Motion: Unknown skier in Aspen Highlands collision can’t shoulder blame in negligence suit
November 10, 2015
The attorneys for the victim of a hit-and-run ski collision say a doctor and Aspen Valley Hospital's legal attempt to pin some of the blame on an unidentified skier in a medical-negligence lawsuit lacks merit.
California resident Laurence Niles has a $4 million complaint against Aspen Valley Hospital and Dr. Bill Rodman in Denver federal court.
Niles' lawsuit alleges the hospital and Rodman, the hospital's former chief surgeon, negligently treated him for injuries he suffered Feb. 17, 2013, from a hit-and-run ski collision at Aspen Highlands. The end result was permanent brain injury to Niles, 80, the suit says.
The skier in question has yet to be identified, prompting Rodman's attorney, Kim Childs of Delta, to file a motion in August arguing the skier should be held accountable for Niles' injuries.
The hospital also joined Rodman's motion to hold the unidentified skier at fault because the person violated the Colorado Skier Safety Act by skiing recklessly and fleeing the scene after colliding with Niles, who was the downhill skier.
In a court filing made last week, Niles' attorneys argued the hospital and Rodman can't assign blame to the unknown skier. The motion also argues the "fact that Mr. Niles was injured on a ski slope did not prevent the defendants from 'properly diagnosing and surgically treating (his) condition.'"
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The motion also cites a Colorado federal court ruling from 1993 over a ski collision at Aspen Highlands.
In that suit, Skico was sued after one its ski patrollers, also an emergency medical technician, negligently gave an IV to a skier who said she was dizzy and light-headed. The faulty IV placement permanently injured the woman's arm.
Skico argued the woman, who had a history of dizziness, didn't take her prescribed medication to treat her condition. A jury found the woman to be 95 percent responsible for her injury. But a judge, ruling on a post-trial motion, reversed the verdict and ordered Skico to pay the woman $38,500.
"Persons providing medical treatment — whether they be hospitals, doctors, nurses, or EMTs — should expect to treat not only patients who fall ill or are injured through no fault of their own, but also those whose own neglect or intentional conduct has placed them in the precarious position of requiring medical treatment," the judge's opinion said at the time.
The Niles case is no different, states a motion from Denver law firms Ogborn Mihm LLP and Bogue, Paoli & Thomas LLC.
"The same principles apply in this case," the motion says.
Niles' lawsuit says Rodman and hospital staff misdiagnosed him after he was admitted to the hospital. It wasn't until six days after the crash that he 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.