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Virginia Beach Family Recovers Nominal Damages for Wrongful Death/Negligent Homicide

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The family and widower of Beata Christandl obtained a small, nominal recovery in wrongful death/negligent homicide ruling against a German government official following the woman’s death in a skiing accident. An Austrian court handed down the verdict in the lawsuit filed after Christandl was crashed into on an Austrian ski slope by Dieter Althaus, who was then the minister-president (governor) of the German state of Thuringia.

Althaus was skiing in the wrong direction at an intersection of two ski runs when he collided with Christandl. She was not wearing a ski helmet, and he was. She died as a result of her injuries. Altaus was essentially convicted of negligent homicide and ordered to pay $6300 to Christandl’s relatives, as well as $41,550 in fines.

Is this Austria’s form of full compensation for an admitted wrongful death? Clearly, there is something lacking in the court award, but it is unclear how involved the family was in the Austrian court case. It also appears that this action was more a restitution action than what in the United States is called a wrongful death case.

To learn more about wrongful death cases, check out these additional articles:

Under the Austrian justice system, Althous essentially admitted negligent homicide in his own testimony where he testified, "I stand by my responsibility, as it is shown by the reconstruction of the accident, although I cannot remember the skiing accident." The widower is a colonel in the Austrian army assigned to the NATO base in Norfolk, Virginia (VA).

I am an avid skier and began wearing a ski helmet several years ago after avoiding this very slight inconvenience for several years. There is no question: Wearing a ski helmet can save a life as brain injuries can and do occur at ski resorts. Within a few days, I got used to wearing a ski helmet and actually enjoy wearing it as it does keep your head warm, will not slip off in the wind like a cap due to the chinstrap, and these are apart from the obvious safety reasons highlighted by this skiing accident case.

Our law firm has handled skiing accident cases that do not fully involve accidents caused by another skier. Ski resorts cannot be sued for routine dangers associated with recreational skiing, but most state laws allow accident claims against ski resorts for creating a dangerous, artificial condition at the ski resort. What is an artificial condition? The classification cover things such as poles, active grooming equipment, fencing and artificial structures in the areas skiers can access. In one of our cases, a young woman suffered a significant knee injury when a ski lift operator failed to promptly hit the correct button after snowboarders bumped into our client while she was getting ready to get on the chair lift. We alleged that the ski lift operator actually accidentally hit the wrong button. In another case involving an injured client, we alleged that an artificial condition, a flimsy plastic barrier, did not prevent the client from a falling over a steep embankment.

About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.