DENVER – A judge has ruled in favor of a Salida commercial outfitter which was sued by the estate of a man who died during recreational rappelling in 2017 in Lake County.

Magistrate Judge Nina Y. Wang issued a judgment in favor of Wilderness Expeditions Inc., on grounds that the man had signed a form releasing the company from liability.

The estate of Robert Gerald Hamric, who lived in Texas, claimed employees of Wilderness Expeditions Inc. caused Hamric’s death because they allegedly were negligent when the accident occurred.

The estate filed the lawsuit last year in Denver at the U.S. District Court for Colorado.

The company denied being negligent.

The incident, in which Hamric’s body became inverted and he experienced breathing difficulty, occurred near the Parry Peak Campground at an elevation of more than 9,000 feet, the lawsuit stated.

The judge, in a 29-page decision in April, said the victim died of asphyxiation.

The company stated that Hamric “executed a liability release indicating that he agreed not to sue and assumed the risks of the activity,” as well as submitting a medical form indicating that he was medically cleared to participate in the activity.

Wilderness Expeditions employees “failed to take appropriate actions” to return Hamric to an upright position and to rescue him, the seven-page lawsuit alleged. It also alleged the employees “delayed in contacting first responders."

In her decision, Wang said the release of liability form was unambiguous and is enforceable under Colorado law.

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