- Written by Ben Jacklet
- Category: Resorts
- Published: December 13, 2013
- Last Updated: December 14, 2013
A Multnomah County jury sided with the defendant Mt. Hood Skibowl today after a week of testimony and arguments in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of Taylur DeWolf.
17-year-old snowboarder Taylur DeWolf died the night of January 27, 2012 after she crashed on Dog Leg, slid into the woods and hit a tree at high speed. Although she was wearing a helmet at the time of her crash, the medical examiner ruled that DeWolf died on impact.
By awarding no money to the plaintiffs, the jury rejected the central argument of the DeWolf family: that the Lower Bowl run Dog Leg should be marked as a black diamond expert slope because it contains a dangerous hidden jump with trees below the landing.
In closing arguments the attorney for the DeWolf family argued that the jump on Dog Leg that DeWolf hit was inherently dangerous. "You don't see the ground dropping out from under you and the trees below you," said Attorney Jeff Merrick. "There's no safe landing zone."
Merrick's exchanges with Skibowl regulars on the stand were contentious and often testy, as he attempted to paint a picture of Dog Leg as an accident waiting to happen.
The attorney defending Skibowl pointed out that skiers and snowboarders familiar with Dog Leg consider it a properly marked blue square run for intermediates. "There is absolutely nothing wrong with Dog Leg," Attorney Brad Stanford told the jury in closing, "nothing that needs to be marked off with warning signs."
Skibowl called 14 witnesses to the stand, including Mt. Hood Race Team Director Bill Gunesch, PACRAT President Greg Dilger and PACRAT racers who skied Dogleg all day on the date of DeWolf's accident, Olympic Ski School Director Peter Kakes, Skibowl Mountain Department Manager John Vermaas and the head of Skibowl's professional Ski Patrol, Erich Maurer.
"We have heard testimony from people who have gone down Dog Leg thousands of times," said Stanford. "Many of these people have had their children ski down Dog Leg for years."
The jury didn't take long to side with Stanford and Skibowl, returning a verdict after several hours of deliberation.
Skibowl spokesman Hans Wipper released the following statement at 4:26 pm Friday, December 13, shortly after the verdict was announced:
"On behalf of the Skibowl community, we want to convey our condolences to the DeWolf family.
"We are pleased with the jury's decision. We take our responsibilities at Skibowl seriously and we believe the jury recognized that.
"Dog Leg is a great run and is appropriately designated."