Former Telluride Express owner dropped from age discrimination suit

The federal age discrimination suit against Telluride Express is ongoing, but the current owner of the company reached an agreement with the previous owner, dismissing the latter as a third party. 

Telluride Express and ATS Enterprises, the company’s former owner entity, have reached an agreement that drops the latter from legal action initiated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Telluride Express in mid-December filed to dismiss, with prejudice, its bid to have ATS added as a third party.

The EEOC brought suit against Telluride Express last year, over a 2015 decision by the company not to hire a 79-year-old man as a shuttle driver, even though he was qualified. The company in 2015 had cited the rules of its insurance carrier, which would not allow people the applicant’s age to drive transit vehicles.

The EEOC investigated and filed suit in 2020, alleging violations of the federal Age Discrimination Act.

By the time the suit was filed, Telluride Express had been acquired, starting in 2017, through a series of transactions by CO West Transportation LLC, which in turn is owned by Chasing The Sun LLC.

Telluride Express’ current owner contends in court filings it is not responsible for the alleged age discrimination in 2015.

Last June, Telluride Express filed a third party complaint against ATS, which accused the former owner of breach of contract, as well as fraud; the filing alleged that when ATS sold its interests in Telluride Express, it had warranted there were no pending charges or investigations.

ATS in turn moved to strike or sever, on the basis that Chasing The Sun had released it from all potential claims as part of the settlement of a 2018 state court suit.

As related motions and requests for filing extensions went on in federal court, U.S. Judge R. Brooke Jackson questioned “whether common sense has gone completely out the window.”

In an order granting a time extension, he reiterated the gist of the case — that a 79-year-old man was not hired to drive a vehicle, reportedly because Telluride Express’ insurer would not insure the company for a driver that age.

“Whether that amounts to actionable age discrimination by the defendant (or the insurance company) might be debatable,” Jackson said. “ … The case seems like a tough one in terms of liability and economic damages, but I don’t yet have enough knowledge of the applicable law or facts to know the answers. But now we add a third party complaint where the defendant and the third-party defendant are wrangling over which of them might be liable to the plaintiff if there is any liability, as if this case were Marbury v. Madison redux and the exposure to damages was ‘bet the company’ big.”

Jackson in the order told the “warring parties” to sit down and work out a reasonable resolution.

The EEOC, for its part, has filed to have ATS stricken from the age discrimination suit.

On Dec. 16, 2020, Telluride Express filed a notice of dismissal of ATS Enterprises.

“Telluride Express and ATS have reached an agreement which resolves all disputes arising from this third party complaint raised in this action between them,” the filing states. “As part of their agreement, Telluride Express has agreed to dismiss the claims asserted by Telluride Express against ATS with prejudice.”

ATS in turn acknowledged as moot its pending motion to strike, which the court formally found as such Dec. 18.

Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.

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