$6.1 Million for Fireman After Plunge Over Open Edge of Ski Run

Client suffered disabling brain damage in a skiing accident on a ski trail maintained at a ski area near Harrisonburg, Virginia by Massanutten Ski Resort.

His brain injuries were totally disabling, requiring full time institutionalization. He suffers permanent and profound physical, mental and psychological deficits. He is confined to a wheelchair and suffers uncontrollable bouts of frustration and anger. His intellectual capacity is severely limited. He communicates with simple notes, and he can manage no more than a game of BINGO.

Massanutten Mountain forms a ridge east of the Shenandoah Mountains. Massanutten Ski Resort has a peak elevation of about 2900 ft. above sea level. It has 11 slopes, 8 lighted, a quad chairlift, and over 1,110 feet of vertical drop. Slopes are typically open from mid-December until mid-March, with 100% snow-making capacity. Its longest two runs are both man-made, the 3,400-foot Diamond Jim and the 4,100-foot ParaDice. Using the cut-and-fill construction method, both of these were completed by Massanutten in late 1991. Client’s accident occurred on Diamond Jim, just two days after it had opened to the public.

In a motion for judgment alleging negligence on the part of Massanutten, Client’s wife sought recovery of damages for his injuries. A jury returned a verdict in the Client’s favor in the amount of $6,170,563.00. The jury found no contributory negligence and no assumption of risk. Upon the motion of Massanutten, the trial court set the verdict aside and entered judgment in favor of Massanutten.

The trial judge determined that there was insufficient evidence to support the verdict, giving credence to defendant’s contention that the result was merely a “sympathy verdict.” We filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of Virginia. The writ was granted. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment and reinstated the verdict.

Past results are no guarantee of future results.