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Lawsuit: Vail ski lift negligence to blame for OK teen’s fall, broken back

BROOMFIELD — An Oklahoma father, on behalf of his 16-year-old daughter, has filed a lawsuit against Vail Resorts Inc. (NYSE: MTN) that accuses the Broomfield-based operator of Crested Butte Mountain Resort of negligence in an event that allegedly left the teen hospitalized for weeks with back and spine injuries after a 30-foot tumble from a ski lift. 

Mike Miller and his daughter, referred to in court documents primarily using the nickname Annie, traveled to the Western Slope in March for a church ski trip, said the complaint filed this month in Broomfield County District Court. On the second day of skiing on the Vail-owned mountain, the pair joined a father-son duo on the Paradise Express chairlift, where the incident and injury allegedly occurred. 

“As the ski lift chair entered the loading zone, Annie went to sit down on the chairlift bench but was not able to,” the complaint claimed. Other chairlift occupants began shouting for operators to stop the lift with no success. 

“The lift continued, although Annie was obviously hanging from the chair. Annie’s father continued to scream for someone to stop the lift,” according to the lawsuit against Vail, representatives of which did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday. “As the ski lift chair continued up the mountain, Annie’s father continued to try and lift her up into the seat, but he could not.”

Eventually, the Millers’ attorneys claim, “neither Annie nor Mike could hold on any longer, and

Annie fell approximately 30 feet to the ground. Annie landed directly on her back.”

Medics took Annie first to the Gunnison Valley Health Mountain Clinic, where soon after she was transferred to Gunnison Valley Hospital, the complaint said. Scans at GVH indicated a host of vertebrae and spinal-cord injuries. 

Annie was driven by ambulance from Gunnison to Children’s Hospital in Denver, where she spent a month undergoing therapies before being transferred again to the Craig Rehabilitation Hospital, the lawsuit said. She was finally discharged to outpatient care in mid-June. 

“By not stopping the lift when it was obvious to everyone present that Annie was not seated properly, the operator of the Paradise Express chairlift consciously and recklessly disregarded Annie’s safety, knowing that not stopping the lift could result in a fall that could be calamitous to Annie resulting in serious permanent injury or death, knowing that passengers on the Paradise Express chairlift — including Annie — entrusted their safety to the operator of the Paradise Express chairlift, and knowing that the operation of a ski lift like the Paradise Express chairlift entailed both greater danger and greater responsibility than circumstances involving ordinary care,” the complaint said. 

According to the Millers’ lawyers, “plaintiff’s counsel requested any investigative materials from Crested Butte. To date, Crested Butte has not provided any documents.”

The lawsuit demands that a court award the Millers with an unspecified sum to include “past and future compensatory economic and non-economic damages in amounts that will fully compensate for all the injuries and damages suffered.”

The case is Michael D. Miller and minor daughter v. Vail Resorts Inc., case number 2022CV30333, filed Dec. 16 in Broomfield County District Court. 

Source: BizWest