Vail Ski Resort has settled a wrongful death lawsuit with the three surviving children of a New Jersey father who suffocated to death after falling through a chairlift seat and becoming caught in his coat.
Jason Varnish of Short Hills, New Jersey, was 46 years old when he died as a result of the “unnecessary and preventable tragedy” on Feb. 13, 2020, attorney Peter Burg said.
“Jason Varnish was a truly remarkable human being whose death leaves a gaping hole in the hearts of his family and friends,” Burg said in a statement announcing that the popular ski destination reached a confidential settlement before the case could go to trial.
The statement from Burg’s firm said, “The chair that Mr. Varnish was preparing to board came into the load line with the seat in the up position against the backrest of the chair.
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“A rubber bumper attached to the chair seat frame, which is normally covered when the seat is in the down position, caught on Mr. Varnish’s jacket, entangling his jacket with the chair,” the statement continued. “The chair began to rise out of the lower terminal, and Mr. Varnish was lifted off his feet by the chair.”
Burg’s firm said Varnish, who was in the Blue Sky Basin area of Vail Mountain, “was hanging from the chair by his jacket approximately 70 feet from the load line and 10 feet in the air for more than 8 minutes.
“Unfortunately, Mr. Varnish’s jacket constricted his ability to breath, and he died of positional asphyxiation,” it said, echoing the diagnosis reached by Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis.
Vail Resorts did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Fox News Digital on Tuesday.
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The law firm said Vail “maintained that the waiver and release provisions included on a ski pass and in documents signed to obtain a ski pass or equipment rental barred the Complaint filed by the Varnish children and any recovery.”
“Factual allegations against Vail also described various violations of provisions of the Colorado Ski Safety Act and the rules of the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board,” its statement also said.
“It is also time for the Legislature and Courts to stop allowing the ski industry to feel fully insulated from any liability through the use of waivers of liability for things that clearly are not inherent risks of skiing. It does a disservice to the ski community. Accountability is critical to public safety,” Burg said.
At the time of his death, Varnish was working as the managing director and global head of prime services risk at Credit Suisse, his obituary said.
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“Whether playing golf, going boating, or sitting at the bar, Jase treasured the time he spent with his friends,” the obituary read. “His many passions included music, reading and cars, and he was an excellent and eager cook. Above all else, Jase loved his family.”
Varnish is survived by his three children, his wife, his parents and other family members.