Coaches acted appropriately, says head of Aspen ski club
June 26, 2002
The executive director of the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club said he is surprised and disappointed with Monday’s decision by the state Supreme Court to allow a former racer to sue the club.
The high court overturned two lower court decisions in ruling that David Cooper has the right to seek damages for a 1995 training accident that left him blind.
The lower courts ruled Cooper could not sue the ski club because his mother had signed a form waiving his right to do so in the event of injury or death. The Colorado Supreme Court ruled parents do not have the authority to sign away their children’s rights to seek damages.
Cooper maintains that then-ski club coach John McBride Jr. set a super G training course on Aspen Mountain in a manner that forced him to veer into the trees and crash.
Cooper was 17 at the time of the accident in 1995. He has since graduated from the University of Colorado and is currently working in the Denver area at an advertising agency, his attorney said. McBride has continued with coaching and is currently working with the U.S. Ski Team.
“We sympathize with David Cooper and the Cooper family because the accident had tragic consequences,” said ski club director Mark Cole. “However, we firmly believe the facts surrounding this case will demonstrate the club and its coaches acted appropriately in all respects.”
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Cole is not sure how the court’s decision will affect the club’s insurance costs. Cooper has yet to argue his case against the Aspen Valley Ski Club before a jury, so it remains to be seen whether there will be any major financial penalties against the ski club and its insurer.
The ruling means parents will no longer be required to sign waivers before their children participate in organized sports, but Cole said ski club participants and their parents will still need to sign a form acknowledging the risks involved with racing.
“Whatever it is we have them sign won’t help out with liability, but it will still be an important tool in keeping our athletes and their parents informed about the risks,” Cole said.
The Aspen Skiing Co. had no comment on the Supreme Court decision. A company spokesman said that waivers are a standard part of enrolling children in the ski school, but declined to speculate on the ruling’s effects.
He said the Skico is looking to Colorado Ski Country, an industry group, for guidance on the question of waivers and liability.
Cole said the ski and snowboard club will continue operations as normal this winter, which means gearing up for the 1,500 or so children who enroll in the club’s programs each year.
“Our mission is too important to be jeopardized by any one incident or decision, and we have to set ourselves up to get through something like that,” Cole said.
[Allyn Harvey’s e-mail address is email@example.com.]