviously, I'm exaggerating, but you see my point.

 

That said, I've seen very few jumps that I thought were really poorly designed.

 

And, the additional "rumor mill" stuff is interesting. If I were in the jury and stuff like that had been put forth, I would have had a lot less sympathy for the rider.

 

Course, not having seen the jump, I have a hard time. They shoulda taken the jury out and had a few riders hit it, so they could form their own opinions.

 

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"You really need to dig deeper before you come to a conclusion like that. The guy that broke his back was an idiot hucker that was trying a backflip with no backflip experience (even on a trampoline) And the kid that died dropped into a jump from approximately 300 vertical feet higher than was needed to land in the sweet spot, he also had no shirt on, and was on drugs."

 

That pretty much encompasses the types of riders that were so prevalent (and to some degree still present) at Snoqualmie. I find it amazing that so many people say that jump was not safe for use, with some concocted notion of “proper engineering.” I hit that same jump only two days before that one guy died on it, and roughly around the same time when Kenny went ahead and got paralyzed. Despite being far less experienced than I am now, that thing was barely a blip on my radar screen; it just wasn't much of a jump. The manner that they hit the jump put them at serious risk. It is just absurd that they could put the blame onto others, and in Kenny’s case, win over $14 million. Most seem to forget the liability of the rider, albeit the original lawsuit was for over $30 million, and it was bumped down because Kenny was found to have some fault (but $14 million is still astronomical).

 

It is interesting and rather scary, that even when somebody essentially put their actions into their own hands, waived liability, etc. that they can sue like this... and more importantly: win. This will (and already has) a strong negative impact on many ski areas, and other sports as well. Snoqualmie already has to have most of their expansion plan on hold, which may or may not be a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. Many ski areas are now faced with a dilemma to either pay higher premiums for insurance, or just drop terrain parks all together. Of course, they could have waivers (such as Whistler/Blackcomb and most likely Stevens Pass next season) but that might not necessarily stop these lawsuits from happening. Imagine the other implications that this sort of bs could have.

 

Anyway, hopefully Snoqualmie wins the appeal, but with so many brainless people out there, its practically impossible not to get a jury that isn’t sympathetic.

 

 

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Is it not similar to "Caveat emptor"?

 

I feel empathy for Kenny and his family, but it is just a park where you can go and play. If you get hurt there, it's GENERALLY your fault unless the park did not maintain the area.

 

If I rode a swing at a local park, swung to high, fell off and broke my neck, that's not their fault for building a swing that went to high, that was operator error.....

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mmm... buyer beware. Perfectly sufficient only assuming perfect consumer knowledge and judgment (i.e. never).

 

Well, what if the swing operators could have covered their asses after the first swing accident by replacing the concrete with gravel? Or they could have kicked one out based on their stupid swinging behavior? They're not causing the accidents, yet still perhaps they could have done something to reduce them?

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Does this mean they need to elminate all the cliffs, boulders, buildings, or other obstructions that just might cause an accident by a negligent customer at the ski area?

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No, not at all. Everything will have a sign saying something like, "200 foot cliff with jagged rocks at bottom, Alpental not reponsible if you jump off".

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Enough of the inappropriate analogies, let's switch to generalization. A terrain park is manufactured; the questions raised here concern quality control and product liability. You can either argue that the injuries were the result of knowably improper use, or of the intended normal use. (I postulate that) in general, a manufacturer should be immune if the former, liable if the latter.

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You can't engineer jumps in terrain parks? I always thought park rats were dumb, but that they can't figure out ski jumps have been designed for at least a century is a bit surprising.

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I am hoping that BC wins the appeal, and sets a precedent. I empathize with the young man who was involved, but I do not believe his lack of judgement/skill has the right to impact the future of riding for thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people. Moreover, whatever ambulance chasing parasite took this case deserves a ton of derision for colluding peoples minds about the definition of responsible behavior/taking responsibility for one's own actions.

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I am hoping that BC wins the appeal, and sets a precedent.

 

That resort owners aren't responsible for designing and maintaining their resorts to a reasonable standard? Sweet - no more maintenance bills for the chairlift!

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Uh...yeah, I don't think that was my point, but you can read into it however you please.

 

 

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Uh...yeah, I don't think that was my point, but you can read into it however you please.

 

That would be the precedent set by those actions.

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You can't engineer jumps in terrain parks? I always thought park rats were dumb, but that they can't figure out ski jumps have been designed for at least a century is a bit surprising.

 

The nordic jumps that you are talking about are reasonably safe for highly trained athletes who have undergone a structured qualification process, and who are only allowed to use them under certain conditions, so the comparison here is completely invalid.

 

Very few people that actually ride in the park at all would support the claim that you can construct any jump, much less a signficant kicker, that's safe for all ability levels under all conditions. A 17-year old park rat can hit a 40 foot table-top and pull a corked mute 900 one second and land perfectly, and a washed-up old gaper can kill hit the same jump two seconds later and kill or cripple himself while attempting a straight air. You clearly know this, so why you are choosing to tilt this particular windmill of an argument is beyond me.

 

 

 

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Uh...yeah, I don't think that was my point, but you can read into it however you please.

 

That would be the precedent set by those actions.

 

Huh?

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The nordic jumps that you are talking about are reasonably safe for highly trained athletes who have undergone a structured qualification process, and who are only allowed to use them under certain conditions, so the comparison here is completely invalid.

 

Nordic jumps were constructed for the masses in the 1920s and 1930s - many city parks of the era had a range of jump hills from small to massive, all designed with appropriate landing areas. My grandfather would go down to the park and jump.

 

Any park skier knows there are well constructed jumps and poorly constructed jumps. Indeed skiers in this very thread mentioned the bad landings at Snoqualmie. Why you are arguing a resort shouldn't be responsible for poorly constructed jumps and harping on your mantra of choice "personal responsibility" is beyond me. US ski areas charge for and advertise a homogenized handholding product, they should be liable if they fail to provide it.

 

Additionally, if healthcare in this country were affordable this lawsuit probably never would have happened. "personal responsibility" is all well and good until you have to pay for a cripple for the next 100 years (I'm 100% none of the blowhards posting here could afford that for the future).

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