Four people were injured in a chairlift crash at West Kelowna’s Crystal Mountain in 2014.
More than eight years after one scary chairlift crash at the now-defunct Crystal Mountain Resort in West Kelowna, the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal has ruled that a former ski patroller who was injured in the incident is eligible for compensation through WorkSafeBC. But the patrolman had argued that he shouldn’t be.
On March 1, 2014, two chairs at the ski slope came crashing to the ground when a cable came loose. Four people were injured in the crash, including volunteer ski patrollers Kevin Gourlay and his partner Maegan Harvey.
The resort has never reopened since the accident.
Both Gourlay and Harvey initially filed claims with WorkSafeBC seeking compensation for the injuries they suffered, but their claims were dismissed after WorkSafe concluded the claimants were volunteers.
As a result, the couple then filed civil lawsuits against Crystal Mountain in 2016, and separate trials for both cases were scheduled to begin in the summer of 2019.
But shortly before the trials were to begin, Crystal Mountain successfully applied for a stay of proceedings while the resort appealed the WorkSafe decision.
The Workers Compensation Act prohibits an employee from suing their employer if they receive compensation from WorkSafeBC.
Crystal Mountain said WorkSafe had rejected Gourlay and Harvey’s claims based on “incomplete information.” In addition, the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal had recently ruled that volunteers can be considered “workers” under the Act in circumstances where they receive some benefit from their volunteer work.
At one point, Harvey’s case against Crystal Mountain was “settled,” but it’s not clear if she settled her case with the resort or how much money a possible settlement would involve. A third person was injured in the incident, Lawrence Waldenbergerhas settled its civil case with Crystal Mountain.
More than three years after Crystal Mountain filed its application with the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal, the court ruled last month that Gourlay should be considered a “worker” and that his “injuries arose out of and in the course of his employment within the tort provisions of the Act.”
Gourlay, meanwhile, opposed Crystal Mountain’s application to WCAT, arguing that he was a volunteer ski patroller who should not be covered by Workers Compensation Act compensation. It’s not clear why Gourlay took this stance on the application, having first applied for WorkSafeBC coverage before filing his lawsuit, but Gourlay likely won’t be able to pursue his lawsuit against Crystal Mountain now that he entitled to compensation through WorkSafe.
Gourlay’s attorney, Vahan Ishkanian, told Castanet he was unable to discuss the case as it is “before the courts.”
In its decision, WCAT noted that Gourlay received a season pass in exchange for nine ski patrol shifts during the 2013/14 season, which was worth $449 or $695 depending on when the pass was purchased.
“Although the value of the season lift pass, calculated on the basis of the number of hours the plaintiff had committed to work, was less than the minimum wage, I do not see the value of the lift pass as insignificant,” wrote Guy Riecken, deputy director. chairman go WCAT in its decision.
“I conclude that the plaintiff’s provision of ski patrol services was part of Crystal Mountain’s business organization and that the operational routines of the relationship between the plaintiff and Crystal Mountain were more consistent with employment than with volunteer work.”