Family accuses Vail of Web page shenanigans
Rocky Mountain News
Vail, CO Colorado
DENVER, Colorado ” An old Web page saved in cyberspace shows that Vail Associates lied in a federal court case, according to attorneys for a 17-year-old girl who charges she was raped by a ski instructor.
Vail denies the charge and defense attorney Edwin Aro dismissed the claims against the resort as a “sham.”
Last year, the girl and her family sued Vail and instructor David Lorenzen, 45, who gave private ski lessons to the girl at Beaver Creek for 10 years, from the time she was in second grade.
The lawsuit charges that Lorenzen took her to his apartment, gave her alcohol and raped her on Jan. 7, 2006.
In a criminal case stemming from the incident, Lorenzen was sentenced in August to 90 days in jail plus six years probation for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
The family, who lives in Florida, declined interviews through attorney John Pineau because of the pending litigation.
In the suit, the girl’s mother said she paid Lorenzen $595 for a private lesson, but Lorenzen took the girl to his apartment after the first run. The mother, thinking her daughter had a full day’s lesson, tipped him $100 at the end of the day when he brought the girl back.
When the mother commented about her daughter’s disheveled appearance, according to the girl’s deposition, Lorenzen replied, “Yeah, I worked her over real good.”
A centerpiece of the negligence claim against Vail was that the family relied on assurances from Vail that its instructors were responsible, reliable and that background checks were done on them.
Lorenzen, a ski instructor at Vail for 18 years, 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 girl’s mother said she was shocked when she learned about Lorenzen’s arrest record.
“This person had a known criminal record that Vail was aware of,” she said in a deposition.
In its response to the lawsuit, Vail contended that it never promised customers that criminal checks were done on employees and supplied copies of its old Web pages to prove it.
But the family’s attorney said Vail supplied phony Web pages to support its contentions.
To the contrary, Pineau said, a search of old Web sites through http://www.web.archive.com revealed that Vail had promised since 2002 that any ski instructor working with children must have a “clean criminal record.”
Furthermore, he said, the archive site contained no pages similar to the ones the Vail supplied to the court as its Web site. When defense attorneys attempted another search of Vail’s sites through the Web archive, they found that a block had been placed “on the incriminating Web pages,” Pineau said.
“As the record now stands before the court, it appears that Vail’s affidavits are false and misleading, the alleged copy of Vail’s Web site is fabricated and Vail has attempted to destroy evidence,” he said in court pleadings.
Aro said the company would have no comment on the allegations beyond its recently filed response to the plaintiff’s motion.
The Web pages referring to a “clean criminal record” are “immaterial” to the case because they come from a Web site for job applicants that customers like the girl’s mother would not normally consult and did not in this case, Aro said in the response.
Beginning in 2002, the site said that ski instructors who have a clean criminal record as well as other requirements could be considered for jobs instructing children aged 3-14, Aro said in the response.
The mother in this case began taking her two daughters to the resort in 1996 – six years before that information was posted, Aro said. By the time it was, the family had a long-established relationship with Lorenzen and the girls were in their teens.
He also said that the mother never previously claimed to have seen the Web site or referred to “criminal background checks,” but only said that she believed the resort did background checks on its instructors.
Although Vail said it began doing criminal checks on all ski instructors in 2004 and knew that Lorenzen had one DUI conviction, he wasn’t barred from working as a ski instructor because his job didn’t require him to drive, other employees made sure he didn’t have liquor on his breath when he was with clients, he taught adults and generally he got rave reviews as a ski instructor.
As for blocking access to the archived sites, Vail denies doing that, saying the job site was generally accessible on the archive Web site and was controlled by a recruitment marketing agency not connected to Vail that may have taken down the pages.
Aro also said that Vail is not liable in the case because the resort couldn’t have foreseen that Lorenzen would sexually assault a ski school student.
Pineau contends that the Florida family never would have entrusted their two young daughters to Lorenzen if they had known his background.
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A Nov. 30 to Governor Polis and the Eagle County Commissioners from Beaver Creek Resorts Company – as well as the towns of Vail, Avon, Eagle and Minturn – requests a variance program which would allow businesses to remain open.