BRITISH COLUMBIA

'Ski Buddy' Not Liable For Heli-Ski Death, Court Rules

01/28/2014 03:47 EST | Updated 03/30/2014 05:59 EDT
A widow whose husband died while helicopter skiing in southeastern B.C. has lost her lawsuit against his “ski buddy” for not keeping an eye on him.

Mark Kennedy died when he fell into a tree well on a remote mountain north of Revelstoke, B.C., while on a heli-skiing trip with Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing in January 2009.

Tree wells are deep narrow holes created next to the trunks of trees when heavy snow falls from the branches. People who fall in them can be trapped and suffocate in the deep snow.

In her lawsuit, Kennedy's widow Elizabeth alleged her husband was paired with British skier Adrian Coe as “ski buddies.” She claimed Coe was therefore contractually obligated to stay close to him, keep him in sight, and assist or alert guides and other skiers if he observed his buddy in need of assistance.

The lawsuit alleged Coe failed to perform his duties as a “ski buddy” and therefore delayed the search and possibly a chance to rescue and revive Mark Kennedy.

But Justice Fisher dismissed the lawsuit in her ruling issued on Monday.

"It is indeed very sad that Mr. Kennedy met a tragic and untimely death, but he did so after a terrible accident while participating in a high-risk sport and responsibility for his death cannot be placed on Mr. Coe," wrote Fisher.

"It is my view that the nature of any obligations assumed by Mr. Coe and Mr. Kennedy was not contractual. There is no basis on which to find the existence of a contract or any contractual intention."

Coe's lawyers had argued he was paired with Kennedy without any consultation and that he alerted guides as soon as he noticed Kennedy was no longer with the group, shortly after Coe and the other skiers arrived at the bottom of the run.

The documents allege Kennedy had been on heli-skiing trips with the same operator at least four previous times and that he was well aware of the terrain and the risks involved with such an activity.

Kennedy was a successful trial lawyer in Colorado before his death. His wife, Elizabeth, has been given half the assets in his will amounting to more than $18 million. She was seeking compensation for the loss of her husband’s future earnings.

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