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Tuesday, July 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Injured Skier Won’t Let Resort off the Hook

RENO, Nev. (CN) - A married couple claims in Federal Court that Vail Resorts hires inexperienced foreign workers to staff its slopes, then tells skiers who are injured to sue its seasonal workers, who are hard to find once they've returned to their homelands.

Elisabeth (Elly) Benschop claims a 20-year-old snowboarder from Brazil, Andrea Ramos, crashed into her on a downhill ski run 2 weeks ago, knocking her unconscious. Benschop says Ramos failed to give her the right-of-way. She claims another guest was hit a month earlier on the same run by a young worker from Peru, and that "that claim has yet to be resolved."

Benschop, a citizen of Holland legally living in Nevada, and her husband, Calvin Fitzgerald, sued Vail Resorts, Heavenly Valley LP and Ramos.

The complaint states: "Vail and Heavenly are taking the position that Elly is on her own against Ms. Ramos, who is scheduled to return her home country on March 15, 2012, and that Elly should try and collect her thousands of dollars in ambulance, ER and CT scan billings, plus future treatment and disability costs from young Ms. Ramos personally! Vail refuses to acknowledge any responsibility for this accident, stating to Elly's husband Cal that this is a 'skier-to-skier' accident and is no fault of Vail's!" (Punctuation as in complaint.)

Vail's practice at Heavenly Ski resort, just south of Lake Tahoe, is part of "a continuing pattern of skiing accidents at Heavenly, caused by Vail's youthful foreign national employees, who are hired seasonally as allowed by the State Department's J-1 Visa Program," the complaint states.

Benschop claims the foreign workers are paid "low wages, free season ski passes, discounted food and merchandise, helmets and medical insurance, and thus lured by Vail to travel to the United States and work cheaply at defendants' ski resorts, like Heavenly."

But the foreign workers "are not provided with liability insurance, at least not by Vail or Heavenly, so after they crash into other resort guests, seriously injuring them, and return to their home countries, the injured guests have no recourse against the foreign employees who caused the injuries."

"There is virtually no chance that injured ski area guests can recover any damages from the foreign employees for injuries suffered," the complaint states.

"Ramos was negligent per se and her employer, defendants Vail Resorts Inc. and/or Heavenly Valley ... are vicariously liable for Ramos' negligence, and directly liable due to their negligent instruction and training of Ramos, after having provided her with free snowboarding access to the resort," according to the complaint.

Benschop claims she suffers from "headaches, dizziness, nausea and crying episodes" due to the accident, and worries about "permanent brain injury."

"She has sleep loss since the accident and [is] concerned about her future ability to enjoy the quality of life, such as skiing, sailing and snorkeling, which she participated in with her husband before the accident," the complaint states. "Presently, she is afraid to return to skiing."

She seeks at least $75,000 in damages for negligence.

She is represented by J.D. Sullivan, of Mindan.

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