This is case where a skier (Helen Tarnecki) was severely injured by a minor snowboarder (T.S.) The collision occurred at Keystone Ski Resort on December 24, 2006.
Bill Straight, a Keystone Ski Resort mountain safety expert, skied upon the scene of the collision immediately after it occurred. He was wearing his official yellow Keystone Ski Patrol jacket. He conducted an investigation of the collision at the scene and, during the course of his investigation, he interviewed T.S. The minor made numerous admissions against interest to Mr. Straight, notably:
(1) he admitted that he was the uphill skier.
(2) he admitted that Mrs. Tarnecki was the downhill skier; and
(3) he admitted that he saw Ms. Tarnecki, tried to stop, but was unable to do so before colliding into her.
Bill Straight concluded: (1) that T.S. was the uphill skier; (2) that T.S. failed to snowboard in control; and (3) that T.S. caused the collision. He advised T.S. and his father Mark that: (1) T.S. would be given a written warning; (2) Keystone would keep a record of his season pass number; (3) T.S.’s season pass would be "punched", requiring T.S. to attend a ski safety class before coming back to snowboard at Keystone; and (4) there would be further consequences to T.S. if he caused another accident.
Neither T.S. nor his father, voiced any objection. They never said that T.S. was the downhill skier. They never said that Mrs. Tarnecki was at fault. They never said that Mr. Straight was wrong.
However, once Mark realized that the Sheriff’s Department was investigating the case, things changed dramatically. The Sheriff’s Department arrived at Keystone after Mark and his son left the scene of the collision. Mark told the investigating deputy sheriff that he and T.S. were not given the chance to talk at the scene, and that Mr. Straight only listened to Mrs. Tarnecki.
Mr. Straight was asked directly at his deposition about Mark’s allegations, and Mr. Straight testified that he never cut off T.S. or Mark from talking about the collision. He testified, to the contrary, that T.S. described what happened and even completed a Collision Report Form, which he did. He also testified that he spoke to Mark and remembers Mark asking to get a copy of the accident report once it was completed, but that Mark never voiced any objection to Mr. Straight’s determinations. Plaintiffs designated Mr. Straight as an expert witness in the case.
Given the admissions by T.S., liability was not genuinely in dispute.
Emergency medical technicians and ski patrollers assisted Mrs. Tarnecki onto a toboggan and carried her down the mountain to the emergency room at Keystone Clinic at the base of the mountain. X-rays confirmed that she sustained a comminuted right lateral tibial plateau fracture. Her orthopaedist advised that she had sustained a serious comminuted right lateral tibial plateau fracture that required open reduction and internal fixation with right tricalcium phosphate graft and right knee arthroscopy with debridement. The total medical expenses totaled just under $25,000.
T.S. was not available for deposition. His treating physician admitted T.S. to the Merridell Achievement Center in Texas, a specialized residential treatment center for children and adolescents, on March 29, 2007. According to available public information, the Merridell Achievement Center specializes in the treatment of children and adolescents who have emotional, behavioral, and neurobehavioral problems. The center employs experts in psychiatry, psychology, neurology, neuropsychology, physical medicine, education and family therapy. The doctor signed an affidavit , attesting that "T.S. presently is medically incapable of giving a deposition. At this time I cannot predict when T.S. will be able to give a deposition."
Defense counsel refused to provide any information regarding the reasons for T.S.’s hospitalization, his specific symptoms or diagnosis, or his expected discharge date. Further, she instructed Mark, the father, during his deposition not to answer any questions about T.S.’s medical condition.
Defendant filed an Opposed Motion to Continue Trial Date on April 23, 2007, using T.S.’s hospitalization as the basis. The Court denied without prejudice the motion to continue trial date, so the trial date remained August 7, 2007.
The case settled for $125,000.00 in July, 2007.
Past results are no guarantee of future results.