Judge dismisses heli-skiing ‘ski buddy’ lawsuit

Judge dismisses case, saying ski buddy isn't contractually responsibly for death, and he did everything right in this instance

A helicopter returns from a help-skiing excursion near Revelstoke in late January.

A judge has found that a ‘ski buddy’ who was partnered with a man who fell into a tree well and died while the pair were heli-skiing is not responsible for the man’s death.

Colorado resident Mark Kennedy died in 2009 while on an excursion with Mike Wiegele heli-skiing, which is based out of Blue River, B.C.

His widow launched a lawsuit against Adrian Coe, who had been assigned by guides as his buddy on the heli-trip. Ski buddies keep an eye out for each other while skiing, and alert guides of any issues.

In her lawsuit, Elizabeth Kennedy alleged Coe failed in his duty as a ski buddy, saying he didn’t stay close, or assist Kenney properly. According to media reports, Mark Kennedy was a successful Colorado lawyer who left behind an estate worth $18 million, half of which his wife inherited. She sought damages compensating for her husband’s lost future earnings.

The lawsuit caused some concern in the heli-ski industry because of a potential chilling effect it could have on clients.

However, in a Jan. 27 Supreme Court of B.C. ruling Justice Fisher dismissed the plaintiff’s claim.

Justice Fisher found the two heli-skiers’ relationship was “not contractual.”

She added there was “no basis on which to find that Mr. Coe was in default of any obligation to immediately alert the guides,” adding that “timing will depend on the circumstances and the information available to the skier.”

In her conclusion, Justice Fisher called the incident a tragedy: “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.”

 

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