Paralyzed Skier Wins $14 Million Judgment

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SAM Magazine-Kent, Wash., Apr. 11, 2007-A skier, Kenny Salvini, was awarded $14 million last week as the result of becoming paralyzed after he outjumped the landing on a tabletop feature and crashed in the terrain park at The Summit at Snoqualmie. The incident took place Feb. 11, 2004, at 8:30 p.m.

A jury found that the operator, Ski Lifts Inc., was partially responsible for the crash (the $14 million was the resort's share of a total judgment for $31 million). During the trial, engineers and an aeronautics professor from the University of California, Davis, testified for the plaintiff that the jump was improperly designed and had a short landing area. Evidence presented by the defense at the trial, though, showed that Salvini flew approximately 110 feet through the air and outjumped the landing. He reverse-rotated, landing on his neck and causing his injuries.

Salvini's attorney argued that the construction of the jump had been eyeballed by a park builder operating a snowcat, and was therefore not properly engineered and designed. In addition, 14 other skiers and snowboarders had sustained minor injuries by outjumping the landing on that feature earlier that season, and another suffered a broken back. However, those figures are out of more than 200,000 estimated takeoffs on the feature, including two by Salvini the previous week. Industry experts at the trial testified that the building of the jump was consistent with best practices in the industry.

Guy Lawrence, a spokesman for The Summit at Snoqualmie, said officials were "disappointed but respectful" of the jury verdict.

In a statement, Ski Lifts Inc. said, "The Summit at Snoqualmie's number one priority has always been, and continues to be, the safety of our guests and employees. The Summit has twice been awarded the National Award of Excellence for Skier Safety by the National Ski Areas Association in recognition of its industry-leading safety programs.

"Our terrain park staff always considers safety as their first and most important goal. This concern for safety drives all of our operations."

Salvini, who had been captain of the wrestling team at Central Washington University, is now a quadriplegic. His medical costs are projected to total $23 million to $26 million over his lifetime.

Ski Lifts Inc. is preparing an appeal of the ruling.