A Connecticut woman is suing Vail Resorts because of injuries she allegedly suffered in the crash of a rescue toboggan as ski patrollers evacuated her after she was hurt in a fall while skiing.
Kathryn Stoupas fell at the bottom of the Geronimo trail at Keystone Resort, which is owned by Vail, in February 2021, injuring her left shoulder, and called for ski patrol assistance.
But the two patrollers who were navigating the toboggan in which she was riding were traveling at a “high rate of speed” and lost control, according to a lawsuit filed in Broomfield County Court last week. As a result, the Stoupas claims that the toboggan overturned, “dragging (her) on her left side and face along the snow until it came to rest.”
The lawsuit claims she suffered further damage to her already injured left shoulder, along with a fractured humerus bone in her upper arm, nerve damage, abrasions and contusions to her face.
“What we’re alleging is that this was certainly negligence on their part because they shouldn’t be crashing toboggans,” her Boulder attorney, Robert Hoover, said in an interview. “She had already sustained some form of an upper body or left shoulder injury, but it was not a severe injury as compared to what happened after this crash. She knew she had hurt her shoulder, but she was not in acute pain. After the toboggan crash, she was in acute pain — agony, screaming, crying pain that she was not in before the toboggan crash.”
Hoover said Stoupas, 66, has lingering effects from her injuries including some loss of range of motion, continuing pain and weakness in her arm. Stoupas is seeking compensation for her medical expenses and “non-economic damages,” including pain and suffering.
“Her medical bills are significant,” Hoover said. “She’s had multiple surgeries. She’s had a really tough time. Her arm probably has some degree of permanent impairment.”
A Vail Resorts spokeswoman said company officials “are not able to comment on ongoing litigation,” but Hoover said he has communicated with the company’s legal counsel.
“My understanding from this discussion is that they intend to defend the case based on the (liability) waivers that everybody signs on their Epic passes,” Hoover said. “That’s about as far as we’ve gotten. It’s disappointing to me because what we see from representing injured people, Colorado law allows the ski industry to put these waivers in and then enforce these waivers.
“These waivers have been shown to be enforceable in the past, so we don’t know what the courts are going to do,” he continued. “We expect Vail to try and have the complaint dismissed based on these waivers, and they might be successful. It’s really up to Miss Stoupas if that happens. We may end up in the appellate court.”
The Colorado Skier Safety Act allows for resorts to be held liable for negligence, which Hoover is alleging in this case, but skiers sign releases waiving claims of negligence when they buy passes.
“Between the law that has come down in Colorado and these waivers they put in place, the ski areas have become almost completely immune from any claims by people that are injured by negligence,” Hoover said. “That’s not right, but it’s the law.”