A hotel has been dismissed from a lawsuit brought by a local father and daughter who are suing a couple, their son and the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club over allegations that the boy made unwanted advances and groped the girl during a ski team trip.
The father and daughter, listed in the lawsuit as John and Jane Doe to protect their privacy, named CHB, Inc., which does business as La Quinta Inn and Suites Silverthorne, as a defendant.
The lawsuit alleges that during the team trip in December 2011, the boy went into Jane Doe’s room at the hotel and allegedly put his hand down her pants, tried to kiss her and tried to force her hand onto his body.
The alleged incidents constitute unwanted sexual conduct and/or sexual assault, wrote the plaintiffs’ attorney, Marian Rosen of Houston.
La Quinta Inn and Suites was hit with a negligence claim in the lawsuit, which was filed in August. Rosen wrote that the hotel owed Jane Doe, as an invitee on its property, a duty to use ordinary care and diligence to protect her.
“AVSC had housed its ski team members at La Quinta in Silverthorne during ski competitions prior to the competition in December 2011,” the lawsuit says. “Because of this prior knowledge, La Quinta could reasonably foresee the consequences of having adolescent boys and girls housed in the same section of the hotel.”
Rosen wrote that the hotel failed to implement a security plan that would have prevented the boy’s alleged actions. Specifically, the hotel “failed to have any call/emergency button in the room to alert authorities of a criminal attack, failed to inform the ski team members of emergency procedures and negligently failed to properly assign rooms to its ski team guests, given their young age and mixed gender,” the lawsuit says.
In a response filed in October, La Quinta’s attorney, Todd Vriesman of Denver, wrote that the essence of the complaint against the hotel is that the business “knew or ‘should have known’ that a teenager ... would inappropriately grope another teenager on the same ski club in a hotel room.
“Never mind that there are no allegations that La Quinta had any knowledge of [the boy] personally before the incident,” Vriesman wrote. “The [lawsuit] does not allege that La Quinta had a past experience with [the boy] generally or even prior sexual assaults at the hotel because such past experience and events do not exist.
“Considering all circumstances alleged in the complaint, the criminal acts of [the boy] were not foreseeable to La Quinta.”
Judge Gail Nichols of Pitkin County District Court on Wednesday dismissed the claim against the hotel, citing a lack of an answer from Rosen.
Rosen said Friday that she was not aware of Nichols’ ruling and declined further comment.
Neither the boy nor his family are being named because it’s unclear if he is over 18 years old.
The boy was charged in juvenile court in Summit County after the alleged incident, but efforts to reach 5th Judicial District Attorney Mark Hurlbert about the status of the case were unsuccessful. He also faces felony charges in Pitkin County of retaliation against a witness and assault, court records show.
The local case is “tangentially related” to the alleged Summit County incident, Aspen prosecutor Arnold Mordkin said in August. The boy is due back in Pitkin County District Court on Dec. 3.
The boy, whose family has homes here and in Westcliffe, is enrolled in the Aspen School District.
Superintendent John Maloy said in an email Friday that the boy is being educated by the school district, but not within “the physical walls” of Aspen High School.
“The district has a legal responsibility to educate all students within its attendance boundary,” Maloy wrote. “However, the education of students may take place in alternative educational settings.”
He said he would not discuss the education methods being used for the boy. But in general, alternative methods can include tutoring, online learning or another school, Maloy said.
Prior to the student enrolling in the high school, a needs assessment was conducted and appropriate steps were taken, including the implementation of a safety plan, he said.