KALISPELL, Mont. — A jury will hear arguments in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of a German exchange student who fell head first into a pocket of loose snow while skiing at Whitefish Mountain Resort in Montana, a federal judge has ruled.
The family of Niclas Waschle filed the lawsuit in 2013 over the 16-year-old boy's death, arguing the resort provided no warnings about the dangers of tree wells — hollow areas that can form around the base of trees surrounded by deep snow. The resort argued that Waschle wasn't skiing within his abilities and that tree wells are an inherent danger of skiing.
U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in November ruled against the resort's request to resolve the suit without a trial. Molloy ruled tree wells are not included in the definition of "inherent dangers and risks" in Montana's Skier Responsibility statutes that were in effect at the time of the December 2010 accident.
Whether the resort "should have exercised greater care in warning of tree wells or reducing the risk, and whether Niclas should have been aware of the condition that caused his death and exercised greater care to avoid it, are issues for the finder of fact to resolve," Molloy wrote in court papers.
A trial date has not been scheduled because the Waschles are appealing an order that dismissed the boy's host family from the lawsuit.
The state added tree wells to its Montana Skier Responsibility statutes earlier this year.