Ski company wants Conlin case moved to Eagle County
BROOMFIELD — The ski company wants the wrongful death case over a teenager’s avalanche death heard in an Eagle County courtroom.
Vail Resorts filed a motion late Thursday to move the civil case stemming from Taft Conlin’s death out of Broomfield, where the company moved its corporate offices.
In attorney Rob Blume’s motion, the ski company said the case will require a site visit to Prima Cornice, and that the witnesses live in Eagle County.
“Every single witness in this case lives in Eagle County, the family, Taft’s friends, the ski patrollers. There’s no connection to Broomfield,” Blume said.
Blume said the case is tied largely to the site on Vail Mountain where the tragedy happened. “That’s the steps that Taft Conlin took, walking over 300 feet and up 100 feet. It’s all tied to the site,” Blume said. “The jury needs to see the space and all the aspects of the space. They need to be there.”
“There are a lot of aspects of the topography that are permanent, and that’s something the jury needs to see,” Blume said.
Not buying it
Jim Heckbert isn’t buying it. Heckbert is the attorney for Conlin’s parents, Steve Conlin and Louise Ingalls, and said the ski company wants to move the case to where Vail Resorts exerts some influence.
“Vail Resorts is the goose that laid the golden egg in Eagle County. They seem to think they’ll find people who’d rather stroke than strike them,” Heckbert said.
Heckbert wants it to stay in Broomfield, where he said Vail Resorts is just one of numerous corporations.
“They’ve asked twice to throw this out and been denied. The judge has said their violation of Colorado’s Skier Safety Act is so egregious that he’s allowing punitive damages,” Heckbert said.
“I think what they really want is a different judge,” Heckbert said.
Judge Chris Melonakis is stepping down from the bench for health reasons. No new judge has been appointed.
“There’s no judge, no trial date set and nothing on the calendar. It’s the right time to move it to where it belongs,” Blume said.
Conlin died Jan. 22, 2012, in an avalanche on Prima Cornice on the front side of Vail Mountain.
The ski company claims the run was closed. Conlin’s parents’ wrongful death lawsuit against Vail Resorts claims that if the ski company wanted to close any part of the run where Conlin was killed, then all the entrances should have been closed.
While Prima Cornice’s upper gate was closed, the lower gate was open. Not following the closure requirements violates Colorado’s Skier Safety Act, Heckbert said.
“It’s tragic in every single aspect,” Blume said.
And it looks like the case is going to go to trial, Blume said.
“The case belongs in Eagle County where the witnesses are,” Blume said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vail daily.com.
Paul Cuthbertson set out by himself around 3 p.m. Friday from the trailhead that leads up to the Polar Star Inn, according to his father, Mike, but never made it to the popular backcountry hut as a late-spring snowstorm moved in.