Sues 8-year-old over ski-slope collision

by Walter Olson on December 28, 2007

60-year-old David J. Pfahler of Allentown, Pa., has filed suit in Denver “claiming Scott Swimm, then 7, was skiing fast and recklessly when they collided in January” at Beaver Creek. Pfahler wants upwards of $75,000 over a torn shoulder tendon which necessitated “physical therapy, vacation time, nursing and medical services provided by Pfahler’s wife, and other expenses”. Scott’s mother says he weighs 48 pounds “and couldn’t have been going more than 10 mph. ‘Who in the world sues a child?’ she said. ‘It just boggles my mind every day.’” (“Man, 60, sues boy, 8, over ski collision”, AP/Boston Globe, Dec. 20; Steve Lynn, “Boy, 8, sued in Beaver Creek ski collision”, Vail Daily, Dec. 19).

Following widespread public anger, the plaintiffs say they have been subjected to harassment in what their lawyer, Jim Chalat, calls an “electronic tar and feathering” (“Couple that sued Eagle-Vail boy hears complaints”, Vail Daily, Dec. 26; letters, Dec. 24; more coverage, Dec. 27 and Mark Wolf’s Rocky Mountain News blog; Obscure Store).

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Update: Suit against 8 year old skier settled
08.03.08 at 8:10 pm

{ 5 comments }

1 Frank 12.28.07 at 9:53 am

I don’t see what all the clamor is about. Although the facts of the collision are disputed, it is not disputed that the boy collided in some way with the adult and that the adult was injured and incurred severe damages.

Who wouldn’t sue?

2 Scott 12.28.07 at 11:06 am

I had the exact same thing happen to me 5 years ago. Ended up with a torn rotator cuff and had surgery after a year of PT. After insurance paid, I was on the hook for ~5K. At the time that was a ton of money. Did I sue? No. It was an accident. Accidents happen. Even expensive ones. Sometimes you have to suck it up and admit s**t happens.
The Ski Safety Act holds the kid and his family responsible. Ok, it’s his fault. Point your finger at him and then move on. As an experienced skier, the old man should have known not to stop and rest on a catwalk. Always a good idea when stopping to look up the mountain to see what’s coming down.

3 TC 12.28.07 at 12:56 pm

I thought most atty’s would check out the kids balance sheet before filing a lawsuit!

I mean what good does it do to sue a kid that has a net worth of what, 10 bucks and change with pocket lint?

4 Dave Lincoln 12.28.07 at 4:02 pm

“Who wouldn’t sue?”

I guess anyone with a conscience and/or who was not raised as a whiner. You know, the way Americans used to be.

(Maybe you don’t know, Frank … I didn’t see any sarcasm HTML tags)

Oh, and a torn shoulder tendon is not “severe damage” to a body. Try going to hell and frying – that is more on the order of severe damage, IMHO. And, who ya gonna sue then?

(By the way, I’m not telling you where to go, just giving you an example of “severe damage” to the body.)

Leave the poor kid alone, ya bunch of losers.

5 snnl 12.28.07 at 6:11 pm

Pfahler deserves the skepticism because his story is unbelievable.

(1) His very first act after the collision was to threaten to sue the boy and his family.

(2) His lawsuit claims that his wife should be reimbursed for nursing care she provided, a the cost of a normal nurse.

(3) No responsible 60-year-old man goes skiing without medical insurance. Pfahler claims he was uninsured, which in itself shows he is incredibly irresponsible.

(4) Pfahler obviously had a preexisting damage to his shoulder which was possibly exacerbated by his fall. But he should have assumed the risk he would fall by skiing – everyone can fall if they ski.

This suit is extremely dangerous if allowed to proceed because it further eviscerates the assumption of risk defense: a reasonable person skiing should know he might fall.

What I think makes people really indignant, apart from the unfairness of suing a 7-year-old, is that the cost of defending the suit, even if the defendants win, is greater than the amount sought. Therefore, even though it is easy for the defendants to establish their son was not skiing recklessly, they’ll have to settle. This in turn makes us all feel hostage to litigious crazy people, and sharply decreases the activities we can do for fun, like skiing, sports, and so on.

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