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By climbinbob
Oct 22, 2013

I was lead climbing an 11b in a gym. I had already clipped 4 bolts, and was traversing left to the 5th bolt when I slipped. Because of my belayers inattentiveness, I was dropped approx. 30' to the ground. He has stated that he really doesn't know what happened, although there was obviously too much slack in the rope. I was knocked unconscious, and then spent 6 days in a shock trauma ward. Fortunately, there was no spinal chord injury or paralysis. I think that he should pay my insurance deductible and my 1st$3000.00. He has balked at that idea, saying I should assume 1/2, because I attempted the climb in the first place. There was no fault of the gym (i.e. nothing broke from the wall). All systems were checked before I began climbing, and I did not Z-clip or back-clip any bolts, and the rope was properly flaked. What are your thoughts, and are there any good personal injury lawyers who have an interest in this matter? I suffered severe consequences as a result of his negligence. We have both been climbing together a long time, so the idea that he didn't arrest my fall is beyond belief!


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By JeanGClimbs
From Reading, VT
Oct 22, 2013
Climbing Mr. Misty Kiss, Dairy Queen Wall, J-Tree

ClimbinBob, very sorry to hear about your injury. What you describe is a serious fall and trauma and most if not all climbers will empathize with what you are feeling (both physically and emotionally).

However, we all take risks the moment we tie in and step off the ground. We must accept those risks fully. If I was your partner/belayer I would have offered to help pay some of your expenses if I knew I was at fault, at least partially. If I was NOT at fault (and I felt strongly that was the case), I might still offer to help some financially, but certainly would not expect you to ask me to pay as much as you are asking. If you have been climbing with him for that long then either you haven't been paying attention to his belay skills yourself or he just really blew it this one time and he is completely lying to you about not knowing what happened. My guess is it is the former, not the latter.

Climbing is a TEAM endeavor (excepting soloists) and you should work TOGETHER to have the safest climbing experience possible. But things happen - things go wrong - human error is, well, HUMAN! I suggest you reflect a bit more on the entire scenario (both pre and post accident) and consider being less litigious and accept more self-responsibility. Focus on your healing and recovery.


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By jarthur
From Westminster, CO
Oct 22, 2013
My dogs got ups yo!

Did you guys use the proper verbal commands? "On Belay, Belay On, Climbing, Climbing On...etc..."

I'm asking because at my university (North Carolina State University) we had an Intermediate and Advanced Climbing class for PE. Our professor always said that the "Climbing Commands" when used properly were a verbal agreement/contract that could be upheld in the court of law if it were to ever goto that. I'm not a lawyer so I don't know $hit about that, but if you two used the correct commands and you wanted to collect some loot from this guy you might want to look into it.

I was dropped at the gym and crushed my T12-L1-L2 vertebreas and sheared the cartilage in my left foot. Most of it came down to belayer error, but there were other factors involved as well. One of those was my own, and having the inability to use good judgement by taking risks with literally anyone that would belay me. This guy still to this day is one of my best friends so I didn't consider suing him, but everyone's different.


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By FrankPS
From Atascadero, CA
Oct 22, 2013

You are thinking about suing your belayer? What? And you've been climbing together a long time?

Don't do it.


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By ianreynaud
From Long Beach, Ca
Oct 22, 2013
Claim Jumper

This is very tragic to read and I hope for your speedy recovery.

To clarify, when you slipped were you attempting to clip?
Once I was belaying a climber that I just met at a gym. They attempted to clip long dropped the rope and fell. Fortunately, I was able to run out the slack before they decked. It has made me think twice about who I choose to climb with at the gym.


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By dave wave
Oct 22, 2013
sierras

Hey man,

That really does suck....but take a step outside the box and take a look....

The human error that JEAN brought up is prob the #1 cause of injuries and deaths in the majority of extreme sports....hence the "at your own risk" labels on all the equiptment.

Shit happens! Putting blame is ussually never going to help the situation. If your friend/belayer helped you during the incident...that should be good enough. As soon as you add money into the situation it just fucks shit up.

"Hope for best, be prepared for the worst" mentality...


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By nicelegs
From Denver
Oct 22, 2013

This would set a horrible precedent. Yes, it sucks that you got hurt. You'll live. Should people who play pickup basketball or soccer in the park sue each other over their blown acl? What about drinking buddies, should they sue once the liver finally get cirrhosis? If you sue and you win, you will effectively turn rock climbing into resort skiing, and if you do that, most people will wish you'd died of your injuries.

You weren't paying him to belay you. You weren't doing anything you didn't want to do. He dropped you, stop climbing with him. Publicly lambast him if it makes you feel better.

