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Vail Resorts ordered to pay more than $2 million in Park City personal injury case

jupiter bowl.jpg
Jupiter Bowl
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The now-closed Jupiter Bowl in 2015. The establishment in Kimball Junction closed in 2019, and is now the coworking space Kiln.

Thursday, a jury unanimously decided Park City Mountain owner Vail Resorts must pay $2.25 million in a personal injury case settled in Summit County’s Third District Court.

The jury of eight took just 90 minutes to reach its decision - and awarded the woman who was injured $1 million more than she was seeking for medical expenses and damages.

The case stems from a Park City Mountain employee party in 2019 at Jupiter Bowl, a now-closed bowling alley in Kimball Junction.

Lawyers for Jupiter Bowl employee Amy Herzog said that during the party, some employees were bowling recklessly. They said people were bowling two balls at a time, bowling backwards, bowling between their legs, and having two people bowl simultaneously down the same lane.

Herzog was called to fix a lane that had a ball stuck in its gutter. While she was working, Park City Mountain employee Joe Ellis threw a ball while doing a 360-degree spin in the lane next to the one Herzog was working in.

Ellis’ thrown ball flew over the divider between the lanes, and slammed into Herzog’s left hand, crushing it. The injury required three surgeries, and she will never regain full use of it.

Vail Resorts’ lawyers argued the party was an extracurricular activity, not a company event. They also argued that the injury resulted from Herzog putting herself in an unsafe situation.

The plaintiffs' lawyers said a company credit card paid for the bowling, and the event had to be approved by upper management.

The jury found that both Ellis and Vail were at fault.

During closing statements, Herzog’s lawyers asked for a $1 million award. The jury swiftly ordered Vail to pay more than double that, at $2.25 million.

Bill Hansen with Salt Lake City law firm Christensen & Jensen represented Herzog, and said in his 40-year career he had never seen a jury award more than what was asked.

Another lawyer who worked on the case, Mitchell Brooks with Scalley Reading Bates Hansen & Rasmussen, said he had only seen it in the Paul Newman film “The Verdict.”

Hansen added that the amount awarded was quite rare.

“I think that’s a large number for any attorney,” Hansen said. “2.25 is on the high end.”

The jury also awarded Herzog an additional $102,000 for medical expenses and loss of income. Her spouse Shane Herzog was awarded $50,000 for loss of consortium, which is compensation for spouses whose partners are seriously injured.

Herzog has moved out of the state and now works as a secretary. Her lawyer said she requires accommodations, like a heating pad, to be able to use her hand in a desk job.

Vail lawyer Adam Strachan of Park City did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Parker Malatesta covers Park City for KPCW. Before coming to NPR, he spent one year as a general assignment reporter for TownLift in Park City. He previously was the news editor at The News Record, the student paper at the University of Cincinnati. He loves running, reading, and urban planning.