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B.C. rescuers stop service after lawsuit

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 

Latest story about the Search and Rescue Team out of Golden B.C.  They have stopped service until they are covered by British Columbia government through the Provincial Emergency Program (PEP).  The ruling on this civil case could be interesting...

 

cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Canada/2009/06/16/9811671-sun.html

post #2 of 21

Interesting lawsuit against a volunteer organization.  Next  we might see  lawsuits against volunteer soup kitchens or volunteer meals on wheels for not enough food or not enough nutrition.  This has the potential to shut down every volunteer organization in existence.  

post #3 of 21

Sounds like the guy forgot who decided to leave the ski area.  It's ridiculous that a court should even allow a suit like this.  I would expect better from Canada, anything seems to fly in the US court system.  I know most patrols and SAR organizations can't afford to buy justice.  Too bad.  Maybe the plaintiff would prefer to be left out there indefinitely.

post #4 of 21

Its a lawyer's tactic. When greedy lawyers got involved, they sue everyone in sight.

post #5 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by jackwan1 View Post

Its a lawyer's tactic. When greedy lawyers got involved, they sue everyone in sight.

Somebody has to hire that Lawyer . I'd consider that part of any lawsuit before I point towards whom to blame for it coming before a court.

post #6 of 21
Here are my thoughts:

We don't know enough about what happened here to start labeling the plaintiffs or their lawyers as greedy, bad people.  There's nothing fundamentally unfair about compensating victims of another's incompetence -- even if they're volunteers.  "Volunteer" status is not a license to be incompetent.  For all we know, the skiers called SAR, told them where they were, and the SAR team decided to fly to Mexico for a few days of vaction instead of coming to help them right away.  If that's the sort of thing that happened, few people would argue that GADSAR deserves to be shut down.

Of course, in all likelihood, that's not what happened.  Based on the limited information in the article, it sounds like the plaintiffs are going to have a serious uphill battle in proving this case.  I don't know much about the Canadian legal system, but in the U.S., proving "you didn't do enough to save me" is really really hard to do unless you have good evidence that someone seriously screwed something up.

One of the lessons to be learned from this example is that you have to protect yourself before you can protect others.  The fact that a case is hard to prove won't deter some people from filing a lawsuit.  That's what every rescue organization, whether volunteer or professional, needs comprehensive liability insurance.  Even if you think your organization's liability or your own personal liability is limited by law, you still need coverage because you can't predict whether someone is going to try to test the system and sue you anyway.  In our line of work, liability insurance is just part of the cost of doing business, just like cravats, bandages, sleds, backboards and uniforms.  It looks from the article like a lot of B.C. SAR teams are in the process of rexamining their coverage becaue of this case.  I'm going to forward this article to my patrol director and area manger and suggest they do the same.
post #7 of 21
Apparently all that disclaimer crap on the back of your lift ticket means exactly the opposite if you leave the resort property.  i.e. skiing is NOT a dangerous sport, hazards do NOT exist..We ARE responsible for harm bla bla bla...   

I could understand if they followed a sign or signs then got lost, but blaming others for the misfortune that became them as the result of their decision to leave the property just because the others tried to help them and weren't successful is ludicrous.

This is kind of like blaming the Coast Guard for the Air France disaster..
post #8 of 21

 

post #9 of 21
huh??



Quote:
Originally Posted by CTKook View Post


 

post #10 of 21
Mr.Blackburn should be thankful he's alive. Take responsiblity for your actions. I've been packed off the Mt. more than once and was thankful along with a donation that ski patrol was there.
post #11 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by MikeN2UZU View Post

  For all we know, the skiers called SAR, told them where they were, and the SAR team decided to fly to Mexico for a few days of vaction instead of coming to help them right away. 
 

Actually we know a whole lot more than that.  We've had threads in the past on these idiots. Went out of bounds, had no idea where they were or where they were going.  Claimed the wolves were more dangerous than the cold.  Hard to save peple when they are so determined to take themselves out of the gene pool.
post #12 of 21
This guy's irresponsible actions killed his wife on a Valentine's Day vacation and he can't deal with it, so he is attempting to blame the B.C. Search & Rescue for not taking care of them.  It has nothing to do with the legalities of the situation.

Question:  What kind of moron goes into the Canadian Rockies backcountry in the winter without the proper gear to survive and navigate his way out?

