A jury will decide whether Taft Conlin’s death at Vail was the result of improper signage | AspenTimes.com

A jury will decide whether Taft Conlin’s death at Vail was the result of improper signage

Vail Mountain School student Taft Conlin died in an in-bounds avalanche on Vail Mountain in January 2012. A civil trial is scheduled for August in Eagle.

EAGLE — A district court judge is leaving it to a jury to decide whether Vail Resorts properly closed an in-bounds expert ski run before an avalanche killed a local teenager in 2012.

District Court Judge Fred Gannett also ruled that it will be up to a jury to rule if the resort company’s signs on Prima Cornice were sufficient.

“If a jury finds that Vail intended to close Prima Cornice or a portion thereof, and that Vail’s signage was insufficient or improper under the Skier Safety Act, a verdict in favor of plaintiffs may be possible,” Gannett wrote in a ruling issued Friday.

Taft Conlin, 13, died in January 2012 when he was swept away in an in-bounds avalanche on Prima Cornice.

Prima Cornice has two gates. The upper gate was closed, but the lower gate was left open. Conlin and four friends accessed Prima Cornice through that lower gate — as several others had already done that day. Conlin and two friends hiked into the area below the closed upper gate. The snow slid and swept Conlin away, killing him.

Gannett’s ruling said that among the disputes is whether Vail Resorts was aware that skiers would hike or ski the Prima Cornice from the lower entrance. If the jury determines that Vail did know about it, then the jury could find that Vail “at the least tacitly condoned this access,” Gannett wrote in Friday’s ruling.


In an emailed statement, family attorney Jim Heckbert wrote:

“The family is very happy to be assured the case will go forward to trial in August, and that a jury of Eagle County citizens will be allowed hear and decide the complete story about the cause of Taft Conlin’s death. This is not about money. Any monetary award the jury may make to the family will all be given to charity.”

Vail Resorts Vice President of Corporate Communications also emailed a statement about Gannett’s ruling:

“As this is an ongoing legal matter, we will not comment on the specifics of this particular motion. As always, we support the work of our Mountain Safety and Ski Patrol teams in promoting responsible skiing and riding at all of our resorts to provide a safe experience for our guests and employees.”

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