Vail Resorts faces potential lawsuit from family of skier who died on chairlift
The children of a New Jersey man who died on a Vail Mountain ski lift have hired a Denver law firm to pursue litigation against Vail Resorts.
Jason Varnish’s three children hired Burg Simpson to target Vail Resorts, attorney Peter Burg said Friday afternoon.
Varnish, 46, of Short Hills, New Jersey, died the day before Valentine’s Day while riding Chair 37 in Vail’s Blue Sky Basin. Burg Simpson was retained last week and is beginning its investigation. Burg said the firm is looking for witnesses, pictures, and video.
Burg asked that anyone with information contact the firm’s office at 303-792-5595.
Along with Burg, Jim Heckbert will work the case for Burg Simpson.
Heckbert successfully won a settlement from Vail Resorts in the death of Ashley Stamp, a 13-year-old girl from Steamboat Springs who died in December 2004 after she was hit by a Vail Resorts snowmobile while she was warming up for a race on Golden Peak. The snowmobile was being driven uphill by a member of Vail Mountains race crew. No criminal charges were filed, but Stamp’s parents filed a wrongful-death suit in 2005. Vail Resorts settled the case in 2008.
Heckbert also won a case involving a chairlift accident at Sunlight Mountain.
Heckbert also represented the parents of Vail Valley teen Taft Conlin, who died in an in-bounds avalanche on Prima Cornice on Jan. 22, 2012. His parents, Louise Ingalls and Steve Conlin, filed their case in 2012, months after their son was killed.
The Eagle County jury ruled that Vail Resorts did nothing wrong. Conlin and Ingalls disagreed and appealed the verdict to Colorado’s State Court of Appeals.
Burg said his firm has sent notices to Vail Resorts, Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office and the Colorado Tramway Safety Board. They’ve heard nothing back from any of them, Burg said.
Vail Resorts did not respond to a request for comment, sent to the company’s communications department just before noon Friday.
The story so far
Bettis said Varnish suffocated when his ski clothing caught on a portion of a ski lift and wrapped around his chest and abdomen. Positional asphyxia was the cause of Varnish’s death, Bettis said.
According to at least one witness, the chairlift seat was up when Varnish and a companion attempted to load Chair 37 in Vail’s Blue Sky Basin, Bettis said.
Varnish’s death has been ruled accidental, Bettis said.
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