Doctor’s attorney wants Aspen Highlands hit and run skier accountable in negligence suit |

Doctor’s attorney wants Aspen Highlands hit and run skier accountable in negligence suit

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times

When a California man was struck by a skier on Aspen Highlands on Feb. 17, 2013, he was treated for severe injuries that led him to sue Aspen Valley Hospital and its former chief surgeon for medical negligence. But the skier who crashed into Laurence Niles left the scene, and the physician’s attorney has filed court papers saying he should be held accountable for the crash.

But there’s one hang-up: The hit-and-run skier has yet to be identified.

Even so, Delta attorney Kim B. Childs, who is defending Dr. Bill Rodman in the suit, said Monday the skier responsible for the accident, while not a party to the lawsuit, could still be held fully or partially responsible for Niles’ injuries to his head and ribs.

“They don’t have to be positively identified, so long as the court agrees that person could be responsible,” Childs said.

Niles, 80, filed a $4 million lawsuit against Rodman and the Aspen hospital in February, claiming the defendants misdiagnosed him. Six days after the crash on Feb. 23, 2013, Niles received a head CAT scan and Aspen hospital physicians determined he had brain damage. He was then transported to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, where he stayed until March 7. Doctors there diagnosed him with intracranial hemorrhage, which is bleeding within the skull.

“As a result of the brain injury, Mr. Niles, among other things, requires round-the-clock medical care,” the suit alleges. “Laurence Niles’ brain injury is permanent and irreversible.”

Childs, however, filed a court brief Friday saying the unidentified skier in question violated the Colorado Skier Safety Act because he skied recklessly, fled the scene and the uphill skier who collided with Niles, the downhill skier. Aspen Valley Hospital joined Rodman’s bid to hold the unidentified skier at fault with a court filing Monday.

A witness at the scene, who was on the Loge chairlift at the time, gave a statement to Ski Patrol: “Man in red (Mr. Niles) was skiing, making small turns straight down. Man in blue jacket, blue hat was to man in red’s left, making bigger turns, lost control and fell, and slid around in front of man in red; man in red pitched over front of man in blue landing on his chest and face. Man in blue got up, was at location for 10 seconds, then skied off.”

Childs said he doesn’t know where the unidentified skier is from, noting if the case goes to trial, the jury could hold the skier responsible even without his identity.

“The skier who crashed and caused (Niles) to be injured and taken to the hospital should be held responsible,” Childs said.

The suit is pending in the U.S. District Court of Denver.