Lawsuit Over Hiker’s Death Moves to Wyoming from India

A federal lawsuit seeking damages against a Wyoming-based wilderness training academy over the death of a hiker on a 2011 trip to India will be heard in Wyoming.

The lawsuit filed by Elizabeth Brenner of Minnetonka, Minnesota, against the Lander-based National Outdoor Leadership School was transferred to U.S. District court in Cheyenne last week.

Brenner accuses the school of negligence in the September 2011 death of her son, Thomas Plotkin. The 20-year-old man died during a backpacking trip in India that was led by the school.

Bruce Palmer, NOLS spokesman, said Tuesday the school discloses the risks of its programs to students in advance. Plotkin signed a statement that he was aware of dangers of the trip before he went on it.

Palmer said no personal injury lawsuits against the school have succeeded.

LawsuitScott Robertson, administration and program outreach director for NOLS in Lander, filed a statement in support of the school’s request to transfer the case to court in Wyoming.

Robertson stated the most of the NOLS staff who worked on the investigation into Plotkin’s death are in the state, as are school records and other materials.

Lawyers for Brenner had fought to keep the lawsuit in federal court in Minnesota. Attempts to reach them for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful.

According to the lawsuit, Plotkin died after he slipped on a wet rock and plunged 300 feet down a ravine. His body was never found. It states he was the 12th person to die on a NOLS course.

The lawsuit doesn’t specify a specific damage amount but states the number is in excess of $75,000.

The lawsuit alleges that Plotkin was among a group of hikers who were walking far ahead of their school leaders in rainy, dark conditions when the accident occurred.