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Synopsis[]

P.J. Gilbertson, attorney for a Midlands law firm, died on May 10, 2000 during an attempt to summit Mt. Everest. The Everest Experience, owned by Roger Holman, provided the guiding services to Gilbertson and friend, Barlett Baker; accordingly, a contract was entered into between Gilbertson and Holman.

Prior to the final date of climbing, P.J. fell ill with symptoms similar to acute mountain sickness (AMS) and died. As a result, Gilbertson’s surviving spouse is bringing about a wrongful death action against Holman’s company, The Everest Experience.

Details[]

Gilbertson v. The Everest Experience is described as being a civil case of Negligence. It mainly centers around events taking place in Nepal and Mount Everest from April to May 2000.

P.J. Gilbertson was a well off attorney who had a love for mountain climbing. After successfully climbing Mt. McKinley in 1996, P.J. grew an interest in high altitude climbing. In 1999, P.J. asked P.J's best friend Barlett Baker to come to Nepal to climb Mt. Everest. P.J. sent Barlett a brochure from a company called The Everest Experience. Despite some initial reluctance, Barlett eventually agreed to climb with P.J.

Roger Holman was a mountain climber and owner of The Everest Experience. The Everest Experience was a company that guided people up Mt. Everest through the use of mountain climbers and guides. Roger let P.J. and Barlett climb with the Everest Experience, in part because Roger believed they had enough climbing experience to make the trek, and in part because Roger needed to fill up the expedition with enough people or risk cancelling it all together.

Once P.J. and Barlett arrived in Nepal, they met up with the climbing group from the Everest Experience and began the gradual process of altitude acclimatization. During the trek upwards, P.J. began to express signs of sickness, with symptoms including shortness of breath, headaches, and even some occasions where P.J. coughed up blood. Despite these symptoms, P.J. chose to continue climbing regardless. Barlett speculated this was in part because P.J. wanted to make it to the summit after paying the $70,000 cost to hire the Everest Experience.

Eventually, the climbing group approached the summit. Roger Holman took the lead and created a trail to the top along with the other mountain climbers from The Everest Experience. Roger insisted that every climber get to the top at their own pace. Roger did not give a time deadline or "fail-safe" time in which everyone would be required to turn back to camp regardless of if they reached the summit. Expert Witness Billi Johnson insists that this was a major mistake on the part of The Everest Experience, as it's important for safety to make it to the top and back down to camp before the sun sets and temperatures drop. A required fail-safe deadline would ensure that everyone could make it back to camp before nightfall.

The group began the trek to the summit, and P.J. began to fall behind. Despite Barlett insisting to P.J. that P.J should turn back, P.J. refused, and told Barlett to go on ahead without P.J. After Barlett reached the top of the mountain, Barlett went back down and found P.J. in terrible condition. Barlett then begged P.J to come down back to camp with Barlett, but P.J. once again refused insisting on reaching the top of the mountain. Barlett was then forced to continue back to camp alone.

Eventually Roger began making his way down from the summit and saw P.J. P.J was in very bad shape and Roger began to descend with P.J. However at 5 PM, a storm suddenly hit and caught Roger completely by surprise. That night, Roger was forced to dig into a snow pit with P.J. and survive 70 mph winds and below zero temperatures. The next morning, P.J. appeared near death and Roger was severely weakened. Roger couldn't carry P.J. in a weakened state so Roger chose to leave P.J. behind and slowly make way back down to camp. Roger miraculously made it back to camp, but everyone knew that it was too late P.J. P.J. died on Mt. Everest and P.J's body was never recovered.

After P.J's death, P.J's spouse, Merritt Gilbertson, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against The Everest Experience. Merritt's lawsuit claims that The Everest Experience were negligent and caused the death of P.J. Gilbertson. In response the Everest Experience denied their liability while also raising the affirmative defenses of comparative negligence and Assumption of Risk. Claiming the P.J's death was caused comparatively by P.J's own actions while climbing Everest, and that The Everest Experience should be absolved from liability because P.J. assumed the risk of the inherently dangerous activity of climbing Mt. Everest.

Witnesses[]

Plaintiff[]

Defense[]

Swing[]

  • Andi Denman
  • Hillary Edmund
  • Barlett "Bake" Baker
  • Billi Johnson
  • Jan Darma Sherpa
  • Bobbie Whittacker
  • Gene/Jean Schneider
  • D.T. Heindrich

Other Persons of Interest[]

  • P.J. Gilbertson

Other Case References[]

  • This case is referenced as a piece of case law in Lee and Andy Allen v. Neptune Underwater Expeditions.
  • In Kissner v. Polk Hospital, Robin Kaplan's CV contains a publication titled, "Altitude-Induced Psychosis on Everest" with Barlett Baker. 
  • Also in Kissner v. Polk Hospital, Bobbie Whittacker is an employee at Midlands Mutual, an insurance company that a witness in that case, Emile Chadman, works for. 
  • An exhibit in State v. Perry references Roger Holman. It's the front page from a college paper for the University of Midlands called the Maverick, and one of the stories listed on the page states, "Roger Holman to be the first Maverick student to climb Mount Everest."
  • In Walton v. BNN, one of the publications on Riley Faith's CV is titled, “Without Merritt: How a University Professor Wrongly Used Her Position to Vilify a Company That May Have Killed Her Husband.” This is clearly a reference to Merritt Gilbertson's lawsuit of the Everest Experience.
  • A piece of case law in Taylor v. Trifecta is titled The Everest Experience v. Neptune, Inc. This is a reference to this case and the defendant company from Allen v. Neptune.
  • Although not clear, the drug Everest from State v. Hendricks could be considered a potential reference to this case. Although it could also simply be named after Mount Everest, with no intended relation to this case.

Trivia[]

  • This is the first civil case listed in the online AMTA records.
  • In the opening pages of the case packet, the case author recommends reading the nonfiction book Into Thin Air by John Krakauer, which is a real life depiction of the 1996 Mount Everest Disaster. This case is inspired in part from events that took place from the book and the actual 1996 Everest Disaster.
  • This is the only case where a majority of its events take place in a foreign country outside of the United States.
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