Telluride Express sues former owner over federal age discrimination complaint

Telluride Express, a Montrose-based shuttle service, has been sued for alleged age discrimination. The business recently sued the former owner over the complaint.

The current owners of Telluride Express say they are not liable for alleged violations of federal age discrimination laws that may have occurred under previous ownership.

San Miguel Mountain Ventures LLC, which does business as Telluride Express/Chasing the Sun, purchased controlling units of the shuttle company in 2017. It is the named defendant in a federal lawsuit filed earlier this year that alleges a 79-year-old man was denied a driver’s job in 2015.

On June 19, San Miguel Mountain Ventures filed a third-party complaint naming the company’s former owner, ATS Enterprises, LLC, which it accused of breach of contract and fraud.

This complaint says ATS and its principal Sue Rovito controlled what happened in 2015, when applicant Chester Webber was denied a position, despite being qualified and having a blemish-free driving record.

A response from ATS is not yet due.

In 2015, Webber was reportedly told the company’s insurance carrier agreement prohibited drivers his age from driving passenger transportation vehicles.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigated, and in 2019, issued a finding of probable cause the federal Age Discrimination Act was violated. The EEOC filed suit on Webber’s behalf earlier this year, after it was unable to reach an agreement with Telluride Express. The agency is seeking damages for Webber, as well as a court order barring Telluride Express from policies and programs that discriminate against people 40 and older.

In its June answer to the complaint, Telluride Express sought dismissal on the grounds that the hiring decision was based on insurance requirements, and that the statute of limitations may apply. The answer also states the alleged conduct was that of a third party.

In its third-party complaint filed later in June, the company reiterates ATS was responsible for whatever injury, if any, Webber suffered.

The third party complaint details the transactions that led to the change of ownership: CO West Transportation owned Telluride Express, with ATS owning all or the majority of CO West. ATS in 2017 sold a majority of its units in CO West through a purchase agreement that gave Chasing the Sun 75% of the units, including Telluride Express. Later the same year, Chasing the Sun obtained the remainder of CO West Transportation.

The complaint said the contract was valid and under it, ATS warranted that there was no charge or investigation pending, or discrimination charges.

Because that was not the case, ATS breached its agreement, attorney Kimberly Bruetsch wrote.

The company further alleges ATS made false representations of past and present facts within the unit purchase agreement.

Telluride Express paid a significant sum for its acquisition, believing the representations made by ATS to be true, the filing also said. It is now faced with the expense of hiring counsel to defend against the EEOC complaint; the company may also have to pay damages if it is found liable on Webber’s complaint.

“It was foreseeable that Telluride Express would be damaged in the form of, among other things, the attorney fees and costs to defend a claim brought by the EEOC related to Chester Webber as the result of fraudulent statements, and Telluride Express’ reliance thereof,” the filing states.

Telluride Express is seeking compensatory and other damages, along with attorney’s fees.

Motions in the case are to be filed by May 3, 2021.

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

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