Eagle-Vail family featured in lawsuit abuse ads | VailDaily.com

Eagle-Vail family featured in lawsuit abuse ads

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado
Vail Daily file photoEagle-Vail's Scott Swimm, shown here at age 8, does not ski that much since he was sued by a Pennsylvania man after a collision, the boy's mother says.

EAGLE-VAIL, Colorado ” An Eagle-Vail, Colorado family whose then-7-year-old son was sued over a ski crash in 2007 is being featured on the big screen as part of an ad campaign against lawsuit abuse.

The short trailers, which are part of a series of short films made by U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform’s Faces of Lawsuit Abuse campaign, began showing in Denver area theaters yesterday and will continue to show throughout the month.

The trailer, one of four movie ads, depict the stories of the lawsuit abuse victims. The movies are airing across the country in an effort to educate the public about the problems associated with frivolous lawsuits, said Mark Szymanski, director of communications for the institute.

The Colorado ads tell the story of the Swimms, who were sued by Pennsylvania skier David Pfahler over an incident on Arrowhead Mountain in January 2007. Scott Swimm, then 7, was skiing slowly and in control when he tried to pass the other skier, running over Pfahler’s skis, said Scott’s father, Robb Swimm.

The Swimms say the accident resulted in minor falls by both skiers. However, the family was put in the national spotlight after Pfahler, who tore a tendon in his shoulder in the crash, sued Scott and his father.

Since then, the Swimms have agreed to a $25,000 settlement in the crash case instead of going to trial.

“I believe the lawyers used Scott and his age as a pawn to get across a certain fear that ‘We’re going to hurt your child more if you don’t pay us,'” said Robb Swimm in the trailer.

Scott’s mother, Susan Swimm, said she hopes the campaign ads will make people aware of frivolous lawsuits, and that eventually legislative action will save other families from dealing with similar cases. The family would have been ruined financially had they not had liability insurance, she said.

Other ads that will show across the country include other lawsuit stories. In one, a Maryland business was sued for $750,000 after wild geese living near the front of the store threatened a woman. Another Washington, D.C. couple who owned a dry cleaning business were sued for $67 million over a pair of lost pants.

“We hope these will make people think about lawsuits more personally,” Szymanski said. “The solution is not rushing to the courtroom every time there’s an accident, and I think the Swimm’s case shows that pretty well.”

Lisa Rickard, the Institute for Legal Reform’s president, called the stories told in the trailers “litigation horror films.”

“This movie trailer about the Swimm family’s legal nightmare warns that even those who play by the rules can still have their lives turned upside-down by costly, frivolous lawsuits,” she said in a press release.

Susan Swimm said she plans to ask the Colorado legislature to protect children under the age of 13 and their families from being sued in ski accidents.

Scott, now 10, rarely skis and won’t go to Arrowhead Mountain, where the accident happened, she said.

“He thinks that man is there waiting to grab him,” Susan Swimm said. “He’s scared of the mountain. I’m scared of the mountain. Who thought a child could get sued? This has gone away, and yet it’s still with us everyday.”

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.

The trailers featuring the Swimms, as well as other lawsuit stories, can be found at http://www.FacesofLawsuitAbuse.org/shortfilms/.

The movies are part of a campaign by the Institute for Legal Reform, which also includes a collection of longer videos about small businesses and individuals across the country who have dealt with similar lawsuits.

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