Customers, Aspen stores settle their differences; lawsuits dismissed
A judge Wednesday dismissed dueling lawsuits alleging both sleazy sales tactics by some downtown Aspen skin-care shops and a smear campaign by its customers, after the parties mutually agreed to drop the cases.
Judge Anne Norrdin’s dismissal of the four lawsuits was entered in Pitkin County District Court five minutes before a hearing that was scheduled for 9 a.m. Both sides also agreed to pay their attorneys fees and costs, according to court records. Court-ordered mediation among the parties was held Monday, court documents show.
One of the suits dismissed contained such allegations that sales clerks at what was then known as Aspen Kristals Cosmetics, on East Cooper Avenue, served them spiked Champagne and charged them $21,860, though the couple understood the grand total would be closer to $700. The incident stemmed from their visit to the store July 13, 2018.
That couple, Dean and Kim Reeves of Durango, said in a court filing Monday they were withdrawing the “egregious and salacious allegations that we made in our Complaint against Aspen Retail Management LLC, which were based on our misunderstanding and mistaken perceptions. We regret any harm that we may have caused.”
Their attorney who litigated the matter, Chris Bryan of the Aspen firm Garfield & Hecht PC, did not return messages seeking comment Tuesday.
Encino, California, attorney David P. Beitchman, counsel for Aspen Retail, issued a statement declaring exoneration for the store.
“In connection with the Reeves’ letter (the court statement) expressing their regret for causing harm to my client, we are pleased that the truth in this matter has come out,” Beitchman said in an email to The Aspen Times. “From day one we have had the truth on our side, and we had told everyone involved we have had the truth on our side. We were ignored. My client and I are prepared to defend against anyone who might try to take advantage of them in such a manner.”
Aspen Retail owner Gal Batzri of California declined comment and said Beitchman’s statement stood on its own.
Bryan also represented another plaintiff, Cheron Berastequi of New Mexico, who sued Aspen Retail Management over her experience at Lux Skin Spa on the Hyman Avenue walking mall on Sept. 18. Her suit claimed that pushy and deceitful sales tactics used by store clerks resulted in her purchasing a $9,000 light machine for facial therapy.
Berastequi and the Reeves filed separate suits against Aspen Retail Management in December, alleging it violated the Consumer Protection Act by misleading customers with bait-and-switch tactics and other deceptive sales practices.
Also dismissed were Aspen Retail Management’s separate suits that were filed against the Reeves and Berastequi on June 25. Those suits said they had video evidence that cleared the stores from any wrongdoing.
Publicity spawned by the Reeves’ and Berastequi’s litigation resulted in the Aspen stores losing some $1.5 million in business, the suits alleged. Aspen Retail Management also claimed in court filings that the suits against them were “rife with untruths, wild accusations, and flat-out perjurious statements” and were part of “an aggressive media smear campaign against Plaintiff within the city of Aspen.”
Finding a restaurant operator to go into the former Taster’s Pizza space across from Rio Grande Park wasn’t a priority for Aspen’s elected officials earlier this year but now it is.
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