Parents appeal son’s Vail skier death case, saying judges erred in several rulings |

Parents appeal son’s Vail skier death case, saying judges erred in several rulings

Dr. Louise Ingalls holds a map from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center showing where her son, Taft Conlin, died in an in-bounds avalanche on Vail Mountain. (Photo by Randy Wyrick)

EAGLE — Almost everything about the judge and jury’s decisions in a Vail Mountain skier death case is being appealed.

Dr. Louise Ingalls and Dr. Steve Conlin, parents of Taft Conlin, say judges in Broomfield and Eagle counties erred in several rulings. Court documents filed with the Colorado Court of Appeals declared their intention to appeal those rulings and the jury’s verdict, which was based on those judges’ rulings.

Their appeal says the courts were wrong on five overarching issues:

  • Change of venue order, moving the trial from Broomfield to Eagle County.
  • Pretrial orders by District Court Judge Fred Gannett.
  • Rulings during trial before the jury.
  • Erroneous jury instructions.
  • Erroneous verdict form that resulted in a defense verdict.

Through their attorney — Jim Heckbert, with the Denver firm Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine — Ingalls and Conlin say Judge Gannett erred when he allowed evidence during the trial that they say was “misleading, inadmissible or irrelevant.” They also say Gannett erred when he “improperly excluded evidence” and when they were denied a request for a different judge.

The case was first filed by Ingalls and Conlin six years ago, months after their son was killed in an in-bounds avalanche on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012, while skiing Prima Cornice.

Two gates provide access to Prima Cornice. The upper gate was closed, but the lower gate was not. Taft and a group of friends entered the lower gate and sidestepped up the hill. Taft started down and took several turns before he was swept away in the avalanche that killed him.

Ingall and Conlin asserted that the ski company did not notify the public that by closing the upper gate, it intended to close that part of Prima Cornice between the two gates.

The case worked its way through courts in Eagle and Broomfield counties and was put on hold while the state Supreme Court ruled in the case of another inbounds avalanche death in Winter Park.

After a nine-day trial, the jury found in favor of Vail Resorts on Wednesday, June 20, 2018.

Following the judgement, Vail Resorts filed a request asking Eagle County District Court to order the family to pay $173,295.63 in recoverable costs. In Colorado, the losing party in a civil lawsuit traditionally pays some of the prevailing party’s costs.

“As the prevailing party, Vail is entitled to the reasonable costs it incurred in litigating this case,” the request says.

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