Answer:  The kind that would file that lawsuit.
post #13 of 21
Does the fool have a movie deal yet? 

Those poor people, they should sue the wolves too,
post #14 of 21
The actual claim filed can be found at this link.  Since the claim was filed, there have been some more recent articles and updates.  First, the SAR team has returned to active status LINK:

Quote:

Golden Search and Rescue returns to active status

Updated: Tue Jul. 28 2009 14:20:26

ctvbc.ca

A month after suspending operations, search and rescue teams in Golden, B.C., are once again ready to save lost or injured hikers.

Golden Search and Rescue closed shop in June after the society was named in a lawsuit filed by the family of Marie-Josee Fortin, a Quebec woman who died in the B.C. backcountry in February.

The lawsuit sparked fears among rescue teams across the province about the lack of liability insurance for rescue workers.

"They don't want to lose their houses, families, all the things that they've worked for because of some litigation against a volunteer organization," Kamloops Search and Rescue president Brad Russell said.

Provincial Emergency Program operations director Chris Duffy says the Golden team returned to active status Monday, after the group's liability concerns were resolved.

Duffy says the PEP and search and rescue groups met July 16 and reached a 15-point draft proposal to address the liability issue.

Fortin died of hypotethermia after seven days lost in the wilderness with her husband, Gilles Blackburn.

Blackburn claims that search and rescue teams -- as well as the RCMP and the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort where he and his wife were staying -- were informed of SOS signals he stamped into the snow, but a search was not launched.

With files from The Canadian Press

:
And the outrage over the lawsuit continues with many pointing at the plaintiff Blackburn as having brought about his own misfortunes. LINK

Quote:

Lost skiers in B.C. contributed to own misfortune: documents

Clare Ogilvie, Canwest News Service  Published: Tuesday, July 28, 2009



Gilles Blackburn, who went missing with his wife, Marie-Josee Fortin, while going off trail during a ski outing in B.C., said it was the first time they had skied the Kicking Horse Resort.
Ted Rhodes, Canwest News Service
Gilles Blackburn, who went missing with his wife, Marie-Josee Fortin, while going off trail during a ski outing in B.C., said it was the first time they had skied the Kicking Horse Resort.

Those involved with the search for two out-of-bounds skiers at a B.C. resort - one of whom froze to death before being found - deny any wrongdoing, in recently filed court documents.

On Feb. 15, Gilles Blackburn, 51, and wife Marie Josee Fortin, 44, skied out of bounds at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, located just outside Golden, B.C., near the Alberta border. They were lost for nine days, and on the seventh day, Ms. Fortin died of hypothermia.

The pair had stamped SOS signals in the snow, which were seen by a passing backcountry helicopter company.

According to the RCMP and the resort's statements of defence, filed in Vancouver, the SOS signs were known to the resort, and to the Golden and District Search and Rescue Association on Feb. 17. The resort said it carried out its missing-persons protocols.


The RCMP was notified on Feb. 21.

Mr. Blackburn is suing the RCMP, the resort and the search-and-rescue association over his wife's death. Their two sons are also seeking compensation through the courts.

In statements of defence filed recently, all defendants said they acted reasonably, were not negligent and were not responsible for the death.

The defendants also said Ms. Fortin and Mr. Blackburn contributed to their own misfortune by going out of bounds without being prepared, and by failing to tell anyone where they were going.

The RCMP document says that, at one point, the couple was within walking distance of a cabin to take shelter in.

The resort also argues it's protected by the terms and conditions of the "exclusion of liability" on the tickets sold to Mr. Blackburn and Ms. Fortin on Feb. 15, and on signs posted at the ticket office and other spots in the ski area.

According to the statement of defence, the RCMP's decision not to initiate a search on Feb. 21 was reasonable, given the information they had at the time.

Meanwhile, Golden's search and rescue team is up and running again.

The team of volunteers reinstated some of its operations this week after withdrawing services over concerns about third-party liabilities, spurred by the lawsuit.

Vancouver Province, with files from Calgary Herald

post #15 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by newfydog View Post




Actually we know a whole lot more than that.  We've had threads in the past on these idiots. Went out of bounds, had no idea where they were or where they were going.  Claimed the wolves were more dangerous than the cold.  Hard to save peple when they are so determined to take themselves out of the gene pool.

