Just as court clerks were preparing to call jurors for Teton County’s first pandemic-era trial, the parties involved in an injury lawsuit against Snow King Mountain Resort agreed on a settlement.
The settlement news came from Judge Timothy Day’s office late Tuesday, just a day after a court hearing where attorneys for both sides said mediation had been unsuccessful. The litigation has been going on for years, after a 2017 “pond skim” accident left teen Wyatt Doyle bleeding and injured.
In their original complaint the Doyles said their son was severely and permanently injured as a result of the condition of Snow King’s premises and its negligence in designing, creating and conducting the event.
Doyle was hurt during a March 2017 pond skim, a popular spring event at mountain resorts that consists of skiers descending a run and using momentum to skim over a man-made pond of melted snow.
There hasn’t been a pond skim event at Snow King since the accident.
“Plaintiffs claim defendants failed to among other things design, manage and operate defendant’s advertised pond skim event directly creating hazards/risks that are not inherent in a pond skim event directly causing Wyatt Doyle’s injuries,” the plaintiffs’ pretrial memorandum stated.
Doyle’s lawyers went on to sum up their view of the other side’s claims: “Defendant’s most recent defense is that they built the pond and participants can use the pond as they see fit. Defendant blames Wyatt’s parents. Defendant also blames the Jackson Hole Ski Club coaches who were present for the Town Downhill event for not supervising Wyatt. Lastly, defendant alleges Wyatt was injured as a result of a ‘rowdy train.’ ”
Snow King, through attorney Jim Lubing, maintained throughout the case that it was not liable for the accident and argued that pond skimming is a high-risk activity.
Doyle had wrapped up a Jackson Hole Ski and Snowboard Club race and went to the event with friends, records state.
He skied successfully across the pond a few times when one of his friends called for a “rowdy train,” which is when they all ski down together. One of the skiers caught Doyle’s left leg as he tried to exit the pond, cutting the skin and severing muscle, tendon and nerves. The lawsuit claims Doyle now suffers from “drop foot.”
Teton County District Court was preparing to have the jury trial partially virtual because of COVID-19 precautions. Before the case was settled, attorneys and Judge Day discussed logistics.
“We could get 19 people socially distanced in the courtroom,” Day said during the Monday hearing. “We have taken out the benches in the gallery, and we can get five people in the jury box.”
The local courts have successfully held bench trials during the pandemic, but this would have been the first jury trial. The Clerk of District Court’s office has called two juries in the last year, but neither of those trials ended up happening. Jury selection in this case was slated to start April 12.
Settlement details weren’t available at press time.