Boys plummeted from lift, suit claims
July 25, 2007
A 6-year-old boy and another student taking a beginner ski-school class at Park City Mountain Resort tumbled up to 40 feet off a chairlift in 2004, a lawsuit claims, a rare but likely terrifying experience regardless of age or skiing prowess.
In the lawsuit, filed on July 6 in Third District Court, an attorney for Brandon Fambrough and his father, Scott Fambrough, claims PCMR was negligent in the fall.
Michael Katz, the Salt Lake City attorney representing the Fambroughs, charges PCMR did not adequately supervise or instruct the students. He claims the lift operators failed to properly secure the students and they did not stop the lift quickly after the operators "realized that the ski students were in a perilous situation."
The lawsuit, which was filed against Powdr Corp., PCMR’s parent, seeks $20,000, papers filed with the case indicate. Katz does not seek a jury trial. The lawsuit lists 10 unknown people as defendants with Powdr. They were lift operators or ski instructors, it says.
"The kids were not properly secured on the lift," Katz says.
The Fambrough child, whose family is from Orem, and the other student were on the First Time lift on Jan. 10, 2004 when they fell. The lawsuit claims the two began sliding off the chair quickly, and when they were between the second and third lift towers they fell off the chairlift, which can carry three people on each chair. They plummeted between 30 and 40 feet, the lawsuit claims. Katz says the two fell at about the same time. A ski instructor was not on the chair with them, he says.
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The lawyer says the Fambrough child suffered a broken hip and a head injury. Katz says he understands the boy required hip surgery, but Katz says, "he’s gotten much better. I cannot dispute that."
Katz says he understands the boy has not skied since the fall. He says the boy is limited when he plays sports, and the hip hurts him when he plays soccer. Medical bills exceed $20,000, the attorney says. The lawsuit says the boy suffered pain, is permanently impaired and his quality of life is diminished, standard claims in personal-injury lawsuits.
The condition of the other student is not known.
The local mountain resorts occasionally face skier lawsuits, but they typically involve a person who is injured while skiing or snowboarding. Falls and collisions are sometimes cited in lawsuits. A PCMR official says the resort has not been served with the lawsuit. Jim Sindt, who is the resort’s risk manager, declines to discuss the details of the lawsuit. He says falls from lifts once skiers and snowboarders clear the bottom terminal are "extremely rare" and occur "less than once a season."
"It happens at the load, to some extent," he says, adding that he considers the lifts "very safe."
Sindt acknowledges PCMR’s ski-school policies do not require an adult ride with the younger students. He says parents are told that when they enroll their kids.
PCMR is regularly rated in national magazines as one of the top mountain resorts in North America, and it hosted skiing and snowboarding events during the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Its cadre of high-speed lifts merits many accolades from skiers and snowboarders, who enjoy quick access to the runs.
The First Time lift is popular with people in ski schools and beginner skiers and snowboarders. People who park in the resort’s lower lot, meanwhile, sometimes ride First Time to get to the PayDay lift, the main access to the slopes.