Climbing IMO is one of those sports that even when it's not your fault, it's your fault. It's unique from so many other things in that respect. Lets leave it that way.


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By John Wilder
From Las Vegas, NV
Oct 22, 2013

4 bolts up in a gym? and you dropped 30'? sounds like he's at fault for sure. if it was me, i'd definitely do my best to pony up all of the dough. payment plan if necessary.

a tricky proposition. you may actually find a lawyer that would bite on this. on the one hand, i have always considered a belayer/leader partnership a contract for someones life. by dropping you, there's the idea that there was some failure in the contract. that said, i have no idea if there is a legal contract in giving someone a belay- question for a lawyer, i suppose.

on the other hand, the gym may well bear some responsibility if they did not properly test you and your partner for lead certification.

all of that said, i tend to also fall in the camp of not suing people when involved in climbing accidents. it can potentially set a bad precedent and create an antagonistic climate going forward for not just you, but other climbers. i could also create some real barriers to entry in the climbing gym world, as any successful lawsuit would have distinct ramifications for climbing gym insurance. think long game and think about the rest of your fellow climbers.

definitely try to work with him on it.


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By JLP
From The Internet
Oct 22, 2013

climbinbob wrote:
What are your thoughts..

Climbing isn't for you. Find another sport before you die or kill someone.


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By ErikaNW
Oct 22, 2013
Rapping off the Matron October, 2010

First, hope that you are healing and recovering well from your injuries. You stated that your partner wants you to assume 1/2 the costs, that implies he is willing to pay 1/2. That is a pretty generous, and fair from the sounds of it, offer. You assume a certain amount of risk every time you tie in, and accidents do happen. If you pursued legal action against your partner, what are the chances that he will lawyer up and his legal team will go after the gym? It becomes a game of shifting blame, deepest pockets, etc... Personally, I cannot imagine any scenario where I would be willing to take legal action against a climbing partner. Partnerships mean sharing equal responsibility, and I only climb with people I trust my life with - quite literally.


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By BrianWS
Oct 22, 2013

Bob, sorry to hear about your accident.

You are a MD/DC area climber, no? Which gym did this happen at? Did you ever notice that your belayer had excess slack out on previous climbs?

The belayer f'ed up, but the climber did too by not noticing or calling out the excess slack. Please don't sue or bring any lawyers into your mess -- that's a precedent and slippery slope which nobody wants established in this sport. What if the leader's placements fail, leading to injury? What about a leader popping off a runout climb and getting injured or killed? Is the belayer still liable?

Naming and shaming is fine, though. I'm all for setting up a Wall-of-Shame for shitty belays at the gym and local areas.


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By Alicia Sokolowski
From Brooklyn, NY
Oct 22, 2013
Hanging out waiting for Die Antwoord to come on stage

He is going to have an amazing assumption of risk defense. That said, all states are different, often very different in tort law.


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By The Lingering Fart
Oct 22, 2013

Regarding the law, a bunch of posters mentioned contract liability. It's far more likely that any finding of liability would be predicated in tort, i.e., the court finds that the belayer owes the climber a duty and breached it through negligent behavior.

And, even if a batshit crazy judge found that duty, dropping a climber would not equal legal liability. You'd probably have to show what, exactly, the belayer did wrong, such as a witness stating that they saw the belayer with his or her hands in their pockets, or lighting a bong with both hands, or whatever, during the belay. Simply saying there was too much slack out probably wouldn't be enough to show breach of duty.

I doubt you can win any such suit, however. Would likely be ruled an assumption of risk, if the case got that far. You would also have to prove you didn't contribute to the accident by, for example, not falling while trying to clip in over your head or some other shit I can't think of right now.

Also, you need new friends.


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By The Lingering Fart
Oct 22, 2013

ErikaNW wrote:
what are the chances that he will lawyer up and his legal team will go after the gym?


Those chances are 100%.

Insurance will go up in all gyms, and you will pay more to gym climb.


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By K Weber
Oct 22, 2013

30 feet??? I bet that is gross over statement.

What gym has a 30' wall at all? Gyms have draws every 3 feet so I bet that your feet were 12 feet off the ground, at best ( bolt 5 should be around 18 ish feet off the ground). Oh, you were traversing too so there is less height gained.

If the belayer was at fault then make him pay up. If you sue him it will be more that 3k.

The insurance company will join suit and try for the whole amount. What has the total bill 50k, 100k?

If not, then let that insurance cover the bills.


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By Robbie Mackley
From Tucson, AZ
Oct 22, 2013
Me and Holden at the "Matterhorn"

If you continue to climb when you recover, you should partner up with k weber. I'm sorry to hear about your accident. I wish you a complete and speedy recovery.
-Mackley


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By climbinbob
Oct 22, 2013

To K Weber:
No overstatement at all. The climb tops out at 44'. The bolts are more than 3' apart. Remember Guideline #1: DON'T BE A JERK!


