Last April, 5-year old Juliana Kane was in a ski lesson at Jay Peak, Vermont when a snow board instructor, William Vincent, crashed into her. Unidentified eyewitnesses estimate Vincent was going 50 mph on the lower end of the Interstate trail when he slammed into the girl as she and five other beginner skiers were making their way down the slope. Kane suffered serious injuries, including a concussion, liver laceration, a partially collapsed lung and hearing loss.
The Jay Peak ski area, Vincent and the instructor who was giving the girl her lesson at the time of the accident are all named as defendants in the case brought by Kane’s father on her behalf. Vincent is representing himself in the case, according to court records.
But now the resort, in its formal response to the Kane lawsuit, denies that Vincent was an employee at the time of the accident. Additionally, Jay Peak President Bill Stenger told the Burlington Free Press during an interview in October that Vincent had been fired a week before the accident for an unrelated reason and was improperly using the ski pass on the day of the accident.
If Vincent was not employed at the time of the accident, then there is probably no claim against Jay Peak. Vincent is simply responsible for his own negligence. But if Vincent was an employee, then his employer Jay Peak may be held liable for his misconduct.
And Vincent refutes the assertion that he was not an employee. Vincent claims in a sworn statement filed Monday at U.S. District Court in Burlington that he was an employee at the time and he was appropriately skiing on an employee pass. Vincent in his statement, said Jay Peak discharged him after the accident, not before it. He described himself as a “certified Level 1 instructor” who estimated he began working for the resort in December, 2010.
Jay Peak has 77 trails, slopes and glades served by nine lifts, including Vermont’s only aerial tram. According to its website: “Jay Peak is a four season resort in Northern Vermont, close to Canada and Burlington, and far from anything resembling ordinary. Featuring a year-round indoor waterpark, ice arena, championship golf course and, of course, the East’s best skiing and snowboarding.”
One would think that an operation of this size would have an employee discharge procedure which would create a paper trail when a ski instructor is fired.