Intrawest has asked a court to decide what portion of an insurance policy held by Lift Engineering & Manufacturing Co. Ltd. it may be entitled to.
The $1 million policy, issued by Commercial Underwriters Insurance Co. of California, is being contested by Zurich Insurance, which has already paid some bodily injury claims resulting from the fatal December 1995 Quicksilver accident on Whistler Mountain.
In documents in B.C. Supreme Court last week Intrawest states the accident, which killed two people and injured eight others, has resulted in more than $17 million in injury claims and other costs. The total is broken down as $8.5 million in bodily injury claims, $6.2 million for the Creekside Gondola which replaced the Quicksilver chair, and a $2.5 million business interruption claim.
Lift Engineering, the Nevada company which manufactured the Quicksilver lift, paid a $1.3 million settlement to Whistler Mountain and filed for bankruptcy.
If the Lift Engineering policy does provide coverage, Intrawest is also seeking a declaration on how the policy limit of $1 million US is to be allocated between the resort and Zurich Insurance, which has already paid some bodily injury claims, but has denied the claim for business interruption and replacement of the faulty lift.
"The question right now is the $1 million insurance policy," said Doug Forseth, senior vice-president of operations for Whistler-Blackcomb.
"We agreed with Zurich that if we couldn’t come to an agreement on how the $1 million would be allocated, we would let the courts decide it. Where the proceeds are going is unclear, it depends who is reading it and how they are reading it and we both believe we have a right to those funds."
Last September Whistler-Blackcomb issued a statement that said in part: "A settlement has recently been reached between Whistler Mountain and its liability insurers on the one hand, and Lift Engineering, its principals and insurer on the other. Under this settlement, Lift Engineering has contributed the full amount of the liability insurance available to it towards a settlement of these claims. As Lift Engineering’s insurance coverage is insufficient to meet its full financial obligations arising out of the lift incident, Whistler Mountain and its new owner, Intrawest Corporation, have agreed to assume responsibility for the payment of all outstanding liability claims."
The accident occurred at about 3:15 p.m. on Dec. 23, 1995. One of the carrier grips detached from the Quicksilver lift’s haul cable, causing a chair to slide down the cable, colliding with the chair below and leading to several chain-reaction collisions.
An investigation by the B.C. Coroners Service found a design defect in the lift’s carrier grips, as well as improper installation of the lift and certification and maintenance problems.
"The underlying cause of the accident was systemic in nature," Coroner Peter Gordon wrote. "The problems, weaknesses, and causes noted in this report were all items that could have, and should have, been found and attended to before they culminated in the fatal accident on December 23, 1995. There was more than one occasion when an incident or maintenance problem should have alerted the various parties to undertake a more thorough examination of the lift. Such an examination did not take place. The system of checks and balances was inadequate to prevent this tragedy."