Couple sues over derby | SummitDaily.com
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Couple sues over derby

REID WILLIAMS
Summit Daily file photo/Brad Odekirk Copper Mountain ski patrollers attend to injured Cardboard Derby participants in this February 2002 file photo. A man who was critically injured in the event has filed a lawsuit against the resort and the event's sponsors.
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SUMMIT COUNTY – A lawsuit filed by a part-time Dillon couple against Copper Mountain, Anheuser-Busch and Clear Channel Communications has found its way to court in Summit County after being dismissed in federal District Court.Pam and Gary Fountain are seeking compensation for the injuries and subsequent surgeries needed following a crash during the 2002 KBCO-Budweiser Cardboard Derby, held at Copper Mountain.The Fountains’ attorney filed the civil complaint in Summit County District Court in July. A similar complaint filed in January in federal court was dismissed over lack of jurisdiction.Gary Fountain and his “Hay Bale Destroyers” were one of 150 teams competing in the 2002 derby, an event that challenges entrants to create craft solely from cardboard and duct tape and pilot it down a ski run.

Every member of Fountain’s team was injured in their first run – using the same cardboard sled they’d used in four previous derbies at Arapahoe Basin – when they crashed into snow fencing and a snow/ice retaining wall at the bottom of the run. Other participants suffered injuries, as well, although not as serious as Fountain’s.Fountain, a Denver resident who owns a home in Dillon, suffered a severed aorta, fractured vertebrae, a dislocated hip, broken ribs and other bumps and bruises. Teammate Leigh Ann Kingman strained her back and received seven stitches for a cut on her forehead; Matt Walton suffered two sprained ankles; his father, Kevin Walton, was knocked unconscious with a concussion; Teresa Chan fractured vertebrae; and Ken Binfet broke ribs and shattered the bones in one ankle.Since the accident, Fountain has undergone a half-dozen surgeries and, although he is mobile once again, he suffers from chronic pain. The couple recently moved into a ranch-style home so that he did not have to navigate stairs.

In the complaint, the couple alleges that the design of the derby course on the slopes above Copper’s New Village was “negligent and extremely dangerous to participants.” Furthermore, the complaint states, the resort’s and the sponsors’ actions in allowing the derby to continue following Fountain’s team’s crash constituted “willful and wanton conduct” with a reckless disregard for safety.Not only is the couple seeking relief from Gary Fountain’s economic losses and suffering, but the complaint seeks compensation for Pam Fountain and alleges deceptive trade practices on the part of the businesses that promoted the event.Attorneys representing Copper Mountain and another firm representing Anheuser-Busch (Budweiser’s parent company) and Clear Channel Communications (owner of KBCO, a Boulder-based radio station that founded the event) both filed responses to the complaint.

The responses deny most of the allegations and called the Fountains’ lawsuit “frivolous and groundless.” The defense attorneys cite that all derby participants sign a waiver, that Copper Mountain is protected from liability by the Skier Safety Act and argue that the statute of limitations for such a lawsuit has expired, among other defenses.Attorneys on both sides of the case could not be reached for comment. Ryan Slabaugh 9/30/04 Try again?The attorneys are scheduled to confer by telephone in October, and if the case moves forward, it would be heard by a jury. In Colorado civil cases, a jury determines any awards or compensation, for the plaintiff or the defendant. Cases in district court carry a minimum $100,000 damage amount.Reid Williams can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 237, or at rwilliams@summitdaily.com.


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