A compensation claim for a skiing injury – brought by a woman who was paralyzed in an accident on a beginner ski slope – has been resolved following a hearing at the Superior Court of Los Angeles County.
In March 2012, Leslie McLaughlin went skiing at the Mountain High Resort in Wrightwood, Southern California, with her friend James Tollins. For their fourth run of the day, the couple chose to ski down a beginner slope into Woodworth Gulch – a run which neither of the skiers had attempted before.
As the couple approached an uphill portion of the ski run, which extended across the width of the gulch and which Leslie believed was part of the natural terrain, she was suddenly launched into the air and fell backwards – landing on her upper back.
The impact of her fall caused Leslie to suffer a burst C6 vertebra, and she was airlifted to the Huntingdon Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, where she was diagnosed with multiple fractures of her neck and spine. Leslie spent six months at the Pasadena hospital, before undergoing three months of rehabilitation at the Craig Hospital in Denver.
As a result of the accident, Leslie is now a quadriplegic and is paralyzed from the chest down. Although she has use of her arms and hands, and is able to get around using a wheelchair, Leslie requires a substantial amount of care and she will never be able to work again in her profession as an equine veterinarian.
Leslie made a compensation claim for a skiing injury against the Mountain High Resort; alleging that the uphill portion of the ski run – which was actually a staging area intended for skiers and snowboarders to perform jumps – had “unreasonably increased the risks inherent in the sport of skiing” as it had been constructed across a beginner ski slope and was not signposted as a hazard.
The Mountain High Resort denied its liability for Leslie´s injuries – arguing that the “all-terrain features” throughout the park are well signposted and that, since this particular staging area had been constructed in 2004, almost 3 million visitors to the park had used the ski runs without sustaining a similar injury.
The compensation claim for a skiing injury claim went to the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, where lawyers on behalf of the resort produced a forensic witness who testified that Leslie had been skiing too fast in a designated “slow zone”. The expert gave evidence that Leslie had been travelling at between 39mph and 45 mph, and should have slowed down as she approached the uphill portion of the ski run until she had determined what it was and that it was safe to continue.
After a case lasting thirty-six days, the jury found in Leslie´s favor; but due to her comparative fault as described by the resort´s forensic expert, reduced a compensation settlement of $21,987,215 by 82 percent to account for the contribution Leslie had made to her own injuries – thus resolving the settlement of the compensation claim for a skiing injury for $3,957,698.