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Updated: Tue, 28 Jan 2014 16:49:33 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

'Ski buddy' not liable for heli-ski death, court rules



Heli-skiing trips involve helicopters bringing skiers to remote mountains. Wikipedia/PowderFaceShots

Heli-skiing trips involve helicopters bringing skiers to remote mountains. Wikipedia/PowderFaceShots

A widow whose husband died while helicopter skiing in southeastern B.C. has lost her lawsuit against his “ski buddy” for not keeping an eye on him.

Mark Kennedy of Colorado died when he fell into a tree well on a remote mountain north of Revelstoke, while on a heli-skiing trip with Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing in January 2009.

Tree wells are deep narrow holes created next to the trunks of trees when heavy snow falls from the branches. People who fall in them can be trapped and suffocate in the deep snow.

In her lawsuit, Kennedy's widow Elizabeth alleged her husband was paired with British skier, Adrian Coe, as “ski buddies.” She claimed Coe, who lives in England, was therefore contractually obligated to stay close to her husband, keep him in sight, and assist or alert guides and other skiers if he observed his buddy in need of assistance.

The lawsuit alleged Coe failed to perform his duties as a “ski buddy” and therefore delayed the search and possibly a chance to rescue and revive Mark Kennedy.

But Justice Fisher dismissed the lawsuit in her ruling issued on Monday.

"It is indeed very sad that Mr. Kennedy met a tragic and untimely death, but he did so after a terrible accident while participating in a high-risk sport and responsibility for his death cannot be placed on Mr. Coe," wrote Fisher.

"It is my view that the nature of any obligations assumed by Mr. Coe and Mr. Kennedy was not contractual. There is no basis on which to find the existence of a contract or any contractual intention."

Coe's lawyers had argued he was paired with Kennedy without any consultation and that he alerted guides as soon as he noticed Kennedy was no longer with the group, shortly after Coe and the other skiers arrived at the bottom of the run.

Kennedy had been on heli-skiing trips with the same operator at least four previous times and was well aware of the terrain and the risks involved with such an activity.

Kennedy was a successful trial lawyer in Colorado before his death. His wife received half his assets, according to his will, amounting to more than $18 million. She was seeking compensation for the loss of her husband’s future earnings.

Reasons for judgment: Kennedy vs. Coe

Read Elizabeth Kennedy's notice of civil claim and Adrian Coe's response online

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