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By John Wilder
From Las Vegas, NV
Oct 22, 2013

K Weber wrote:
30 feet??? I bet that is gross over statement. What gym has a 30' wall at all? Gyms have draws every 3 feet so I bet that your feet were 12 feet off the ground, at best ( bolt 5 should be around 18 ish feet off the ground). Oh, you were traversing too so there is less height gained. If the belayer was at fault then make him pay up. If you sue him it will be more that 3k. The insurance company will join suit and try for the whole amount. What has the total bill 50k, 100k? If not, then let that insurance cover the bills.


Most gyms have first bolts at 10' or so. With 4' between bolts, that's about 26' at the 5th bolt. If the first bolt is at bouldering height, that could put the bolt in the 30' range.


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By aren
Oct 22, 2013

With the value of the court case set at only around $3000, you probably aren't going to lawyer up, you are going to small claims court. Lawyers can spend $3k in a weekend of prep.

In NC, small claims court costs less than $100 to file. I would assume it's similar in most states.

You will go before a judge and possibly risk getting even half back. The judge might say that you took the risk. Odds are in a climbing gym, you signed a wavier saying that exact thing.

Please note I'm not a lawyer, and this isn't reliable legal advice.


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By Mark Paulson
Oct 22, 2013

K Weber wrote:
30 feet??? I bet that is gross over statement. What gym has a 30' wall at all? Gyms have draws every 3 feet so I bet that your feet were 12 feet off the ground, at best ( bolt 5 should be around 18 ish feet off the ground).


Um, Movement in Boulder (where you seem to be from) has 40' walls. I've climbed at gyms that have walls anywhere from 20' to 110' high (Upper Limits, Bloomington). 3' bolt spacing is on the low side as well. I've never, however, seen a 5th bolt as low as 18'.

Don't sue. Your and his lawyer combined would probably end up making more money than you would. Plus, it propagates the idea you _deserve_ to be protected from bodily and financial harm although you choose to partake in an inherently dangerous sport. Things happen in climbing all the time. There are times when even the most experienced, attentive belayer isn't paying attention- it's just that usually those brief moments doesn't coincide with the moment of a fall.


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By jeff lebowski
Oct 22, 2013

sycamore wrote:
Don't sue.......it propagates the idea you _deserve_ to be protected from bodily and financial harm although you choose to partake in an inherently dangerous sport.


+1. Climbing will become Disney-fied if enough people adopt this attitude.


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By The Lingering Fart
Oct 22, 2013

aren wrote:
With the value of the court case set at only around $3000, you probably aren't going to lawyer up, you are going to small claims court. Lawyers can spend $3k in a weekend of prep. In NC, small claims court costs less than $100 to file. I would assume it's similar in most states. You will go before a judge and possibly risk getting even half back. The judge might say that you took the risk. Odds are in a climbing gym, you signed a wavier saying that exact thing. Please note I'm not a lawyer, and this isn't reliable legal advice.


You are correct, this isn't reliable legal advice.

Personal Injury lawyers usually don't take $$$ up front, they take 33-50% of the winnings. If you lose, PI lawyers usually don't get paid.

If he lawyers up and goes through all this BS, the claim is going to be for more than 3K. There will be damages asserted including pain and suffering, lose of enjoyment, other BS.


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By Alicia Sokolowski
From Brooklyn, NY
Oct 22, 2013
Hanging out waiting for Die Antwoord to come on stage

The Cowardly Noob wrote:
Personal Injury lawyers usually don't take $$$ up front, they take 33-50% of the winnings. If you lose, PI lawyers usually don't get paid.


This is only true for the bad lawyers! ;) (this statement is at least 67% in jest)


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By nicelegs
From Denver
Oct 22, 2013

I can't imagine one of those sleaze lawyers would take the case if he didn't think he would win. A lot.

If he's got a buddy to represent him for free, he's got a chance.

This will never be a life changing 3 million dollar Frank Azar commercial. At the end of the day he gets what, the price of a middle of the pack bicycle, and the public hate of everyone who climbs. That and losing a friendship. Doesn't sound worth it to me.


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By JLP
From The Internet
Oct 22, 2013

If cases like this were worth anything, climbing gyms would not exist. I say definitely sue. Go big. You'll get what you're due. It appears a knockout wasn't enough.


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By climbinbob
Oct 22, 2013

To sycamore:
No, I am not from the Boulder area. The accident occurred at an east-coast gym, although I do not wish to say which one, because of possible legal ramifications.


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