Three more businesses file suit over Aspen power outage | AspenTimes.com

Three more businesses file suit over Aspen power outage

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

The list of downtown Aspen businesses suing two companies believed to be responsible for a 12-hour power outage on Aug. 4 keeps growing.

Separate lawsuits were filed last week in Pitkin County Civil Court by local attorney Alan Feldman on behalf of the snowboard-gear and clothing store Radio Boardshop, restaurant-bar Aspen Square Grouper and a company that owns the Aspen Over Easy restaurant.

The defendants, as in previous filings, are Edwards-based LKP Engineering Inc. and Denver-based O'Dell Drilling Inc., along with East Hallam Street homeowner Patricia Gorman.

Gorman, according to the lawsuits, hired LKP to provide engineering and construction management services while she was in the process of remodeling, repairing and renovating her property. LKP hired O'Dell as a subcontractor to perform excavation, drilling and soil-sampling work.

The defendants are accused of failing to obtain the required permits from the city of Aspen prior to starting the excavation work as well as failing to locate the city's electricity utility lines.

"During the course of the unauthorized excavation work, construction personnel hired by the defendants damaged multiple electric cables which provided electricity to downtown Aspen," the three latest lawsuits say. "As a result of defendants' conduct, many businesses in downtown Aspen lost all power and were forced to close their doors until power was restored."

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Radio Boardshop, located at the corner of South Mill Street and East Hyman Avenue, suffered damages "in the form of lost profits and revenues" when it was forced to close, its lawsuit states.

Square Grouper and Over Easy, according to their complaints, also lost profits and revenue by closing and suffered damages to fixtures and equipment. Also, goods and inventories were spoiled, and employees were denied tips and wages.

Meanwhile, a hearing that was scheduled today for Aspen Municipal Court — to address three municipal-code violations against LKP and O'Dell — has been postponed a second time, to Nov. 12. The City Attorney's Office filed a complaint in early September charging the two firms with damaging city electric-utility infrastructure, drilling in a public right of way without a permit and failing to provide protection for city infrastructure and adjacent property.

"We're trying to resolve it with some sort of plea agreement," Assistant City Attorney Debbie Quinn said Tuesday.

Quinn said part of the discussion with the two firms revolves around restitution. The city incurred about $17,000 in costs for repair crews, extra police officers to direct traffic, backup generators and other expenses.

"(Restitution) is part of the discussion," she said. "Hopefully, we'll have some sort of disposition by Nov. 12."

If found guilty in municipal court, the firms could be fined as much as $2,650 on each count. There also is the potential of jail time for representatives of the companies.

Other lawsuits are pending in the case, as well.

In late August, Peter W. Thomas, of Praxidice P.C., filed a single suit in Pitkin County District Court on behalf of three restaurants: Pinons LLC and Cache Cache, both located on South Mill Street; and Steakhouse No. 316, on East Hopkins Avenue.

Around the same time, Aspen attorneys Christopher D. Bryan and Angela M. Vichick, of Garfield & Hecht P.C., filed suit in District Court against the same defendants on behalf of Bootsy Bellows, an upscale underground nightspot on East Hopkins Avenue.

About one week after the outage, the Becnel Law Firm, which has offices in Aspen and Louisiana, filed a class-action complaint in District Court against LKP, Odell and Gorman. It claims thousands of dollars in lost revenue for the restaurant Brunelleschi's Dome Pizza and lost tips and wages for bartender Wesley Beuter and waitress Katrina Buesch.

That class-action suit later was joined by the owner of Brunelleschi's, Gilbert Vanderaa, and five more of his employees. Also joining that complaint were two businesses, Aspen Sports Medicine and Salon Tullio; along with Stan Cheo, an employee of Aspen Sports Medicine; and James Marolda, a personal trainer.

The lawsuits seek jury trials and monetary awards.

LKP Engineering owner Luiza Petrovska apologized for the incident the day after the outage but has since declined comment on the legal filings. In an answer to the Brunelleschi's lawsuit, LKP denies the allegations and says nine other entities, including the city, may be at fault.

andre@aspentimes.com

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