By Stephen Seitz
RUTLAND – Attorneys for Pittsfield resident Nadine Price are asking for $300,000 in damages from Killington Mountain Resort after Price spent several hours trapped in a cold and dark gondola which had stopped running unexpectedly on Oct. 1, 2011.
Price has alleged negligence on the part of the resort as a cause of the incident.
“She looked like she had been through a war,” Price’s longtime partner, Douglas Tucker, testified. “She kept saying, ‘I thought I was going to die!’”
Attorneys for the resort alleged there was negligence on Price’s part.
Opening arguments took place Nov. 28 in Rutland Superior Court, Civil Division.
Killington attorney Andrew H. Maass told the jury this case differed from the typical personal injury case.
“There is no dispute that Nadine Price was stuck on that gondola,” Maass said.
Tucker testified that Price’s personality changed completely due to her ordeal.
“She was happy, affable, and fun,” Tucker said. “A true delight. We played golf, and a little bit of tennis.”
Afterwards, Tucker said, Price became a completely different person.
“She was still shaking the next morning,” Tucker said. “Almost anything would act as a trigger. She was having three or four nightmares every night. Now we hardly ever go out. She used to never watch TV, and now TV is a big part of our lives. We watch the Hallmark Channel almost every day, because the stories always have a happy ending.”
According to testimony, Price had been a successful self-employed real estate attorney. One of Price’s attorneys, Christopher Larson, told the jury Price had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and that the ordeal cost Price about $150,000 in lost business. Therapy costs are about $10,000, he added, and he asked the jury to consider punitive damages.
“She found it difficult to find clients and to finish things,” Tucker said. “She needed to be left alone and became reclusive. She became short-tempered. I try to avoid any situation which can bring that back.”
Tucker said that before, Price was extremely punctual, especially when he and she hosted guests. As it happened, on Oct. 1, 2011, the visiting friend happened to be a nurse.
“I went all the way to the top,” Tucker said. “I was looking under rocks and up trees. I looked in all different directions, and still no Nadine. Now it’s getting dark. The fog had come in and I hadn’t seen anything. I’d been doing this for three hours and called 911.”
While Price did have a cell phone, Tucker said, “service was terrible.”
At around 7:01 p.m., according to testimony, a Killington official received word that Price had been found.
“At first I felt relief, then fear,” Tucker said. “Her eyes were wide and crazy, and she kept shaking.”
Maass asked if Price had sought medical attention.
“We left that to [the nurse],” Tucker said.
“So there was no discussion on whether to seek medical attention?” asked Maass.
“She said, ‘No, no, I don’t need the hospital,’” Tucker replied. “We thought it best to take her home.”
Price is also alleging defamation, citing newspaper articles in which Killington officials were quoted as saying they were pondering whether to file criminal charges against Price and to seek reimbursement for rescue costs. Tucker said this infuriated Price.
“She calls herself a pariah,” Tucker said. “Her self-esteem has been damaged.”
Price decided to file her lawsuit in 2014, after which, according to Tucker, all her privileges at Killington were revoked. Maass said this was a “business decision.”
The trial was scheduled to last three days and wrap up on Nov. 30.
By Stephen Seitz