Jury: Ambulance driver, firm not at fault in accident

Aspen Times Staff

A civil jury Thursday ruled that an Aspen ambulance driver and his company are not liable for injuries a longtime Aspen woman said she suffered in February 2004.Amy Britvar, 71, sued Charles Kirsten and Mountain Ambulance, alleging that she suffered injuries she still feels today because he backed into her. But the defendants’ attorney, Rick Haderlie, told jurors that it was the plaintiff who was responsible for the accident.The mishap occurred Feb. 25, 2004, on Main Street near St. Mary Catholic Church in Aspen. Britvar said she stepped into a crosswalk behind the illegally parked ambulance, which backed into her. She was treated and released at Aspen Valley Hospital.Her attorney, Ted Hess, told jurors that she hit her head and that she thought “she was going to die.” Six weeks later, Britvar fell looking for her cane, injuring her knee, and it was later determined that she had a broken bone in her pelvis.Haderlie said the pelvic injury wasn’t serious and healed fine. He also said the ambulance’s equipment, including its exterior lights, was functioning properly. The ambulance was backing up “for some time, for some distance,” Haderlie said.He tried to make responsibility a key issue, telling the six jurors and one alternate that citizens have a duty to avoid stepping in front of moving vehicles. The jury deliberated about three hours before finding for the defendant.A tearful Britvar criticized Haderlie and said that the jury instructions were written by the defendants’ insurance company and were slanted against her. She was also quizzed relentlessly about things that happened 30 years ago and portrayed badly when she could not recall exact details, Britvar said.Efforts to reach Mountain Ambulance were unsuccessful.CorrectionA story Monday incorrectly reported the outcome of a civil trial involving an ambulance driver and a longtime Aspen resident.Jurors said the driver, Charles Kirsten, and Mountain Ambulance were 51 percent responsible for causing the Feb. 25, 2004, accident on Aspens Main Street. The jury assigned the plaintiff, Amy Britvar, 71, the rest of the blame and awarded her nearly $4,000.(Correction published Feb. 7, 2006)