Sledding lawsuit dismissed

A lawsuit filed in a fatal sledding accident in a Grand Haven park more than two years ago was dismissed earlier this year, but an attorney for the family said an appeal to that decision was filed on Friday.
Becky Vargo
Mar 27, 2012


Chance Nash, 11, died hours after he hit an obstruction while sledding in Duncan Memorial Park on Dec. 31, 2009.

The Nunica boy's family sued the Duncan Park Commission, saying the commission's negligence was responsible for the accident and the boy's death.

The law suit, filed in January 2011, claims the commission breached its duties in maintaining the park in general, and the sledding hill in particular, "in a reasonably safe condition for use by children and the other members of the public for sledding. It claimed that it was the commission's responsibility to remove dead trees and branches from the area "on or near the sledding hills."

On Jan. 16, about a year after it was filed, Ottawa County Circuit Judge Jon Hulsing dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that the park's commission was a government entity, under the city of Grand Haven, making it immune from the lawsuit, said John Tallman of Grand Rapids, attorney for the Nash family. Tallman said he tried to amend the lawsuit so that it targeted the Duncan Park Trust, and the park trustees individually, but that also was denied.

The trustees at the time were, and still are, Ed Lystra, Jerry Scott and Rodney Griswold.

Scott told the Tribune for a Jan. 6, 2010, story that the original deed for the property required that the park be left in its natural state, except for cleared trails and roadways.

“Duncan Woods is what we call a ‘passive’ park,” Scott said at the time.

A passive park is the remnant of a natural ecosystem that is left unkept and found in the midst of a developed area.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.



Im very sorry for the loss of your child, that is horriable and I can't imagine. However, you should not be sueing anyone. It was no ones fault. Instead, you are costing the tax payers money for stupid law suits like this. Do you really think that this is going to bring closure to you 2 years later? Drop it already, it was an accident. How dare you blame someone else.


hear hear.. couldn't have said it better


@truthhurts: You are spot on. This is a screaming example of the need for tort reform in this Country. In the attorney world, there are too many lacking pride & character in their profession. For Mr. Tallman to lead this family into false belief that there is a pile of cash at the end of a frivolous lawsuit, is shameful. In my opinion, you were not trying to amend the were trying to manipulate it. Likewise, all this is approved by the Nash family and they are now causing further stress on other families for something that was a terrible accident. You will find comfort in praying on behalf of your son instead of suing for him. Put your pain at God's feet...he'll absorb every ounce of it and give you inner peace that you would not think possible, during this horribly dark time in your life.


There is always more involved in these types of issues than meets the eye, or than can be conveyed in a newspaper article or two. I think it's best to reserve judgment unless you know the particulars of a situation as many times if you knew all the nuances and subtleties of a situation you'd do the same thing if you were in their shoes.

I know there are horrible lawyers, and those who abuse the system, but I doubt this family was suing just to try to make some cash. Everyone I know who has made money as a result of losing a loved one would trade it in a second to have their loved one back.

If the family felt there was negligence they're welcome to pursue legal recourse - and that is indeed the job of the courts, not the public, to decide if they're correct or not.


I agree with what you are saying Zeke. However, in this case, it is clear that this was a no fault accident. The park commision did not push the kid down the hill. The judge already dismissed the case, yet the family is coming back for round two like the out come will be different. The family/lawyer is senslessly wasting money and shows everything that is wrong with our system and its select blood sucking citizens. If they want to appeal this case, they should be held accountable for every aspect of its cost the second time around provided that its dismissed again.


Are you suggesting that any time an appeal is denied that the plaintiff should cover all associated fees? Or that just this family should? And if yes to either, why?

Yes, there are those who abuse the system. But this family is walking through the appropriate channels of legal recourse like probably most families would if they were in the same situation. I say let's allow them their due process and stop the mudslinging.


just what legal recourse are you referring to. The one that blames someone else for something that tragically happened for sending this defenseless child down a unknown hill and not knowing what lies beneath the snow. did another person go down that same spot I doubt it


I guess I'm on the unpopular side of this issue. The original deed for the property required that the park be left in its natural state, except for cleared trails and roadways. Okay, "cleared trails" is what I want to focus on. Could a trail which is required to be cleared also be a sledding trail? Is there anything in the deed which stipulates that only hiking trails be cleared? Many more people sled on this hill in the winter than hike in the park. Everyone I have ever met in GH has gone sledding down this hill. I have met few who have ever hiked in the park. I think the real issue here is public safety. I don't know why they send out crews to clear trees on hiking trails and refuse to clear out the more popular sledding area. Especially since the sledding area is more populated and the downed trees are covered with snow. What is the big deal about clearing downed trees where many people sled?


