Vail Resorts wins ski instructor lawsuit
Aspen, CO Colorado
DENVER ” A juror in the liability lawsuit won by Vail Resorts on Wednesday said the company wasn’t negligent in hiring a former employee accused of raping a client.
After the instructor was found not guilty of rape last year, the Florida woman and her mother sued the company for millions in damages for hiring the man, David Lorenzen.
Juror Debbie Woodward, 53, a Denver martial arts instructor, said Vail Resorts could not have foreseen the woman’s alleged rape.
“It was a very, very hard decision for us to make because we really felt for (the woman),” said Woodward. “The bottom line is, Vail could not have, at any time, controlled David Lorenzen doing what he did.”
Woodward said records presented by Vail defense attorneys proving Lorenzen wasn’t working the day the woman claimed she was raped were an important factor in her decision.
Lorenzen has an arrest record dating back to 1989 on suspicion of possession of marijuana, criminal mischief, trespassing, vehicle theft and contempt of court, as well as drunken-driving charges in 1994, 1995, 2000 and 2002.
Lynne Rossman, a human resources director for Beaver Creek Resort, testified Friday that Vail Resorts did a background check on Lorenzen in December 2004, which revealed his conviction for misdemeanor DUIs in 2002 and 2003.
On Monday, Beaver Creek Ski and Snowboard School director Pete Sontag testified that in the eight years he worked with him, Lorenzen had an impeccable record.
“Four DUIs is a lot and a cause for concern, but he was a good employee, a solid employee for many years,” he said.
“We really felt Vail was doing their job,” Woodward said. “We went back and looked at the testimony and every single person said ‘we didn’t see it coming,’ so how could Vail have seen it coming?”
The woman, who was 17 at the time, claims she was raped in January 2006 by the former Beaver Creek ski instructor when she went to Lorenzen’s apartment after skiing with him. Lorenzen was acquitted of the rape charge by an Eagle County jury last year, but given probation for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
In an e-mail to the Vail Daily Wednesday, Rob Katz, chief executive officer of Vail Resorts said the company is thankful to the jury for their verdict.
“We are grateful to the jury for thoroughly reviewing the evidence and testimony presented,” said Katz. “While we in no way condone the alleged behavior of David Lorenzen, we are gratified that the jury found that the company was not negligent in hiring, retaining or supervising Mr. Lorenzen.”
Katz said Vail Resorts is thorough when hiring its employees.
“The company carefully evaluates staff members as applicants and during their employment, and was vindicated by the jury, which unanimously rejected the claim that Mr. Lorenzen’s alleged off-duty actions should be held against the company,” said Katz. “Beaver Creek Resort is a world-class family resort committed to operating at the highest standards and we hold the safety of our guests as one of our highest concerns.”
The woman’s cousin, who was deposed for Vail Resorts Monday, said at the time the woman filed rape charges against Lorenzen, her home life was strained and she seemed depressed.
Woodward said the jury was moved by the woman’s troubled family life, but couldn’t find Vail accountable for it.
“We felt for (the woman) because we felt like she had a rough life living with her mom and dad,” Woodward said. “We wanted to see her get something good out of all this, but we couldn’t find Vail responsible for what happened.”
Michelle Dyson, a friend of the woman’s family, said Tuesday that the family was not ruling out an appeal if the verdict was to come back as it did Wednesday.
“It is most accurate to say plaintiffs are considering all their options, including appeal,” Dyson said Tuesday.
In a statement e-mailed to the Vail Daily after the verdict Wednesday, the alleged victim and her mother expressed frustration with the outcome of the case.
“Although today’s verdict underscores how difficult it is for rape victims to come forward, I can only hope that my pursuit of a just verdict will inspire others to be strong enough,” the alleged victim said in the statement.
“Vail continuously rehired a criminal every year for 18 years,” her mother said in the statement. “Had Vail done its job, my daughter would not have been raped. We understand the difficulty that jurors have in applying the law. Parents, please beware that Vail Resorts will continue to hire criminals and will not consider safety in protecting your child.”
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