The Seward Chamber of Commerce has been freed from any responsibility in the death of Mt. Marathon runner Michael LeMaitre. The Seward Chamber announced an out- of -court settlement on Wednesday, which exonerated the Chamber from any negligence in a wrongful death action filed by the widow of a man who went missing more than two years ago.
Michael LeMaitre disappeared while running the rugged Mt. Marathon race in 2012. His body was never found. The Seward Chamber organizes that race. In July of last year, his widow, Peggy LeMaitre, sued the Chamber for five million dollars, claiming race officials were negligent, and claiming emotional damage to herself and to her family. The suit was scheduled to head to trial later this month, and the Chamber had filed a motion for summary judgement. The settlement avoids a jury trial.
Cindy Clock is president of the Seward Chamber.
“Well, I’m obviously happy that this is over. We have changed a couple of things in the race. For instance, we have instigated race previews, so, what that is is practice on the trail. So that people can come down, if they are first time runners, and go with people who have experience up the race trail.”
The Chamber’s legal counsel countered plaintiff’s allegations, saying that Michael LeMaitre had vision difficulties, making it likely that he could not see the rock that marks the midpoint of the race. Chamber attorney Laura Eakes challenged Peggy LeMaitre’s accusations, because evidence showed that in 2009, Michael LeMaitre was involved in a dispute with his employer, and stated that his vision had so deteriorated that he could only recognize only part of a person’s face close up. Cindy Clock says that Michael LeMaitre was not prepared for the difficult race.
“He never should have been on the mountain, he shouldn’t have been even driving. You know, and it came out that he had filed a suit for discrimination against his employer, because they wouldn’t accommodate his disability, which was extremely bad vision. Yeah,so he never should have been on the mountain, but maybe that was one reason he didn’t practice on the trail. “
She says findings that would have been presented at a trial indicated that Michael LeMaitre had never done a pre- race climb of Mt. Marathon. Race officials warn racers about pre race preparation at safety meetings.
And the court has ruled that Peggy’s LeMaitre’s claim of emotional damage has no standing in the suit.
The two sides have settled for twenty thousand dollars, after Peggy LeMaitre reduced her initial demand to forty-five thousand dollars. Seward’s Chamber of Commerce will pay twenty thousand dollars, based on the Chamber’s insurance company’s estimate of potential court costs. The Chamber has been exonerated of any negligence in the matter.