Man Fails to Sue Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, WY For Suffering ‘Catastrophic’ Leg Injuries After Hitting Tree Stump

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tree stump, Jackson Hole, Wyoming,
The offending tree stump, which has since been removed. Credit: Court Records

In January 2017, Thomas Standish and his fiancée, Meghan Keiter, were skiing at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, WY. There had been 45″ of fresh snow in the four days leading up to their arrival. While skiing off-piste, in an unmaintained area, Standish collided with a six-and-a-half-foot tree stump covered with snow, causing ‘catastrophic’ injuries to his right leg.

He suffered multiple fractures, requiring surgery, bone graft, and the insertion of fourteen screws and two metal plates. Further complications after surgery left Standish unable to work, meaning the couple had to sell their online business. Four years later, Standish still suffers physical impairment from the leg trauma.

Standish and his partner filed a complaint against Jackson Hole in Wyoming’s federal district court, both claiming losses. He sued for negligence, while she sued for loss of consortium, which encompasses harm to a couple’s relationship. The tree was a focal point of pretrial discovery. Jackson Hole’s risk safety and environmental manager acknowledged the tree had been cut, but didn’t known when, why or by whom, reports Yahoo. The tree was left at such a height, over six feet, to prevent any winter hazard. The resort removed the tree in 2019.

Standish and his partner lost.

Judge Kelly Rankin reasoned that Standish’s injury was the result of the inherent risks of skiing—a tree stump rendered invisible by fresh snow—rather than a negligent act or omission on the part of the resort. Like we all do, the couple purchased ski passes that included a liability disclaimer, accepting the inherent risks and hazards.

Standish appealed the judge’s decision, arguing that a jury should hear the case. He was also disappointed the judge rejected expert testimony that “the stump was a safety risk and leaving it at over six feet constituted “a job left undone.” While the original tree may have been a naturally occurring hazard . . . the remnant left behind was not a naturally occurring hazard.”

Defense attorneys for the resort noted: “…numerous tree stumps in the area of the accident site become buried at various times of the season depending on their height and the constantly changing snow depth.” They also brough tattention to Jackson Hole’s reputation for being “among the steepest and most challenging in North America” and how off-piste terrain attracts “advanced skiers in search of fresh untracked and unconsolidated powder snow.” Further, the brief argued that “discovering and marking all unseen obstacles everywhere on the mountain is not possible or reasonable,” nor is it “the standard of care in the ski industry.”

Summing up, Judge Tymkovich wrote:

“Everyone, familiar with the sight of the intertwining runs of a ski area knows that cutting and otherwise managing trees is necessary for the runs’ creation and upkeep. The vast majority of ski-able terrain simply could not exist in the first instance without the ministrations of sawyers and forest managers.”

Standish has the option to petition the decision to have the court’s active judges hear the case. However, such rehearings are rarely granted. Standish could then petition the U.S. Supreme Court, where again a review would be unlikely.

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2 thoughts on “Man Fails to Sue Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, WY For Suffering ‘Catastrophic’ Leg Injuries After Hitting Tree Stump

  1. I am evenly split here….Why wouldn’t JH make sure that stump was as close to flush with the surface of the ground as possible? On the other hand, buying a ticket to ski says that you accept that JH can leave things that stick up and bite you on the resort…whether they intended to or not.

  2. Hey Standish, sorry for your injuries but I am glad as I can be that you lost your lawsuit and the appeal. Skiing is dangerous and requires caution at all times. There is always a chance of snow snakes lurking in the deep powder.

    And your partner’s lawsuit? How pathetic, please give me a break from all the idiots like you who sue others for you own mishaps. You two are examples of why resort skiing is more expensive for all of us because the ski resorts have to face litigation that is not warranted.

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