Bellingham, WA – A Bellingham jury this week awarded 66-year-old Patricia Miller nearly $335,000 in her lawsuit against Mt. Baker Ski Area, far less than the $7.6 million she sought as damages for a 2008 accident in which a roof release sent ice and snow crashing down upon her, rendering her a paraplegic.nThe jury found the ski area 15% liable for Miller’s damages, and Miller herself 85% responsible. Washington follows a doctrine of pure comparative negligence, by which a Plaintiff’s award is reduced by the Plaintiff’s own negligence. The jury delivered its verdict on Wednesday.
Miller was at Mt. Baker on Jan. 22, 2008, reading a book outside the White Salmon Lodge when an accumulation of ice and snow slid from the roof and landed upon her. Ski area officials contend that the area where Miller was seated was barricaded and posted with signs warning of the danger that read “Danger! Snow sliding off roof,” and “Please stay away from eaves and overhangs. Extreme slide danger.”
Miller’s attorney, Michael Wampold, told the jury during closing arguments last Friday that the ski area’s efforts to warn of the danger were insufficient. He said that signs were not explicit enough, and alleged that barricades must have had an opening through which Miller could pass and relocate her chair.
Miller sustained spinal cord injuries that required more than a month of hospitalization and months of rehabilitation. She sought $2.6 million in past and future medical expenses and $5 million in general damages. The jury placed Miller’s damages at $2.4 million before discounting the award by her own negligence that contributed to her loss.