Ok, but the lawsuit is about what GADSAR did or did not do, not what the victims did or did not do.  At the time of my last post, we hadn't seen the complaint yet, so we didn't really even know exactly what SAR was being accused of, let alone what they actually did or did not do.  Now that we can all see the complaint, we have more info.  We still don't know all the facts, but at least we can see the allegations.  Frankly, after reading the complaint I'm even more convinced that the plaintiffs have a lot of problems on their hands. 

Look folks (and this is directed to everyone, not newfydog), we're all on the same team here.  As rescuers ourselves, it is only natural for us to have a negative reacton to a lawsuit like this.   We're blaming the victims for being reckless, irresponsible, and just plain stupid.  And we're blaming the lawyers for causing lots of needless problems for the SAR team.  Those reactions are all perfectly natural -- and they may even be correct -- but I'm personally not willing to jump to the conclusion this is all the skiers' fault until I know more.  

Let's assume for the moment that our gut reactions are right, and that this is just a frivolous lawsuit against a SAR organization that did everything right.  Assuming that's the case, the lesson to be learned here is that no good deed goes unpunished.  Reasonable minds can always disagree about wheher we've done our best in trying to help someone else, but people who have been hurt or lost loved ones are often not reasonable.  People will blame us for things that are not our fault, even if we think we've done our very best.   From time to time, people are going to sue rescuers who have done nothing wrong and claim that they should have done more.  We can pout and complaint all we want, but that's just the way it is.  If you think that's unfair, lobby your lawmakers to support tort reform.  Until that reform comes, there are only two things we can do to protect ourselves:  (1) do our very best at all times, and (2) make sure that our patrol has good liability insurance.  If we all do these things, we'll minimze the risk of getting sued, and we'll make sure that when it happens (as it eventually will), we'll be protected.
post #16 of 21
What obligation does the ski resort or the volunteer search and rescue group have to rescue them? Ok, they were notified there was a SOS in the snow.  When the ski resort has a sign (look a few posts up) that says "this area is not patrolled, ski at you own risk", why is the ski resort obligated to save them?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mcgyver29 View Post

Latest story about the Search and Rescue Team out of Golden B.C.  They have stopped service until they are covered by British Columbia government through the Provincial Emergency Program (PEP).  The ruling on this civil case could be interesting...

 

cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Canada/2009/06/16/9811671-sun.html

post #17 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by PimpinPanda View Post

What obligation does the ski resort or the volunteer search and rescue group have to rescue them? Ok, they were notified there was a SOS in the snow.  When the ski resort has a sign (look a few posts up) that says "this area is not patrolled, ski at you own risk", why is the ski resort obligated to save them?
 


 


The legal obligation is going to be what the judge says the obligation is, not what is written on the back of a lift ticket and not what anyone else (including lawyers) think it is.  The moral and ethical obligations may or may not differ from the legal obligation. 

 

It would be a shame if any search and rescue operation closes as a result of this suit.  "Rescue" to me means someone is putting his/her life in potential danger to save another person.  The people who do these jobs are heroic, even if they live and work in relative obscurity. 

post #18 of 21
Thread Starter 

All,

 

Just a follow up, and hopefully an end to this story.  2 years in the making ...

 

http://www.piquenewsmagazine.com/whistler/claims-against-kicking-horse-resort-dropped-in-backcountry-lawsuit/Content?oid=2264886

post #19 of 21

Sadly, it doesn't sound like the lawsuit against the rescue organization has been dropped.  It does make one think about the risks associated with patrolling, doesn't it.

post #20 of 21

its a shame the guy didnt die as well. There would be no suit, and we have lost a person who was taking away from society.

post #21 of 21

Why is this so shocking? What? Rewarding people for doing the wrong thing. LOL Yet another perfect example of what you would and should expect for the time of irresponsibility we live in. Am I right or wrong in my actions? It doesn't even enter their minds before, during or after. If I feel good about something, it must be right and be forced on others. There will be more suits and deaths. Count on it. In the end everyone else will loose their freedoms. It must be what everyone wants. Be very careful of what you vote and wish for if you think this is wrong. (And how soon you will forget).......... Oh you don't like this?  LOL  Just a preview of greater coming attractions.

 

 

"We're getting younger" LOL

 

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