Lawsuit against Sugarloaf Mountain owners still pending as second chairlift accident injures seven

Benjamin Gideon, an attorney with the Berman & Simmons law firm, was contacted over the weekend by a Boston Globe reporter to discuss a chairlift accident that happened Saturday at Sugarloaf Mountain in Carrabassett Valley.

A major mechanical failure caused the King Pine chairlift to roll backward, prompting several people to jump from the lift. Seven people were injured, according to news reports. About 200 skiers and snowboarders were left dangling for up to 90 minutes, as Sugarloaf workers used ropes to lower them from their chairs. A spokesman for the resort told reporters that a gearbox connecting the lift’s motor and its cable wheel failed, disconnecting the wheel from two separate braking systems.

It was the second major chairlift accident at Sugarloaf in the past five years. On Dec. 28, 2010, the Spillway East chairlift at Sugarloaf collapsed, sending several chairs plummeting to the ground.

Gideon negotiated private settlements for several victims of the 2010 incident, and he represents another family whose case is moving toward trial. Michael and Patricia Katz are suing the corporate entities affiliated with Sugarloaf on behalf of themselves and their two young daughters, Abigail and Emily. Michael and his daughters fell about 35 feet to the ground when the Spillway East chairlift failed. All three received serious injuries. This lawsuit is being watched closely by the ski industry in the U.S.

“The state’s report concluded that there were numerous deficiencies and shortcomings in the maintenance and inspection of the lifts,” Gideon told Boston Globe correspondent Jeremy Fox. “They were not doing a particularly good, vigilant job at that time.”