Skier’s death won’t stop REI lawsuit

Monika Johnson died in a skiing accident on Snoqualmie Pass on Feb. 1, 2011. But that didn't stop the Washington State Court of Appeals from ruling in her favor in her lawsuit against REI six days later.
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Monika Johnson died in an avalanche on Snoqualmie Pass outside of Seattle on Feb. 1, 2011, but that didn’t stop her from getting her day in court.

On Feb. 7, just six days after her death, and a little more than a day after search and rescue crews recovered her body, the Washington State Court of Appeals ruled that Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) must take responsibility for an alleged defect in a carbon-fiber bicycle fork that broke and caused her to crash in 2007.

According to a report from Courthousenews.com, “The bike and part were manufactured by Aprebic Industry Company, but sold under REI's brand name Novara. The appellate court agreed with the trial court's ruling that REI has the liability of a manufacturer under the Washington Product Liability Act.”

“Accordingly, we affirm the trial court's ruling that Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) is not entitled to seek to allocate fault to the manufacturer of the defective product that REI branded as its own,” Judge Stephen Dwyer wrote for the court's three-judge panel on Feb. 7, according to the Courthousenews.com report. “We also conclude that the trial court erred neither by finding REI strictly liable for the injuries caused by the defective product nor by ruling that any third-party claim by REI against the manufacturer would be severed for trial.”

Johnson lost four teeth and suffered a broken jaw and head injuries in the bicycle accident. The skiing accident that killed her occurred when a cornice she was standing on failed, dropping her hundreds of feet and burying her in snow.

“It's so poignant and ironic that this came out today,” Robert Christie, Johnson's attorney, told the Seattle Timeson the day of the court”s ruling. "She would have been really thrilled with the sense of justice this opinion articulates.”

He told the Times that the ruling did not surprise him, “but the timing blows me away.”

--Peter Kray

On Oct. 6, 2010, veteran journalist Peter Kray joined the SNEWS team and is now editor of the new SNEWS WinterSports channel. We trust you are enjoying the full offering of WinterSports news. Be sure to email your friends and let them know the best WinterSports news has arrived -- just in time for the winter season. Got WinterSports news? Send your WinterSports news to Kray at pkray@snewsnet.com. Subscribers can also post WinterSports news releases directly to the SNEWS website. Email us at snewsbox@snewsnet.com to learn about posting your own news releases, or for any other questions or comments. We love to hear from our readers!

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