Aerial skier Kelly Hilliman, a local favorite for the 2006 Winter Olympics before she broke her leg during a World Cup event in China, has filed a $2 million lawsuit against her athletic federation, the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Federal International Ski Association.
Town of Tonawanda native Hilliman, 29, a two-time national champion, contends that she did not get the necessary immediate treatment she needed after she broke her femur on Dec. 16, 2005, in Changchun, China.
"It was really an extended period of time before she got any serious medical care," her attorney James T. Scime said. "And she had some serious complications."
Scime said Hilliman is not suing the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association and the national and international federations just because she was injured.
"She knows that's one of the risks you take in that sport," he said. "We feel the failure here is in not getting and not having an adequate plan for treatment, given the fact that injuries like this can be very serious and need immediate attention."
Hilliman, who started skiing when she was 10, became an aerialist at age 13 and spent nine years on the U.S. Freestyle Ski team. She was ranked among the world's top 15 aerialists for six straight years.
She missed making the 2002 Olympic team after she crashed in competition in Lake Placid and set her sights on skiing in the 2006 Olympics.
During the 2005 World Cup in China, she was in 10th place looking to move up when a gust of wind hit her during her jump, causing an awkward landing that snapped her femur in two places.
Because there was no emergency helicopter available, it took 45 minutes to get to the nearest hospital, and along the way, she had a reaction to medication administered after the crash.
She suffered a pulmonary embolism, or a blood clot in the lung, during the ride to the hospital, which delayed surgery on her leg for 53 hours.
Scime said the injury has caused complications and medical expenses.
He wouldn't rule out her return to competition.
"Kelly's a fighter, and she's certainly not giving up," he said. "But she suffered some complications, and it made this a lot harder."
The lawsuit was originally filed in Erie County Court but was moved before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara by the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. The federation denied the allegations, and the other two defendants have requested more time to answer the suit.