ASPEN " A local cab driver is suing an Oklahoma oil executive after he allegedly assaulted him and stole his taxi in July. He is also accusing the Aspen Art Museum of serving too much alcohol to the alleged assailant.
Paul Nesvat, a High Mountain Tax driver, filed the lawsuit against Oklahoma City resident Brooks Mims Talton III in Pitkin County District Court in Aspen earlier this week.
Also named as defendants are two unidentified individuals " possibly bartenders " who apparently served alcohol to Talton during a July 29 party.
The gathering was held at the Aspen Art Museum and was in celebration of Tony DiLucia, who was the general manager of the Hotel Jerome for 20 years. The museum leased its space to the DiLucia group, which was not affiliated with the facility and only renting it as a party venue.
That's why Brad Ross-Shannon, a Denver-based attorney who is defending the museum on behalf of its insurance company, Travelers, will seek a court order to have it dismissed from the lawsuit.
"The claims against the museum absolutely have no merit," Ross-Shannon said. "It's our hope and intent to be dismissed from the suit."
But according to Nesvat's attorney, Jeff Wertz, the museum is liable because it violated what is known as the "Dram Shop Act," by knowingly and willfully serving Talton alcohol when he was visibly intoxicated.
State law stipulates entities that possess liquor licenses and that serve alcoholic beverages to intoxicated patrons can be held liable. Serving alcoholic beverages to intoxicated patrons can create an unreasonable risk of harm and results in a charge of negligent conduct and legal liability, according to the law.
Talton was arrested a few hours after the party started in the late afternoon. He faces charges of motor vehicle theft, driving under the influence and misdemeanor assault. He was released from jail on a $4,000 bond and will appear in court on Nov. 19
Shortly after 8 p.m. on July 29, Nesvat was called to the party to pick up Talton and take him to a private home on Castle Creek Road. After Nesvat picked up Talton and the two were passing the Aspen Valley Hospital, Talton started punching Nesvat in the head and face, according to the complaint.
Unable to deflect many of the punches while he was driving, Nesvat stopped the taxi and fled on foot, according to the complaint.
Talton then proceeded to drive away in the cab up Castle Creek Road by himself, leaving Nesvat in the road. Nesvat called 9-11 and within a few minutes, Talton was stopped by police and was arrested, according to the complaint.
Nesvat was treated for injuries to the head and nose at AVH.
"He seemed pretty drunk, especially compared to the guy putting him in the cab," Nesvat told The Aspen Times the day after the incident. "He wasn't rude or anything."
Talton's Oklahoma-based attorney, Josh Welch, said his client will rigorously defend the allegations and has no intention of paying a large sum of money to Nesvat.
"Because there is a criminal proceeding, I don't think it's appropriate to comment on the specific facts of the case," he said. "But we're not about to pay a bunch of money for no damages."
Talton, who has frequented Aspen for years, is the CEO and president of Compressco, an Oklahoma City oil and gas exploration company. He also is the founder and president of GJ Measurement LLC., which Compressco acquired in October 1999.
On the criminal charges, Talton is being defended by local attorney Lawson Wills, a former Pitkin County Assistant District Attorney. Welch said he will ask Wills for assistance on the civil matter as well.
"[My client] denies many of the allegations in the complaint," Welch said. "We look forward to allowing the justice system to resolve these matters."
So does Wertz, who believes the facts of the case speak for themselves.
"I think the complaint sums up our client's claims of battery," he said. "I see it as a pretty straight forward case of assault and taking the cab."
Nesvat seeks unspecified damages and a jury trial. The complaint asks for relief for battery, outrageous conduct and that the Aspen Art Museum be held liable for the incident.
The party, which had an open bar, was attended by several hundred people over the course of four or five hours. The Aspen Times' Mary Eshbaugh Hayes covered the event and printed a photo of Talton's wife, Tiffany, in the Sept. 9 edition of the Aspen Times Weekly. Talton's relationship to DiLucia is unknown.
Carolyn Sackariason's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org