Aspenite sues Skico over lift accident |

Aspenite sues Skico over lift accident

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Aspen resident Nancy Willette filed suit against the Aspen Skiing Co. on Tuesday, claiming that lift operators on Aspen Mountain caused her to fall out of the chairlift, resulting in multiple injuries.

According to the lawsuit filed in Pitkin County District Civil Court, Willette and her friend Jeff Mallouk were skiing on Aspen Mountain on April 18 when the accident occurred. Willette claims that she fell off the Ruthie’s chairlift due to the negligence of the lift operators.

The lawsuit states that Willette and Mallouk were on the loading platform at the Ruthie’s chairlift that day at 3:20 p.m. and the lift operator at the top of the lift had started “flipping up” the chair seats. The suit claims that lift operators at the loading platforms had been putting lift seats down for people who were getting on the lift.

But Willette claims that the lift operators were talking with each other and not paying attention, and did not put a seat down for her and Mallouk. Since there was no time for the pair to get away from the chair, Willette could not get herself onto the lift that had no seat.

The suit claims that both Willette and Mallouk were swept forward by the chair frame, and Willette screamed to the operator to stop the lift and attempted to hold onto the right-side rail of the chair. According to the suit, Willette was pushed forward off the platform where her ski tips caught on the “hard, rock covered ground” and her bindings released. She was “catapulted forcefully” onto the patch of bare ground, face first.

Mallouk was able to dive to the left onto a snowbank to evacuate the lift, the lawsuit says.

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The suit also claims that onlookers shouted and screamed for the lift operators to stop the lift, but the lift wasn’t stopped until the chair in question was at least 40 feet away.

Willette claims that she suffered a number of injuries as a result of the accident, including a broken back, bruised ribs and bruising of her pelvic bones.

The suit claims that her injuries have resulted in a permanent physical disability.

Willette is suing the Aspen Skiing Co. for negligence on the part of the lift operators, negligent hiring, retention and entrustment of those operators, and for failure to comply with the Passenger Tramway Safety Act, which establishes a training program for operation and maintenance of a tramway, including a ski lift.

The suits asks for a jury trial on the matter, and says that Willette is asking for general damages, a penalty of $50,000 for the Skico’s alleged willful and wanton misconduct under the Tramway act, and fees and costs.

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