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This article originally appeared on gymclimber.com
Seattle’s Vertical World climbing gym is, according to the Climbing Wall Association, fighting a $1,000,000 lawsuit brought by an injured gym member, who allegedly fell off an auto-belay route after failing to fully clip the auto belay’s carabiner into his harness.
Vertical World, founded in Seattle in 1987 and known as the first official climbing gym in America, now operates three gyms in Washington, with two additional locations in Redmont and Lynnwood. Though the gym’s founder and owner, Rich Johnston, noted that this is far from the first time he’s had to tackle a lawsuit, it’s the first time one has involved their auto belay system. He sees the case, Vandivere vs. Vertical World, as the “canary in the coal mine lawsuit” for auto belays in the climbing gym industry.
The plaintiff, Michael Vandivere (who declined to speak with Gym Climber for this article) stated that he was familiar with how carabiners work and had some climbing experience in other gyms prior to moving to Seattle and joining Vertical World. He had already visited the gym 30 times when, during an early morning solo session, he fell on an auto-belay route and sustained numerous injuries. A closed, intact carabiner was found at the top of the wall attached to the auto-belay line, which was also in proper working condition. According to Johnston, a nearby climber reported that they saw Vandivere attempt to clip in before heading up the route.
Vandivere is suing Vertical World on the basis that the gym staff should’ve clipped him into his auto belay. …