Skico sued over fall from chairlift
A Florida family is suing the Aspen Skiing Co. for negligence after two members of the family fell from a chairlift at Buttermilk last spring and allegedly sustained severe and lasting injuries.
The lawsuit, filed yesterday in Pitkin County District Court, cites seven different counts of negligence and misconduct on the part of the Skico related to the accident. It seeks an unspecified sum in damages.
David and Caren Traylor of Palm Harbor, Fla., parents of Michael and Steven Traylor, ages 8 and 11 at the time of the incident, requested a trial by jury in the suit, filed by Aspen attorney Martin H. Freeman.
According to the suit, David, Michael and Steven Traylor, along with family friend Lauren Waters, attempted to load onto the Summit Express chairlift at about 10 a.m. on April 2, 1999.
Michael Traylor never got properly seated on the chair as it began to elevate, the suit said, and eventually, both Michael and his father fell from the chair when it was about 30 feet off the ground.
Michael Traylor “suffered minor injuries, including nausea and headaches, medical expenses and suffered and will continue to suffer emotional distress and mental anguish,” the suit claims. David Traylor sustained more severe injuries from the fall, including a fractured left femur, fractured vertebra, right lung pulmonary contusions and a fractured tail bone, the suit claims. “Mr. Traylor’s injuries have resulted in permanent physical disabilities,” according to the suit.
Dave Bellack, vice president and general counsel for the Skico, said yesterday that he had not yet read the lawsuit.
“It’s not in dispute that the father and the son fell out of the chairlift,” Bellack said. “The issue in the lawsuit will be understanding how and why it happened.”
The Traylors claim the lift operator at the time, who is not identified in the lawsuit, acted negligently in several ways by failing to follow standard lift-operating protocol, such as stopping the chair immediately after seeing Michael Traylor in distress.
“The Skico’s lift operator breached these duties when he operated the chairlift in a negligent, careless and reckless manner, without due regard for its passengers,” the suit claims.
In an April 5, 1999 article in The Aspen Times about the incident, Skico spokeswoman Rose Abello conceded that the lift operator did not follow procedures.
“Our manual does say that if somebody is not on [the lift] right to shut the lift off using the stop button, not to run along next to the lift,” Abello said. “Our procedures were not followed.”
However, Abello added that had the lift operator hit the stop button immediately, the lift would have continued to move some 18 to 22 feet from the loading platform.
The lawsuit also charges the Skico with two counts of negligent lift operation and two counts of negligent hiring and training, related to the accident. In addition, the Traylors are suing for loss of consortium on behalf of Caren Traylor, for her loss of “marital care and comfort, to the detriment of [her] marital relationship” with David, according to the suit.
The Traylors also allege a count of false imprisonment and another count of “extreme and outrageous conduct” on behalf of Steven Traylor. The two latter counts relate to the suit’s claim that Steven Traylor and Lauren Waters were unjustly detained for questioning for more than an hour by Skico employees after arriving at the top of the lift.
The Skico “restricted their movement by exercising dominion and control over them … and questioning them about the incident without a parent or responsible adult being informed.”
As a result, “Steven Traylor suffered severe emotional distress,” the suit alleges.
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Challenge Aspen’s CEO Jeff Hauser has stepped down from the nonprofit in order “to focus on personal pursuits.”