By Stephen Seitz
KILLINGTON—Nadine Price’s ordeal may not be over yet. Though Price won a $750,000 personal injury verdict against Killington Resort as a result of her being trapped aboard a Killington gondola for several hours, Killington has asked Superior Court Judge Helen M. Toor for a new trial. In his request, Killington attorney Allan Keyes wrote, a new trial is warranted “on the grounds the jury disregarded the reasonable and substantial evidence and found against Defendant for a surprisingly high amount through passion, prejudice, or improper influence. Further, there was sufficient evidence of contributory negligence to reduce or bar the judgment against Defendant.” When asked to comment further, Killington attorney Andrew Maass said, “It’s my practice not to comment while it’s pending.” Price’s attorney, Christopher Larson, said he filed a response to the Killington request. “I’m confident in the strength of our argument,” he said. Killington claims that the verdict was excessive, that the evidence didn’t support it, and that Price herself was negligent.
The incident in question occurred on Oct. 1, 2011, when Price, an active outdoor athlete, had just finished hiking the mountain. At around 3 p.m., she decided to take a gondola back down. She did not know that, due to inclement weather, the gondola was going to be shut down. Price was trapped high above the ground, cold, unable to summon help, and wasn’t located until several hours later. Since then, according to testimony, her personality has changed considerably, and she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Larson said Killington’s request for a new trial was not justified. “The Defendant asks the Court to set aside the verdict and grant a new trial on two grounds: (1) because the amount of the verdict was ‘surprisingly high,’ and (2) because the jury was not instructed on comparative negligence,” Larson wrote. “Neither argument is availing, and the motion should therefore be denied.” Keyes wrote that the jury may have felt too strongly after learning that, as a result of incident, Killington revoked Price’s season pass. “The surprisingly high verdict may have been due to jurors’ overreaction to the fact Killington revoked plaintiff’s ski pass,” Keyes wrote. “This post-incident otherwise extraneous information became a part of the case only because of the claims of interference with contract and defamation on which plaintiff did not prevail. Another ski area might have offered a free pass – perhaps a lifetime pass – for plaintiff’s trouble. Plaintiff’s counsel argued that revoking the pass was intentional, without justification, and an additional ‘insult,’” Keyes continued. Larson said there was nothing to support this argument.
“The court gave the jury detailed instructions on what grounds they could award damages under pain and suffering,” Larson wrote. “Absent additional evidence of prejudice or retaliatory motive, Defendant’s speculation should not overcome the well-established presumption that the jury adhered to the Court’s instructions and only awarded damages based on the criteria as instructed.” As of publication, no decision has been made whether to grant a new trial.