Aspen Audi owner scores legal victory |

Aspen Audi owner scores legal victory

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Seth Turok doesn’t exactly provide a glowing reference for Elk Mountain Motors. And that’s just fine with the Colorado Court of Appeals.

The Aspen resident, whose legal battle with the Glenwood car dealership has been ongoing since 2005, recently sealed victory when the appellate court upheld a Pitkin County judge’s ruling that a sign Turok posted on his Audi is not libelous.

Rendered last week, the Court of Appeals’ opinion marked the latest setback for the auto dealer, which has been trying for years to have the sign removed. The sign says, “Friends don’t let friends shop at Elk Mtn Motors.” Turok continues to display it, in spite of Elk Mountain’s claim that it has sullied its reputation and business.

The dispute arose after Turok, who bought the Audi A6 for $40,000 in 2000, became so frustrated with the car’s performance that he posted the sign on its front doors on both sides. Turok said that because the dealership ignored his claims that the vehicle is a lemon, he decided to publicize his disdain for it.

After Elk Mountain Motors learned about the sign, it sued Turok in October 2005 in Pitkin County District Court.

Elk Mountain’s suit claimed that Turok had “verbally communicated to the general public that dishonesty or fraud is a characteristic of Elk Mountain.” The complaint sought more than $100,000.

Convincing a judge that the sign is libelous, however, has proven futile for the car shop.

In July 2006, Judge Thomas Ossola ruled in Turok’s favor, reasoning that Turok’s message was a constitutionally protected freedom under the First Amendment.

“In this case, the statement requires extraneous information to determine the meaning behind it,” Ossola wrote of the language on Turok’s signs.

The ruling spurred Elk Mountain Motors to take it to the Colorado Court of Appeals, made up of a three-judge panel. In the ruling, the trio concurred that Turok did not commit libel.

“It is not apparent how this statement offers any imputation of incompetence, dishonesty, fraud or misconduct which is inconsistent with the proper conduct of Elk Mountain’s profession or business,” wrote Judge Marquez in his opinion. “Read in context, the use of the language indicates that [Turok] was merely demonstrating his dissatisfaction and frustration with Elk Mountain, and the statement was phrased in such as way to indicate that it should not be taken literally.”

Turok said this week he’ll continue to display the sign ” just because he can.

“As a business owner its hard for me to understand why they did this,” he said. “You would never want a customer to pursue the route I did.”

Turok said he has spent “tens of thousands” of dollars to pay for legal bills connected to the case. He said he’ll try to recoup that money by taking legal steps for compensation.