Family of Man Asphyxiated on Vail, CO, Chairlift Reaches Rare Settlement in Wrongful Death Lawsuit

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Jason Varnish, 46. Credit: Jacob Holle Funeral Home

The family of a man who died on a Vail Mountain, CO, chairlift in February 2020 has settled its lawsuit with Vail Resorts.

Jason Varnish, 46, of New Jersey, died of positional asphyxia when his clothing got caught and entangled on the chairlift on 13th February 2020. He could not breathe due to his coat and tight clothing around his chest and abdominal region. The death was ruled accidental.

The man’s children began litigation against Vail Resorts for wrongful death in March 2020. Vail argued its waiver and liability releases, accepted by every skier and rider who buys a pass and/or rents gear, should have protected it from any such lawsuit. By signing you assume all responsibility for what happens on the ski area’s slopes, even if it’s the ski area’s fault, making this settlement all the rarer. The prosecution’s statement claims a “failure in training and procedures” on behalf of Vail contributed to Varnish’s death, reports the Colorado Sun.

The settlement details have not been disclosed, but claims are capped at $250,000 by the Colorado Ski Safety Act.

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Map showing the location of Chair 37 at Vail, CO.

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