Household Sues After Avalanche Causes Man’s Loss of life

The wife and daughter of a man who died in an avalanche are filing a multi-party lawsuit.

The wife and daughter of a late Longmont resident, Peter Marshall, 40, has filed a 68-page lawsuit for unlawful death after the man was killed by an avalanche. The lawsuit alleges that the Silverton Avalanche School, San Juan County Search and Rescue, and leader Zachary Lovell committed “fraud, misrepresentation, negligence, and consumer law violations” in connection with his death on January 5, 2019.

The man’s family also claims Backcountry Access manufactured a defective Float 32 avalanche airbag that did not inflate after Marshall “attempted to deploy the balloon-like backpack”. The incident report from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center states: “Marshall’s airbag backpack worked properly, the release from the packing strap, but the bag did not release.”

In addition to the other defendants named, the lawsuit is also directed at Kohlberg & Company, a private equity firm that acquired Backcountry Access in 2017.

Photo by Quenten Janssen on Unsplash

“The defendants, each and every one of them, have acted willfully, willfully and recklessly, regardless of the consequences or the rights and safety of Peter Marshall or others,” reads the lawsuit, which continues: “The school, the leader and The airbag manufacturers have created significant and unreasonable risks of serious injury and death for participants “in the safety class. The defendants were grossly negligent, and that gross negligence was a cause of the injuries, damage and loss to plaintiffs and the heirs of Peter Marshall.”

After an investigation into the matter, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center reported that Marshall’s death was the first avalanche death of the 2018-2019 season and the first of a student at Silverton Avalanche School. His final report, produced after site visits and interviews with staff, students, and volunteers, identified the three most critical mistakes that caused the death, including the fact that the deceased’s group should not have been allowed to ride on an incline that was steep enough to negotiate this steepness was misjudged and possible conditions for avalanches on nearby slopes were overlooked. It took a total of 50 minutes for the group to discover Marshall’s body.

There were 72 avalanches in the area about two weeks prior to the tragedy, and on the day they occurred, the Silverton Avalanche School instructors agreed, according to the lawsuit, “not to travel to avalanche areas with Level 2 students that weekend “. During these discussions, school staff “expressed concern that the Defendant Lovell appeared to be inclined to travel in more complex and extensive terrain, despite the fragile snowpack and avalanche conditions.”

Jim Moss, a recreational law attorney, said he believed Marshall signed waivers releasing the Silverton Avalanche School from liability in the event of an accident. “The allegations of fraud – that the school and the guide tricked Marshall into signing up for the class by, for example, falsely stating that the instructors had extensive operating experience in avalanche areas – are affecting the exemptions,” Moss said. “This will be a battle of the avalanche experts and it will depend on which experts impress the jury. These people put a lot of avalanche material in there. “

Ethan Greene, director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, commented, “I think these lawsuits are really between other parties and don’t really involve us, even though they rely on part of our work. I’m not sure what we can do to avoid this. I hope people don’t shy away from sharing information with us or other people. Our job is to help people better understand avalanches. “


The wrongful death lawsuit is against the Silverton Avalanche School

The wrongful death lawsuit is against the Silverton Avalanche School, a leader and an airbag manufacturer

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