Most people are “adrenaline junkies” to a certain degree. Almost everyone enjoys the thrill of amusement park rides, or the speed and breeze of power boats, or the rush of zooming along a country road on a motorcycle. But for a select group of daredevils, these pedestrian pleasures just don’t cut it: it’s going to take something more extreme, like skydiving. This sport requires knowledge, skill — and very, very reliable equipment and supervision. So what happens when there’s an accident? Is there any liability? Or is death simply accepted as part and parcel of extreme sports?
Man Dies in Negligent Skydiving Accident… Without Even Being a Skydiver
Just as we trust pilots to fly planes and surgeons to perform surgeries, leisure jumpers innocently place the utmost faith and trust in the staff and equipment that drop zones provide. Otherwise, the sport would be guaranteed suicide. Well, almost guaranteed: In rare cases, extremely lucky jumpers do survive their falls, such as Makenzie Wethington of Texas. But sometimes, that trust is broken — even if you’re not planning on diving.
In August of 2013, 56-year-old Brooklyn, Iowa man Wayne Kidrowski was riding with a flight manned by Skydive Iowa. Kidrowski had no plans to do a dive himself, yet still fell to his death after being sucked through the open door of the airplane. Kidrowski’s parachute proved useless, tangled on the plane’s tail. Before the plane could recover the man, land, or even descend, he plummeted more than 600 feet to the ground below.
Was this a blameless freak accident? Or a case of an avoidable wrongful death? Bereaved widow Cindy Kidrowski feels it’s the latter.
Kidrowski has filed a lawsuit against Skydive Iowa, owner Bruce Kennedy, and pilot Andrew Arthur. The suit alleges that negligent practices caused her husband’s death. The plane that was carrying Kidrowski, a rickety Cessna, was en route to Grinnell Regional Airport for maintenance prior to the dive. The Cessa completely lacked any passenger seating, and in turn, any lap belts or restraints. In addition to this glaring safety omission, the suit states that “Wayne Kidrowski would not have been pulled from the aircraft and killed if he had not been required to wear a parachute.” After all, he wasn’t planning on doing a jump — he was only along for the ride.
Skydive Iowa has not commented on the matter, as the case is still pending. But the suit is seeking punitive damages, as well as damages for “loss of enjoyment of life,” “pre-impact terror,” and “loss of spousal support.”
Fatal Skydiving Accident Leads to Permanent Business Closure
Cindy Kidrowski is in the middle of her battle for justice; but for the Bullar family, the legal struggle is already over. The emotional wounds are perhaps another story.
On October 9th of 2010, 24-year-old Jonathan Bullar was gearing up for the day’s third jump, starting from a dizzying height of over 6,000 feet. Despite Bullar’s experience with the sport, he was at the mercy of faulty equipment. Not only did his first parachute fail to deploy — so did the back-up reserve. During the investigation following the tragedy, local experts determined that Bullar’s parachute had not been packed and prepared correctly. However, this prep work would not have been Bullar’s responsibility. His parachute should have been prepared — safely and correctly — by a certified master rigger. At the Archway Skydiving Center, that would have been co-owner Jason Mark. Bullar’s parents filed a lawsuit against the Center, located at the Vandalia Municipal Airport. The suit cited 12 distinct counts of negligence and lack of reasonable care, resulting in their son’s wrongful death.
A subsequent investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) led to a 108-day suspension of Mark’s rigging certificate. But more significantly, financial troubles resulting from the legal action against the Center later led to its permanent closure. In January of 2011, district trustees voted to sever its agreement with Archway due to the costs of litigation, with board president Mark Miller stating, “The district has spent $20,000 already.”
The district hadn’t planned on fronting the costs, but the defendants named by the suit did not carry liability insurance. The assumption had been that liability waivers signed by the clients would negate any issues of liability. That gamble turned out to be incorrect, and the result was the permanent closure of the Archway Skydiving Center. In this case, the strength of Archway’s waivers turned out to be less than what was expected — but in many cases, the opposite is true. Believe it or not, there are instances in which even serious injuries are beyond the scope of litigation because of a single signature on a waiver (which may also be called an exculpatory agreement or assumption of risk, among other terms). For your own health and safety, waivers should not be taken lightly or signed thoughtlessly. By doing so, you could be forfeiting important legal rights.
If you were hurt by a professional’s negligence, or if someone you love was the victim of wrongful death, you may be entitled to compensation for the damages. To discuss your case confidentially, call the law offices of The Reiff Law Firm at (215) 246-9000, or contact us online. You only have a limited amount of time to file a claim, so don’t allow a critical deadline to pass. Call us today, and let’s get started exploring your legal options.