ROXBURY — The Granite Gorge ski park on Route 9 has settled its lawsuit against Granite State Insurance, after claiming one of the company’s agents had caused a chairlift to break during the ski season.
The details of the settlement were not disclosed on Wednesday, when both sides were due in court to work out a trial schedule. Instead, the parties worked out an agreement in mediation, according to court information.
Granite Gorge claimed in its lawsuit that an agent for Granite State Insurance broke the chairlift in December of 2017. According to the lawsuit, the ski park’s lifts had already been inspected by the state for safety in November of that year and passed. When the Granite State Insurance agent arrived weeks later, he was not supposed to perform any safety tests, the lawsuit said.
Instead, the agent performed safety tests, including a test of the chairlift’s emergency stop system, the suit said. The agent, George Sawyer, wanted the test done while the chairlift’s chain was engaged and the chairlift was in operation, according to the lawsuit. The test was unnecessary and dangerous, the lawsuit said.
“The test in question was not mandated by any code or required by any applicable state or local authority (that has) jurisdiction over Granite Gorge,” the lawsuit said.
The result of the test left the gears in the lift’s gearbox stripped, according to the suit, and the lift itself was completely inoperable for 43 days during the prime ski season for the 2017/2018 winter. The lawsuit said the park lost $47,000 in profits while the lift was out of service, and said the repairs cost more than $82,000.
Granite State Insurance, for its part, denied any wrongdoing ahead of the mediation.
Granite Gorge, and its owner, Fred Baybutt, have been in trouble with state regulators since at least last summer, regarding the Granite Gorge Summer Adventure Camp run on the ski park’s property. Campers were allegedly swimming without lifeguards and suffering from sunburns and heat exhaustion, according to one parent complaint. The camp also did not perform background checks on all staffers, according to state records.
The state imposed $24,000 in fines for the alleged violations found at the summer camp during an inspection last year, which forced the park to close. Baybutt is challenging those fines and a hearing is set for October.
In the fallout over the summer camp’s closure, a Nelson mother of four, Nichole Hutchins, sued Baybutt in small-claims court seeking a $2,100 refund. Baybutt responded by suing her for $10,000 for complaining about the conditions at the camp to the state and the press.
After a hearing in the 8th Circuit Court in Keene, Judge James Gleason ruled that Baybutt was not entitled to the $10,000 as his defamation claim lacked credible proof. Gleason did rule that Baybutt did not have to pay the $2,100 refund to Hutchins, as the contract she signed included a cancellation policy that governed refunds.
The property was scheduled for a bank auction in July, but that was called off after arrangements were made to pay the debt.