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‘Ski buddy’ cleared by B.C. court in fellow skier’s death

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver



A British tourist sued by the widow of his “ski buddy” after a man fell into a tree well and died four years ago has been cleared of responsibility by the B.C. Supreme Court.

British tourist Adrian Coe and U.S. resident Mark Kennedy were both expert skiers, but had never met each before being paired up in a “buddy system” to watch each other’s backs on Jan. 11, 2009.

According to the court’s decision on Monday, both were told to keep within close proximity of each other while their group traversed wooded areas near Blue River, which is north of Kamloops.

However, Kennedy died when he fell into a pocket of loose snow near a tree as the group descended a recently logged area.

The court noted many in the group had assumed the buddy system didn’t apply in that area. Kennedy was found about 15 minutes after he fell, but died.

Kennedy’s widow, Elizabeth, sued and said it should have been Coe’s responsibility, as ski buddy, to immediately alert the guides. Coe hadn’t actually seen Kennedy fall, however, and didn’t notice him missing until about two minutes after he last saw Kennedy.

The court determined Coe had no responsibility for the death.

Lawson Lundell LLP lawyer Jessica Forman, who represented Coe, said on Tuesday the decision shows there are no guarantees of safety when participating in these types of sports.

“Ultimately the responsibility is with yourself in undertaking the activity,” she said.

“You can imagine what would have happened if, in turn, the court found you could be liable — people would be fearful to agree to be a person’s ski buddy.”

Forman said the case shows log-cut areas, though they have better visibility than wooded areas, are still a hazard.

She added that while the case revolves around foreigners, the precedent set that “buddies” are not responsible for their partners applies to Canadians.





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