Background checks focus of suit involving Vail Resorts
Vail, CO Colorado
Updates story with corrected information regarding background checks.
DENVER, Colorado ” Beaver Creek’s human resources director testified Friday regarding a criminal background check on a former ski instructor being sued by a woman he was acquitted of raping.
Beaver Creek Ski Resort’s HR Director Lynne Rossman told a jury in federal court in Denver that she did not know the lengthy criminal past of former ski instructor David Lorenzen, 45, until after he was charged with raping his then 17-year-old skiing student.
“(Lorenzen) was an employee for 17 years and had not a blemish on his records,” said Rossman.
Rossman said she was solely responsible for doing background checks on the resort’s employee.
Edwin Aro, an attorney for Vail Resorts, said in an e-mail Sunday that Rossman testified earlier that she ran a background check in December 2004. A printed copy of that report was admitted in evidence, which showed DUI convictions in 2002 and 2003, but not earlier incidents from 1989, 1994 and 1995. Aro said such background checks typically only show incidents from the previous seven years.
The client, now 19, and her mother are seeking $2 million to $5 million in damages from Vail Resorts in a federal court case that began last Monday in Denver.
The plaintiff’s attorneys maintain that girl was raped in January 2006 when she willingly went to Lorenzen’s apartment during a ski lesson. He was found not guilty of the rape by an Eagle County jury last year but given probation for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Lorenzen has an arrest record dating back to 1989 for possession of marijuana, criminal mischief, trespassing, vehicle theft and contempt of court, as well as DUIs in 1994, 1995, 2000 and 2002.
The woman’s attorney, John Pineau, claims that Vail should have known Lorenzen was a danger to the resort’s clients, but continually rehired him.
“You’re a family resort,” Attorney John Pineau said to Rossman during her testimony. “You have a lot of customers relying on the safety of your instructors, for which you charge $600 a lesson.”
According to Lorenzen’s personnel file, he repeatedly failed to reveal on his employment applications whether he had been convicted of a felony.
“From this form, you can’t tell if you were hiring a felon or someone who didn’t fill out the forms correctly,” said Pineau, referring to Lorenzen’s 1989 job application which he left blank when asked if he had been convicted of a felony.
Lorenzen had spent eight years working with the Florida family as a ski instructor when they came to Colorado for winter vacations, said the woman’s 22-year-old sister.
“We spent 10 years and $90,000 to learn how to ski and we’ll never ski again,” the sister said.
The girls’ father said he is outraged by the evidence against Vail Resorts.
“I’ll be angry until the day someone puts me in the ground, only because it was a preventable incident,” he said. “When you take your child to ski school, that’s no different from dropping them off at day care. There’s absolutely no difference.”
The father and sister said a Vail Resorts Web page published in 2001 ” which they found saved in cyberspace at webarchive.com ” shows that Vail Associates once advertised their ski instructors were screened for a criminal background.
The woman’s sister said she hopes her younger sister can finally stop reliving the trauma caused by Lorenzen when the trial ends. Closing arguments are expected to be Monday.
“I hope on Monday that she is done being raped,” Danielle said. “She’s relived that rape twice through her testimony and several times in the criminal trial.”
Dawn Witlin can be reached at (970)748-2931 or firstname.lastname@example.org