A teenager has permanent injuries from an accident he was in during a pond skim event at Snow King Mountain, according to a complaint filed by his parents.
Doug and Elizabeth Doyle, through their attorney, Jerry Bosch, claim Snow King was negligent.
The complaint was filed against Snow King Holdings LLC and claims their son “WDD” was severely and permanently injured as a result of the condition of the defendant’s premises and defendant’s negligence in designing, creating and conducting a “pond skim” event.
The Doyles’ son was injured in March 2017, after he and some other teenagers skied across a pool of water at the base of the mountain and one of the other skier’s edges cut WDD’s leg.
Video of the accident shows one of the teen’s friends skiing over him in the pool, and the water becomes stained with blood.
“WDD suffers significant and life-changing injuries including permanent nerve damage that results in what is commonly referred to as drop-foot,” Bosch wrote in the complaint.
In the complaint the plaintiffs say the accident happened on land under the control of Snow King through a lease agreement with the town of Jackson.
“Sometime prior to March 11, 2017, defendants construct a pond at the bottom of the mountain adjacent to the Summit and Cougar chairlifts and tube park,” Bosch wrote. “The pond skim is an event where individuals ski down a gradual slope for about 100 yards or less to gather speed to attempt to skim across the water of the pond on their skis or snowboards.”
Bosch stated that Snow King advertised the event leading up to it as “one you don’t want to miss” and “a rite of passage” and “a bit rowdy.”
Plaintiffs claim there was no one controlling the event when it started.
“There are no warning signs about the risk of undertaking this activity,” the complaint states. “Specifically, there are no warnings about the dangers of more than one person attempting to pond skim at the same time. Defendants built the pond and then simply allowed anyone to use it as they saw fit without control or warning.”
The complaint says the ski blade cut through WDD’s skin, blood vessels, tendons and nerves.
“WDD immediately begins bleeding profusely as a result of the nature of the cut and cold water,” the complaint states. “Some bystanders jump in the water to help WDD, getting him out of the water and on the snow where a tourniquet stops the bleeding.”
The plaintiffs haven’t indicated how much they’ll seek in damages if the case moves past the liability stage, but it’s more than $50,000.
“The medical bills are substantially more than that,” Bosch told the News&Guide.
Bosch said his clients “exhausted all other options” before deciding to take legal action.
The original complaint was filed before Wyoming’s new Skier Safety Act went into effect.
The law is designed to protect ski areas from lawsuits.
Before that, the Wyoming Recreational Safety Act stated that “inherent risk with regard to any sport or recreational opportunity means those dangers or conditions are characteristic of, intrinsic to, or an integral part of any sport or recreational opportunity.”
The Doyles will have to prove that WDD’s risk was not inherent.
It’s unclear if 2017 pond skim participants signed liability waivers.
“I don’t have any information right now that they were having people sign waivers,” Bosch said.
But Jeff Moran emceed the last few pond skims at Snow King and said he remembers waivers being signed.
“In all the years that I emceed the pond skim, they always had a waiver,” Moran said.
Snow King Manager Ryan Stanley could not be reached for comment.
The mountain did not host a 2018 pond skim, but it’s unclear if that’s because of the pending lawsuit.
Snow conditions in 2018 varied greatly from 2017, and some events like the Town Downhill race were moved to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
The issue of liability waivers has not been brought up in WDD’s case.
Plaintiffs and defendants are working on discovery ahead of a jury trial. A scheduling conference was scheduled for later this week.