Summit County law firm reaches $750,000 settlement in Vail ski collision case

FRISCO — Nearly two years after a collision at Vail Mountain, Paulina Romero Labra received $750,000 in damages after the case was settled ahead of a scheduled jury trial, according to a news release.

The lawsuit stemmed from an incident Dec. 8, 2017, when Labra, of Mexico, and Craig Michel, of Virginia, collided on Lower Lion’s Way trail. Labra’s left humerous was shattered in the crash, and she required surgery to place hardware in her shoulder followed by rehabilitation, according to the release.

After the crash, Labra contacted the Eagle County Sheriff’s Department, which investigated the collision, but no charges were filed, according to the release.

Labra then hired Summit County law firm Bloch & Chapleau, which reached the settlement with Michel’s insurance company.

In working toward the settlement, Labra’s attorneys argued Michel “failed to maintain his speed and course and failed to maintain a proper lookout” ahead of the crash, a violation of the Colorado Ski Safety Act.

“We were clearly able to prove that Mr. Michel was 100% at fault for the ski collision,” attorney Joseph D. Bloch said in a news release. “As a result, Mr. Michel’s insurance company offered a substantial amount to settle the case to avoid going to trial.”

Trenton J. Ongert, an attorney at Bloch & Chapleau, said he has seen a big increase in cases like Labra’s during the past three to five years. The Ski Safety Act has been in place in Colorado since 1979, but Ongert attributes an increase in major ski accidents and subsequent court cases to an increase in the volume of skiers. 

Ongert offered this advice to avoid accidents and legal issues:

“Don’t go beyond your ability. Be cognizant of your speed,” he said. “The place on the mountain that we see most of our accidents is really on the bottom. I see a lot of advanced skiers on the bottom of the mountain going way faster than anyone else.”

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