Vail Resorts has paid up for a fatal incident at its flagship resort. Jason Blevins from the Colorado Sun reports that the family of Jason Varnish has reached a settlement with Vail Resorts regarding a death caused by a variety of mistakes by Vail’s lift operators back in 2020. The details of the settlement have not been made public.
On February 13, 2020, Jason Varnish and a friend were boarding a chairlift in the Blue Sky Basin area. The seat was not lowered, which is a major safety risk. His friend was able to escape, but Jason’s jacket got stuck on the chairlift. The ski lift operator wasn’t paying attention, as he was busy clearing off snow.
Jason ended up being stuck on the chairlift for eight minutes while it was ten feet above the ground. With the jacket being trapped around his torso, the coroner determined that he died due to positional asphyxiation, and that the Vail liftie was not paying attention when the incident occurred.
Varnish’s family sued Vail Resorts for negligence, as they argued that the ski resort should’ve prepared lifties for situations like this. Vail countered by saying risks like this are a part of fine print waivers and the inherent risks of skiing.
Colorado Ski resorts are protected from major losses in cases like this thanks to the Colorado Ski Safety Act. The maximum amount that a plaintiff can claim from a wrongful death lawsuit is $250,000.
Peter Burg, who is a part of the Burg Simpson plaintiff trial law firm, released the following statement, arguing that Vail’s “failure in training and procedures” led to Jason Varnish’s death:
“It is also time for the legislature and courts to stop allowing the ski industry to feel fully insulated from any liability through the use of waivers of liability for things that clearly are not inherent risks of skiing. It does a disservice to the ski community. Accountability is critical to public safety.”
Image Credits: Vail Ski Resort