If it was intended to be a Halloween joke, the snowboard community wasn’t laughing. The law firm of Redwood City, California-based Joseph Carcione, Jr. ran a full-page advertisement in the national newspaper USA Today looking for information about snowboarding injuries, related deaths, or near deaths caused by snow asphyxiation. Although the firm’s name or intent was not mentioned in the ad, the query revolves around a court case that dates back to 1995. Carcione was not available for comment at the time of this article.
The case was originally called Goodkind v. Burton Snowboards, et. al. and also named Ski Shop Santa Cruz and Homewood Ski Area in Lake Tahoe, California as responsible for the death of snowboarder Issac Goodkind. He died snowboarding at Homewood Ski Area January 2, 1993 after falling head first into deep powder. The cause of death was deemed asphyxiation. Goodkind originally bought the Burton snowboard from the shop on November 22, 1992. At the time, he signed Burton’s liability release waiver that clearly stated that the bindings are not designed to release.
In the original case, Superior Court Judge Yonst ruled a summary judgment in favor of Burton and Ski Shop Santa Cruz, denying the plaintiffs claims that the board was defective because it was not manufactured with releasable bindings, that it did not have a bright florescent base to make it more visible during a search, and lastly that Burton’s advertising encouraged the use of intoxicants.
Carcione, representing the parents of Goodkind, appealed the case and in 1997 the California Appellate Court overturned the original ruling. Although the new trial was set to begin in the Superior Court of Placard County, California on November 10, due to a full court schedule, it’s now rescheduled to go to court sometime in 1999.
The advertisement in USA Today appears to be a move by Carcione to gather more evidence about snowboard injuries and deaths-an area where few statistics are available. But on a deeper level, the case represents a true threat to the entire snowboarding industry as it exists today. If the jury decides that current non-releasable snowboard bindings are defective, it would mean that almost every snowboard binding in use today is defective and would have to be recalled or replaced.
That just doesn’t sit well with snowboard binding manufacturers who reiterate again that snowboard bindings are safer if they are non-releasable. “If there were releasable snowboard bindings, we’d see a lot more deaths and injuries on the slopes,” says Drake Bindings and Northwave Boots Marketing Director Dane Hjort. “How could you put breaks on a snowboard? There’s no comparison to ski bindings. There are no flaws with current non-releasable bindings out there.”
Burton Snowboards would not comment on the case at this time either.
SNOWboarding Business will continue to follow the issue as it develops.