DENVER – Twelve tenants at the Breakers Resort have filed a class action lawsuit against the owners and managers of the sprawling rental complex at East Mississippi Avenue and South Valentia Street.
The lawsuit alleges that BH Management initially turned a blind eye to a growing rat infestation until tenants began complaining about widespread damage to the electrical wiring of their cars.
Now, some tenants are suffering health issues, which they link to the pesticide application process used by BH Management to control the infestation.
Tanya Collins says she’s lived at the Breakers for three years and never had any problems until early January, when her hair started falling out in clumps.
Collins told Denver7 that she used a hot tub in the complex just after Christmas.
“It wasn’t that hot,” she said, “…so I turned around and exited.”
That’s when she noticed a dead rabbit lying next to the tub.
Collin’s attorney, Ian Hicks, said his investigation showed the dead rabbit had been floating in the tub a week before Collins took a dip.
He thinks the rat poison that killed the rabbit was still inside the water.
“The water had never been changed,” he said. “Rat poison is proven by case studies to cause hair loss.”
Collins said she asked maintenance workers to pick up the dead rabbit and to turn up the heat for the hot tub.
Four days later, she found a dead rat near her vehicle.
“That’s when I decided to see if the dead rabbit was still by the hot tub,” she said. “It was still lying there, four days later.”
Car fires, airbag explosions
The lawsuit alleges that cars have caught fire, airbags have exploded and that a newborn infant inhaled the stench of putrefied rats in the family car until it was determined that the car had become the rats' tomb.
Hicks said another plaintiff, Robert Budnicki, was told by one of the complex managers to wrap electrical tape around the wiring in his vehicle, that had been chewed bare by rats.
“The Jeep dealer and his insurance agent said, ‘You can’t do that,’” Hicks said. “Multiple appraisers looked at this and said if you drive the vehicle, the airbag could go off.”
That’s apparently what happened.
Hicks said Budnicki had just dropped off his daughter who was in the front seat. Within ten seconds, his airbag went off.
“It shattered his windshield,” Hicks said. “He’s been driving his truck with a broken windshield and a deployed airbag, for several weeks.
Hicks told Denver7 that some tenants were told BH’s insurance would take care of the damage to their cars.
Most never received a check.
Hicks said the excuse was that the plaintiffs didn’t give the right address. He said he doesn’t think checks were sent at all.
“We’ll find out during the lawsuit,” he said. “Insurance companies have to keep records for tax purposes.”
Tenant threatened with eviction
Another plaintiff, who drew attention to the problem, and who tried to help other tenants get reimbursed for the damage to their cars, says he was threatened by the other manager.
Christian Woehler told Denver7 in January that the original pest control company haphazardly scattered First Strike soft bait throughout the complex.
First Strike contains an active ingredient known as Difethialone.
Difethialone is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency and should only be applied “within tamper-resistant bait stations in areas where pets or children are likely to be found.”
According to the lawsuit, the exterminator and others, “acting at the direction and control of manager Mike Holt, indiscriminately hurled hundreds, if not thousands of packets of First Strike Poison against exterior walls, into bushes, onto grass, next to sidewalks, onto front and back porches, and virtually every location regularly utilized by adults, children, pets and wildlife, across the entire neighborhood.”
Within days, rats of all shapes and sizes, many measuring 12-plus inches without the tail, and weighing approximately five pounds, began staggering into the open and then expiring.
Woehler says he repeatedly contacted Mr. Holt and BH to have them remove the dozens of festering carcasses, but no one responded.
After Denver7 ran a story about the damage to cars, and the improperly applied rat bait, one of the managers, Ashley Wooten-Shelite, contacted Woehler by phone.
“She told Christian she was there to make him happy,” the lawsuit states, but the conversation didn’t end well.
“She told me at the end of our conversation that if I talked to anyone about this, I was going to be processed for eviction.”
The plaintiffs have submitted 27 claims for relief ranging from negligence to unjust enrichment and deceit.
Hicks said BH’s entire operation is geared toward one thing.
“We believe BH Management came in, in October of 2016, with one mission – to cut costs at any expense,” he said. “They closed club houses and drastically reduced amenities, all while charging premium rents.”
Denver7 reached out to the Breakers and BH Management for reaction to the lawsuit.
Alana Watkins of VOCA PR emailed a reply which states: “The Breakers is aware that legal actions have been filed in the Denver County District Court. We are investigating the allegations and will provide no further comment pertaining to the legal proceedings of this matter.”