Litigation Continues Involving Avalanche Death of Vail Skier Taft Conlin

Vail Daily News reported recently that the parents of deceased skier, Taft Conlin are appealing a defense verdict of that followed a nine-day trial earlier this summer in Eagle County, Colorado. Conlin died in an in-bounds avalanche while skiing at Vail in 2012.  He was 13 at the time of his death.

Conlin’s parents brought the recreational personal injury suit against Vail alleging that Vail was negligent in failing to close the avalanche prone area known as Prima Cornice.

The Process

The case took years to make its way to trial.  It was stayed temporarily while a similar case arising out of the avalanche death of skier Christopher Norris at Winter Park in 2012 made its way to the State Supreme Court.  In that case, the Colorado’s State Supreme Court ruled that Colorado’s Ski Safety Act encompassed in-bounds avalanches.  Although the Act does not specifically cite avalanches in the list of hazards protected by the act, it does describe changing snow and weather.  The result of that ruling in Colorado was that in-bounds avalanches are an inherent danger of skiing as a matter of law.

Despite the ruling in Norris’ case, Conlin’s case proceeded to trial on slightly different grounds, namely whether Vail was negligent in failing to close the area where Conlin perished in the avalanche.

It will be interesting to see this case unfold as it continues to shape the state of the law on the mountain.


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