Nearly two years after Taylur DeWolf died in a snowboarding accident at Mt. Hood Skibowl, her family is getting the chance to prove to a jury that the resort is responsible for her death.
The wrongful death trial gets underway this week. It pits the DeWolf family against the owner of Mt. Hood Skibowl.
Many skiers and snowboarders have likely seen disclaimers and warnings on the back of their lift tickets or on ski resort signs. Those warnings imply that snow sports are dangerous and that participants assume all risks. Taylur’s family says she knew the risks but that Mt. Hood Skibowl didn’t identify them correctly.
The 17-year-old snowboarder was riding down the Dog Leg ski run on Jan. 27, 2012. Friends saw her pass them on the run, but they didn’t see her when they got to the resort’s base. She was later found dead and investigators say she had collided with a tree.
Dog Leg is an intermediate run, but the lawsuit claims it has ‘expert-level difficulty’ on some portions. By labeling the run as intermediate, Taylur’s family claims Skibowl "misrepresented the degree of difficulty." They believe Taylur would have avoided expert-level terrain.
KATU News spoke to local lawyer Richard Vangelisti for some insight. He's not involved in this particular case but has handled other ski injury cases. He believes ski resorts can’t always hide behind risk disclaimers.
"They will assert these releases to say they're not to be held liable," said Vangelisti. "Even if they were negligent, even if they did something that was careless."
A jury will ultimately decide if Mt. Hood Skibowl did anything careless. But Vangelisti says he knows of other cases where resorts have made mistakes.
"If they're going to hold themselves out as a business for profit to do these things, they need to make sure they do it safely," said Vangelisti. "As anyone would expect in any activity of a company."
KATU News reached out to both sides in this case. An attorney for the DeWolf family didn’t want to comment until the trial was over. The attorney for Mt. Hood Skibowl didn’t return calls.