Former employee wins claim

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A jury awarded a Steamboat Springs woman $269,000 in damages Friday for her claims that her former employer, a dentist, made sexual advances toward her while the two were on a business conference.

The woman brought the civil case against Dr. Scott Eivins and his Dental Center of Steamboat Springs a year and a half ago for an incident that took place during the fall of 2001. The woman did not file criminal charges against Eivins, who has denied her claims.

The civil trial in the 14th Judicial District Court began Monday, and the six-person jury went into deliberation Thursday afternoon. They presented their decision to be signed by the presiding judge, Joseph Quinn, early Friday afternoon.

In the original complaint, filed in February 2002, the woman asked for monetary relief from Eivins based on seven allegations, including assault, battery, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

In that complaint, as well as during the trial, she said Eivins was intoxicated one night at the conference and that when she came into his room to look for receipts, he approached her, pulled her close to him, tried to kiss her and made sexual comments to her. She also said she tried to leave the room twice, but that Eivins prevented her from leaving.

Michael Bottaro, the woman's lawyer, said his client has suffered emotional distress, pain and suffering from the incident, and also was hurt financially through lost wages when she left her job as a dental assistant with Eivins and also through therapy and attorney fees.

"Our evidence showed the severe emotional distress that this man caused her and how it affects her to this day," Bottaro said after the decision was announced.

Eivins denied the claims, and his lawyer, Sarah Claassen, said the incident was "a brief mutual mistake made by two adults" in her opening statement. Both the plaintiff and defendant are married.

"Needless to say, Dr. Eivins is disappointed in the verdict. With due respect to the jury, we believe it was not the right or just outcome," Claassen said after the decision was announced. "We intend to appeal the decision and remain confident that the just result will ultimately prevail."

The jury awarded the woman $112,500 from Eivins and $25,000 from his practice in non-economic damages, as well as $19,022 in economic damages.

The jury also awarded the woman $112,500 in punitive damages. Bottaro said the latter damages are noteworthy because the jury has to find beyond a reasonable doubt in favor of the plaintiff, a standard that is demanding.

Bottaro also said the woman did not file criminal charges because she would have had to travel to Missouri, where the incident took place.

Bottaro said the woman was pleased with the trial's outcome.

"(My client) is relieved and feels vindicated by the jury's decision. She felt that it was important for her to stand up for women and to make sure that this conduct doesn't happen in the future," Bottaro said. "The jury's decision ... sent a strong message that this type of conduct is unacceptable in this community."

Bottaro said he thought the decision was fair. He said that Quinn, a former Colorado Supreme Court Justice, conducted the trial in a fair way and that there were not grounds for appeal.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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