This case involves a young man who suffered permanent and debilitating injuries after falling more than 25 feet while climbing a rock wall at an indoor climbing facility. The plaintiff had previously climbed at the facility on multiple occasions, and each time had been responsible for properly configuring and attaching his harness before climbing. At the time of the accident, however, the plaintiff had not attached his harness correctly, causing him to fall out of the harness while he was on the wall. It was noted that there were no policies or procedures in place to train customers on the correct configuration of safety harnesses other than a brief tutorial at the front desk, nor were harnesses inspected by the facility’s staff before customers were allowed to climb.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. Please briefly describe your work with indoor rock climbing facilities and specifically ensuring the safety of relatively inexperienced climbers.
- 2. Does it ever suffice to show an amateur climber how to harness themselves at the front desk?
Expert Witness Response E-081537
I have owned a climbing gym for the past 21+ years, as well as 49 years of climbing experience, and I was first certified as a guide with the American Alpine Club back in 1973. I was the chairman of the Climbing Wall Associations Climbing Gym Instructors certification program where we developed the standards for climbing wall instructors. My gym has taught over 200,000 people to belay and climb safely, and we have been considered to be one of the safest gyms in the U.S. I see a gross negligence on the part of the gym. Every customer must have either a lesson or a belay check before they are allowed to climb. The Climbing Wall Association in the Climbing Wall Instructor Certification says that a climbing wall instructor must ascertain the ability of each climber which comes into the gym before they start to climb. It has to be very different circumstances for a harness to fail. Most gyms do not have a policy for checking harnesses except on the first visit when a safety check or instructional session is going on, but a demonstration at the front desk is in no way a sufficient means of instruction before one climbs.