Paul Sizemore and his wife Jennifer Lenze were vacationing from California and went on a whitewater rafting trip hosted by Blazing Adventures in Aspen, CO. Sizemore, age 44, was knocked from the raft amid a stretch of the river referred to as “Hell’s Half Mile” and was unable to be rescued. His wife brought a claim of negligence and wrongful death against the company and several employees. All participants in these excursions must sign a document known as a “Participant Agreement for Release & Acknowledgement of Risk”. The agreement is a waiver of liability that releases and indemnifies Blazing Adventures of liability based on the known risks associated with participating in such dangerous activities.
The carefully worded participant agreement is fairly clear that customers are assuming the risks of whitewater rafting. According to attorney Ryan Kalamaya, Colorado law has traditionally accepted these release documents which shield negligence claims. The Colorado Supreme Court had ruled in 1981 that waivers are valid if they adhere to the following four conditions:
- The defendant had no duty to protect the public
- The service or event involved is not essential
- Parties to the agreement entered it willingly and knowingly
- Terms of the agreement are clear and not ambiguous
The lone exception that applies in the waivers of liability is in instances where the service or activity provider is determined to act in a willful or intentional manner that resulted in the injury.
In preparation for the activity, a session is conducted that outlines the safety concerns. Topics reviewed included the rescue procedures in the event that someone was to be propelled from the raft, as well as a series of classes that explain the best safety procedures. All rafters also took part in a series of classes. During the activity, Sizemore was ejected into the water. After several rescue attempts by the others on the raft and an employee traveling along in a kayak, Sizemore was able to be lifted on to another raft but did not appear to be breathing. CPR and other emergency measures were attempted; however, Sizemore had died of what later was determined to be drowning and asphyxia. The Colorado Parks & Wildlife Agency conducted an investigation of the matter and determined that the company had followed proper standards.
Lenze filed a civil suit against Blazing Adventures in the Pitkin County District Court. Her claim suggested that Blazing Adventures had failed to disclose that there had been several deaths along the same part of the river in the years prior to their trip. In addition, the defendant was accused of having inadequate rescue plans and equipment.
For many years, The Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal has been a champion for Colorado victims and their families involved in actions of personal injury and wrongful death. When the negligent or careless acts of another party cause harm, you may be able to seek recovery through a civil litigation. Contact the office today for a free consultation at (303) 825-2223.