This is a sad story. To me it is also really sad that the family would want to sue the city. Kids have been sledding on this hill for decades, injuries (in this case, sadly death) happen. The family shouldn't blame anyone, accidents happen. If the family would have been proactive, they would have scouted the hill and told the kid where it could sled (and dangerous areas) and couldn't sled. Im sorry to say this but they should be suing the guardian that was watching him at the time.


What an ignorant comment. You clearly are uninformed on the legal issues involved in the case, and to blame the guardians when you don't know anything beyond what a newspaper article or two says is just haphazard and reckless.

How about some sympathy for the family and those involved? If the lawsuit is frivolous the courts will dismiss the appeal. That's what the courts are for. Any family that deals with the loss of a child deserves to pursue justice if they believe there was a way to prevent the loss of their child.

I say unless you've lost a child you should just keep your mouth shut and keep your opinions to yourself.


The bottom line is, we have to keep our kids safe Sir. We need to watch out for their safety! Everyone on that hill should be at fault! Im sure he was going down an unapproved trail that a parent (or guardian) should/could have stopped him from going down!!


You proved my point exactly - you say, "I'm sure he was going down an unapproved trail" - but you're not sure because you weren't there and clearly don't know the facts.

I think the bottom line is that people should keep their mouths shut and their opinions to themselves in such horrific circumstances as losing a child. The courts are there to determine who was or wasn't at fault so I say we just let them do their jobs and be polite to the family who has the right to pursue legal recourse.


And you Sir, proved my point exactly! The case was dismissed, the city was definitely not at fault!


I'm not quite clear on which point of yours I proved, but I'm glad we're on the same page now. :)

Your comments were very assumptive and harsh. All I was trying to say is that I think a family in our community in their situation deserves better than that. The courts are indeed sorting it out so I think the mudslinging just adds insult to injury and does nobody any good.


No they were not, Sir! I am mourning the loss of our child! But only I am sad a family would try to get money because of this loss. Not many cities have such nice parks. What do you expect the city to do in a forest? Clear ALL the fallen limbs and the snow in areas on that hide these obstructions!? IMPOSSIBLE!! Our great city only has so many workers, they can't send them all to Duncans Woods 7 days a week!! PLEASE have some common sense, Sir!! They have many, many more tasks to fulfill!!


Why do you assume I am a "sir" and not a "ma'am"? It's precisely this kind of assuming that is at the heart of your uninformed comments. Get information and facts before drawing conclusions. You, and our community, would only be a better place if you did that.

Since we had about five days of snow this year your example of having workers going to Duncan Woods seven days a week is just silly. You tell me to have common sense in the midst of your nonsensical example. Ironic.

If there is not enough staff to make sure a tree branch large enough to kill a boy is not removed perhaps the park should be closed to sledding or they should advocate for more staff. When approached with common sense - as you say you value but deny with your rationale - these are issues that could reasonably be solved,I'm not saying anyone did anything wrong, but I think the case highlights the fact that perhaps some things should be addressed differently.

And finally, your comment about it being sad that a family would try to get money from something like this reveals that you likely don't know anyone personally who has been through something like this. Sure, there are some who are simply looking to cash in, but more often than not these are families trying to pay medical bills, trying to hold accountable those they believe are partially or fully responsible, or sometimes just to bring about change so it doesn't happen to someone else's child. But to assume they're just looking to get rich off of this is inexusably rude, ignorant, and to say it in a public forum (anonymously to boot) is just mean-spirited and a horrible thing to do.

You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Sir (or Ma'am)!


Such an ignorant comment Sir!! My point is proven again!! Thank you Sir!!


What a bizarre response.


Finally Sir! We both agree that your comments are very bizarre and out of the ordinary! Thank you Sir for finally letting all the readers know that you resign in defeat!! Kudos to you, Sir!!


looks like your comment is just as haphazard and reckless as the one your commenting about, Just because there is a hill and there is snow on it, does not make it safe to sled on and just because other people are doing it still does not make it any safer. so people these days need to use their god given brains to think things through before making our community the responsible party and excusing themselves for making a terrible mistake, and yes I am saddened by a young person dieing, just put the blame where it belongs. (I don't mean the park either). this is only my opinion


I think Zeke is a little to close to this case and has a biased opinion or he is the usual internet tard. However, the bottom line is that the family needs to be a part of the solution and not part of the problem. This is America and the family has the right to take this to court....2 times, but with such a hideous lawsuit the family should be subject to public scrutiny for their actions, after all we are footing the bill.


For the record, I have no connection to this family or the case. I just think such judgmental and rude comments are unbecoming of our community during the mourning and retributive lawsuit of a family who lost a child. How about some compassion and respect? Let the courts decide the lawsuit and let's try to support the family, and the defendants in the lawsuit as I'm sure this is horrible for everyone involved.

It is not necessary to demonize anyone in this situation and I think our community can be - and is for the most part - maturely supportive of all involved,


I think you do Sir, I sadly think you do..


I absolutely agree with you Sir!


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