Jury deliberates on suit against Vail Resorts
Vail CO, Colorado
DENVER ” A jury in federal court began deliberations yesterday in a case that could cost Vail Resorts millions in damages.
A woman and her mother are suing the company for $1 million to $5 million in damages for hiring David Lorenzen, a ski instructor she claims sexually assaulted her when she was 17.
“Vail is 100-percent responsible for putting this snake in the lap of my client,” said John Pineau, the woman’s attorney, in his closing statement to the Denver jury yesterday.
The woman maintains the former Beaver Creek ski instructor raped her in January 2006 after she went to his apartment during a ski lesson. Lorenzen was acquitted of the rape by an Eagle County jury last year, but given probation for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Attorneys for Vail Resorts said Lorenzen wasn’t scheduled or paid to provide a ski lesson the day she claimed he raped her, and he was in violation of its policies after taking her off the slopes.
“Most of what David Lorenzen did that day violated the policies of Vail,” said Edwin Aro, attorney for Vail Resorts, said in his closing statement to the jury. “In fact, it was exactly the opposite of what Vail told (their ski instructors) to do.”
Aro presented a Vail police statement to the jury made by the woman after the incident, in which she wrote, “Dave happened to have the day off,” the day she was raped.
“There’s no question David Lorenzen made some horrible choices on Jan. 7, 2006,” said Aro. “The question is whether Vail shares responsibility with the decisions he made that day.”
Lorenzen had spent eight years working with the Florida family as a ski instructor whenever they came to Colorado for winter vacations, said the woman’s 22-year-old sister.
Aro asked the jury to remember the sister during their deliberations, who said in her testimony at the trial she never saw the rape coming.
“If (the woman’s sister) didn’t foresee what (Lorenzen) did, how could Vail foresee what he did?” said Aro.
Pineau told the jury the sister, who had been “hit on” by Lorenzen before the incident, assumed his advances were towards her alone.
“(The sister) makes the mistake of assuming sexual interest in her was sexual interest in her,” he said. “Not her baby sister.”
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.
Aro said Vail Resorts did a background check on Lorenzen December 2004, which revealed his conviction for DUI in 2002 and 2003.
Pineau argued that if Vail had disclosed Lorenzen’s criminal background to the woman, the incident would have never happened.
“David Lorenzen was by no means a surprise to Vail by January 2006,” said Pineau. “If Vail had been honest, this would have never happened.”
Pineau said a large financial judgment for his client may prevent such an incident from happening again.
“If you go cheap, this will repeat,” Pineau said to the jury. “If Vail was your child, you would want them to be corrected so they don’t do it again. A six-figure judgment is not going to do this.”
The jury will continue to deliberate today.
Dawn Witlin can be reached at (970) 748-2931 or firstname.lastname@example.org