Household sued after avalanche causes human loss of life
The wife and daughter of a man who died in an avalanche are filing a multi-party lawsuit.
The wife and daughter of a late Longmont resident, Peter Marshall, 40, has filed a 68-page lawsuit for unlawful death after the man was killed by an avalanche. The lawsuit alleges that the Silverton Avalanche School, San Juan County Search and Rescue, and leader Zachary Lovell committed “fraud, misrepresentation, negligence, and consumer law violations” in connection with his January 5, 2019 death.
The man’s family also claim Backcountry Access manufactured a defective Float 32 avalanche airbag that did not inflate after Marshall “tried to deploy the balloon-like backpack”. The incident report from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center states: “Marshall’s airbag backpack worked properly, the trigger from the backpack strap, but the bag did not deploy.”
In addition to the other defendants named, the lawsuit is also directed at Kohlberg & Company, a private equity firm that acquired Backcountry Access in 2017.
Photo by Quenten Janssen on Unsplash
“The defendants, each and every one of them, have acted willfully, willfully and recklessly, regardless of the consequences or the rights and safety of Peter Marshall or others,” reads the lawsuit, which continues: “The school, the leader and The airbag manufacturers have created significant and unreasonable risks of serious injury and death for participants “in the safety class. The defendants were grossly negligent, and this gross negligence was a cause of the injuries, damage and loss to plaintiffs and the heirs of Peter Marshall.”
After an investigation into the matter, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center reported that Marshall’s death was the first avalanche death of the 2018-2019 season and the first of a student at Silverton Avalanche School. In his final report, written after site visits and interviews with staff, students and volunteers, the three most critical mistakes that caused the death were identified, including the fact that the deceased’s group should not have been allowed to drive on a runway that was steep enough to negotiate this steepness was misjudged and possible conditions for avalanches on nearby slopes were overlooked. It took a total of 50 minutes for the group to discover Marshall’s body.
There were 72 avalanches in the area about two weeks prior to the tragedy, and on the day they occurred, the Silverton Avalanche School instructors agreed, according to the lawsuit, “not to travel with Level 2 students in avalanche areas that weekend “. During these discussions, school staff “expressed concern that the Defendant Lovell, despite the fragile snowpack and avalanche conditions, tended to travel in more complex and extensive terrain”.
Jim Moss, a recreation law attorney, said he believed Marshall had signed waivers releasing the Silverton Avalanche School from liability in the event of an accident. “The allegations of fraud – that the school and the guide tricked Marshall into signing up for the class by, for example, falsely claiming that the instructors had extensive operational experience in avalanche areas – are affecting the exemptions,” Moss said. “This will be a battle of the avalanche experts and it will depend on which experts impress the jury. These people put a lot of avalanche material in there. “
Ethan Greene, director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, commented, “I think these lawsuits really are between other parties and don’t really involve us, even though they rely on part of our work. I am not sure what we can do to avoid this. I hope people don’t shy away from sharing information with us or other people. Our job is to help people better understand avalanches. “
The wrongful death lawsuit is against the Silverton Avalanche School
The wrongful death lawsuit is against the Silverton Avalanche School, a leader and an airbag manufacturer