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Whistler Blackcomb being sued for cost recovery



The Government of B.C. is suing Blackcomb Mountain in an effort to recover health care costs after a snowboarder was injured on the mountain in April of 2008.

Under the Health Care Recovery Act the province is committed to recouping some of their costs of providing health care to accident victims through the court system. From April 1, 2009 to June 2010 the province launched 5,069 such cases, of which 974 were closed. In the first fiscal year of the legislation (2009-2010) some $2.4 million was recovered.

Whistler Blackcomb would not comment on the case itself, but Doug Forseth, senior vice-president of operations, said the resort is perplexed by the province's actions.

"We don't understand it," he said. "We knew that a new law for the recovery of costs came into being a couple of years ago... but we've never had this happen before, and it's never happened to anybody in the industry. We don't understand what's going on frankly, but we're bound by law to face this discussion with the province for cost recovery.

"This policy makes no sense, and it's a waste of the taxpayers' money to do this. But it's being done, and we'll deal with it."

Forseth says he hopes that this will be the first and only time the law is applied to the ski industry. And he says that a cost recovery system is already in place.

Forseth wouldn't speculate what the impact might be of this lawsuit, or other high profile suits launched recently. All of those matters are still before the courts and it's unknown if Whistler Blackcomb's insurance costs will increase as a result. If that's the case, the cost of doing business will go up, as will the price of providing a service.

The incident in question involves Amanda Yan, who was snowboarding on the Crystal Road run when she caught an edge and went off the road and then over a cliff.

According to the Notice of Civil Claim filed by the province on Sept. 27 she suffered a variety of injuries in the fall, including fractured vertebrae, fractured femur, fractured scaphoid, a head injury, dislocated ribs, lung injuries and a kidney laceration. Yan is currently pursuing her own lawsuit against Blackcomb Mountain, which remains a separate legal entity to Whistler Mountain despite the merger in 1998.

The province alleges that warning signs were inadequate, and that the company should have placed a barrier in that area to prevent this kind of accident.

Whistler Blackcomb must file a Response to Civil Claim 21 days after receiving notice from the province.