More Dogs on Main: And justice for all, kind of |

More Dogs on Main: And justice for all, kind of

Tom Clyde

Park Record columnist Tom Clyde.
Tom Clyde mug

A couple of news items caught my eye this week. The first was a combined state and federal action against a Utah company called Response Marketing Group, LLC that was resolved in an out of court settlement. The governments’ claim was that Response was in the businesses of selling “secret” real estate investing techniques in seminars. They started out as free events, and then the customers would be reeled in to a $1,000 three-day training event, which was basically a sales pitch for advanced training sessions that cost $10,000 and up. The regulators determined that the courses were basically a scam and that hundreds of people had been duped into spending huge amounts on training on how to flip properties or buy into sketchy investment opportunities promoted by the company. Response Marketing Group is based in Lindon, in Utah County, which seems to be the epicenter of this kind of thing. They will pay a fine and are prohibited from doing this sort of thing again, at least until they form a new LLC and start over under a different name.

The other was the announcement that the Utah Office of Occupational Safety and Health has determined that Park City Mountain committed “serious violations” in the tragic incident last January where ski patroller Christian Helger was bounced out of the Short Cut chairlift when a tree fell on the rope. He was flung out of the chair and suffocated in the deep snow below. It cast a pall over the remainder of the ski season. According to news reporting on the OSH penalty, other trees had fallen on the Short Cut lift and not a lot was done about a known hazard. 

I don’t know the particulars about either case beyond what was publicly reported. The two cases aren’t related in any way other than both were administrative agencies enforcing regulations rather than criminal prosecutions or civil litigation brought by the injured parties. The reason my strangely wired brain put them together is this: In one case, the fine imposed was $15 million dollars, and in the other it was $2,500. In one case, a bunch of gullible people paid a lot of money to hear some get-rich-quick scammer sell them on seminar after seminar. In the other case, a man died, and if the incident had happened at a slightly different time of day with the lift fully loaded, lots of people could have been seriously injured or worse. 

So in the relative scheme of things, which wrongdoer should be fined $15 million, and the other get off for $2,500? The real estate scammer was hit with a $15 million restitution order and fine. The ski area was ordered to pay $2,500. That’s the equivalent of about 10 lift tickets at the walk-up window rate, or four Epic Passes out of a total of 2.4 million sold. But, we are told, the state of Utah takes the safety of our workers very seriously. 

Under Utah law, the employee’s sole remedy is under the Workers Comp statute. Workers Comp will pay two-thirds of the average weekly wage for six years. Guessing at wage rates, and not knowing how overtime or seasonality might factor in, that might be close to $200,000. That hardly seems adequate compensation to the family, especially when the employer was found to be at fault. A non-employee customer of the resort, or Helger’s family, had he been skiing on his day off, would certainly recover a million or more in damages with one call to whichever TV lawyer they called. The only hope here is that the finding of a serious violation is enough to get out from under the low compensation rate provided by Workers Compensation, and allow the survivors to sue for damages.

And this is how we dish out justice around here. 

In other inequity news, I got a tour of a trophy house in my neighborhood. It’s on the market for a newly-discounted price of 23 million bucks. It’s hard to make comparisons here because some trophy houses have lots of acreage, or river frontage. This one has an illegal helipad complete with its own fuel tanker truck, so who knows. Anyway, they had an open house for realtors to get a look at it. A realtor friend called and asked if I wanted to see it.

The house was spectacular, as you would expect at that price. There were lots of amazing details, but I was fascinated by the faucets. Partly, I’m in need of a replacement for the faucet in my bathroom. It was a solid $30 Home Depot set installed nearly 40 years ago. It’s time to send it to plumbing heaven. So when I saw what the high-end fixtures looked like, it kind of adjusted my thinking. There was a sink in the garage, which I’ve always thought would be really handy. I took a picture of the faucet on the garage sink — $7,500 on Amazon (or three times the fine in the deadly ski lift incident). And I was assuming I could solve my problem for under $100.

I tell you, after you’ve peed in surroundings like that, it’s very difficult to see my bathroom as anything other than a step up from a Forest Service outhouse.


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