J.R., a 27-year-old lift mechanic at a Colorado ski resort, suffered the traumatic amputation of his right arm while working. The basis of the claim was strict liability for manufacturing defect and design defects in the conveyor-type ski lift manufactured by the defendant Magic Carpet Ski Lifts, Inc. The precise nature of the manufacturing defect was an in-running nip point created by the improper rotation of a brush under the conveyor, into which J.R.’s right arm was drawn while working on the lift.
On the day of the accident, Copper was getting one of its best snowfalls of the year. The area was busy. A class of beginners was anxiously awaiting the opening of the Easy Rider, after lunch. J.R. had been assigned the Easy Rider, and was cleaning snow off the lift and out from under it. As was the practice with other mechanics, the lift was run to mechanically sweep snow off the belt. As the snow accumulated in the headset, J.R. would shovel it out. He then went to adjust the position of the heater with the lift running, reaching in to position it under the snow deposit. His arm was then drawn into the in-running nip point formed by the brush and the belt. He was trapped, he was alone, he was being murdered by the machine. He was able to reach his radio and attract help; other mechanics responded and turned off the machine. His right arm was degloved and later amputated just below the elbow.
The lift was constructed so as to allow the snowbrush to rotate either opposite to the conveyor belt, or in the same direction as the travel of the belt. The wiring of the conveyor motor determined the direction of rotation, and this design created a unique manufacturing defect in the Easy Rider. If the design had required that the brush be wired to rotate in the opposite direction, throwing snow uphill, J.R. simply would not have had his arm drawn in between the belt and brush.
At the time of trial, J.R. had incurred $189,201.90 in past medical bills. His income losses and future medical losses totaled an additional $778,200.00. During the trial, the parties reached a confidential settlement.
Past results are no guarantee of future results.