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In october, a California jury awarded Dale Mendez, 41, a construction superintendent from Seal Beach, California, the largest personal-injury verdict ever decided against a ski resort: $9.8 million. Mendez, an advanced skier, was on the double-black-diamond Geronimo trail at Bear Mountain, California, when he crested a knoll, swerved to avoid a snowgun (alleged in the suit to have been unmarked the day Mendez crashed), and spun out of control into the trees below. In the process, Mendez fractured his spine, paralyzing his left arm, which eventually will be amputated.
Why such a huge award? In large part, it had to do with jurors’ mistrust of testimony by Bear Mountain ski patrollers. The patrol placed Mendez’s accident nearly 80 yards below the spot where Mendez said he fell; the jury sided with Mendez. Post-trial motions by Bear Mountain could reduce the awarded amount, in which case an appeal would likely follow.