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Beware the Slippery Slope: Carbon County, PA awards highest ever verdict in wrongful death suit involving a ski resort

February 11, 2016

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On November 9, 2015, a jury in Carbon County, Pennsylvania awarded 1.2 million dollars to Patricia Bortz, the widow of Victor Bortz, an excavation truck driver who died while performing work on a ski slope expansion project.  The verdict, in <em>Bortz v. Tuthill</em>, is the highest ever reported in Carbon County.
Plaintiff Victor Bortz was driving an articular hauler up the ski slope at Blue Mountain Ski Resort, owned by the Tuthill Corporation.  Bortz was working as part of an excavation crew and was instructed to ascend up a twenty-five foot ski hill in a hauler.  After Bortz dropped of the soil, he backed off the hill down into a thirty foot embankment and was thrown from the vehicle.  Bortz, his co-worker and his boss had all expressed concern about the steepness of the hill prior to attempting the drive.  In fact, Bortz described his anxieties over the radio while he was driving the hauler right before his death.
The plaintiff argued that the grade of the slope exceeded the reasonable standards for the industry.  However the key issue in the case was whether Tuthill exercised sufficient control over Bortz’s work to be held liable as proper owner.  In this case, the jury felt that directing the type of truck and how much dirt to move was sufficient to establish control.  This case will be useful in the cannon of Pennsylvania cases determining extent of ownership and control.  Thanks to Remy Cahn for her contribution to this post.  Please email <a href="mailto:bgibbons@wcmlaw.com">Brian Gibbons</a> with any questions.
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