Ski Instructor at Vermont Ski Resort Struck and Injured 5-Year-Old

The family of a 5-year-old Massachusetts girl is suing Jay Peak Resort Inc., alleging the snowboard instructor seriously injured their daughter when he struck her during a ski lesson.

According to documents filed in federal court in Burlington, Juliana Kane, of West Newbury, Massachusetts, was one of six children participating in a ski lesson on the beginner trail known as ‘Interstate’ on April 17th when Jay Peak instructor, William Vincent came barreling down the hill, head-on into Juliana.

“According to an eyewitness, his speed was estimated to be about 50 miles per hour,” the lawsuit states. “While maintaining this speed, defendant Vincent snowboarded straight into the ski school class and collided violently with plaintiff.”

Kane was rushed to North County Hospital in Newport, where doctors assessed her injuries as serious enough to airlift her to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Hanover, New Hampshire.

The court filings lists Juliana’s injuries as a liver laceration, concussion, a partially collapsed right lung, pulmonary contusion, hearing loss and damage to her left inner ear, among other injuries, the lawsuit states. These issues are “ongoing.”

The lawsuit blames the collision on Jay Peak Resort, stating they were negligent in how they hired and trained William Vincent of Enosburg and ski instructor, Jenn Leveillee of East Berkshire.  Vincent violated policies by skiing recklessly, while Leveillee exposed Juliana to “an unreasonable risk of harm,” the suit contends.

The family is now suing Leveillee, Vincent and the resort for negligence.

Bill Stenger, Jay Peak president, said Monday that Vincent had been fired a week earlier and was not an employee at the time of the incident.

“He had been dismissed a week prior for something totally unrelated to skiing or snowboarding,” Stenger said. “He was out that day skiing as a customer, and he ran into this little girl.”

The lawsuit states that Vincent was “an employee and agent of defendant Jay Peak” and, along with Leveillee, “were provided free ski passes as part of their compensation as defendant Jay Peak employees.”

Stenger said Vincent was still using the free ski pass at the time of the incident, although he had “no right to use it.”

“We had not collected it yet,” he said. “We were planning to exchange his last paycheck for his employer ID.”

In addition, the lawsuit stated that Leveilee was negligent because she was providing instruction on a part of the trail that was difficult for uphill skiers to see, and she did not look uphill before leading the class down the mountain.

A study conducted at Sugarbush by University of Vermont researchers found that significant injuries occurred in 11,000 of 4.5 million visits to that resort during an 18-year period ending in 2006. That is a 0.2 percent rate of injury.  The study also mentioned that snowboarding appears to be more dangerous than skiing. Although technology has improved, as well as the use of helmets today, there is a “code of conduct” which resorts have adopted and “take very seriously,” as reported by Win Smith, Sugarbush president. The code tells skiers and riders to stay in control at all times, avoid obstacles and other people on the mountain, and to adjust their speed in response to trail and weather conditions.

Vincent was “failing to ski under control” when he crashed into Juliana Kane, according to the federal lawsuit. Bill Kelly, chief operating officer at Jay Peak Report, points out that while Vincent may have been riding recklessly, he was not a Jay employee at the time of the accident–contrary to what the suit alleges.

Whether Vincent was an employee of the resort or not, he should have known the dangers of skiing recklessly, especially on a beginner hill where young children are learning. Do you think the ski instructor was negligent in not keeping her young students safe?  Feel free to comment on this blog post.

For more information contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).

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