Articles Posted in Colorado Supreme Court

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A provision of the mandatory form settlement document promulgated by the Director of the Division of Workers’ Compensation (“Director”) did not waive an injured employee’s statutory right under section 8-43-204(1), C.R.S. (2016), to reopen a settlement based on a mutual mistake of material fact. Petitioner Victor England was a truck driver for Amerigas Propane. He filed a workers’ compensation claim after sustaining a serious injury to his shoulder in December 2012 while making a delivery for Amerigas. England’s claim was governed by the Colorado Workers’ Compensation Act, which required that settlements between employer and employee must be written, signed by both sides, and approved by the Director or an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). Pursuant to section 8-43-204, the Director promulgated a form settlement agreement (“Form”), which the parties are required to use to settle all claims. In this case, the parties’ settlement agreement was consistent with the Form. England’s pain continued after the settlement agreement was signed and approved. In October 2013, he sought further medical evaluation, which revealed a previously undiagnosed stress fracture in the scapula (shoulder blade) of England’s injured shoulder. Up to this point, no one was aware that this fracture existed. England claims that if he had been aware of this fracture, he would not have settled his claim. England filed a motion to reopen the settlement on the ground that the newly discovered fracture justified reopening his workers’ compensation claim. An ALJ agreed, and the Industrial Claim Appeals Office (ICAO) affirmed. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the Form waived England’s right to reopen. The Colorado Supreme Court held that because provisions of the form document must yield to statutory rights, the court of appeals erred in its conclusion. View "England v. Amerigas Propane" on Justia Law

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A non-negligently constructed and maintained piece of playground equipment cannot be a “dangerous condition” under the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act’s recreation-area waiver. Nine-year-old Alexa Loveland fell while using her elementary school playground’s zip line apparatus and severely fractured her wrist and forearm. Alexa and her parents filed a tort action against the school district, seeking damages for Alexa’s injuries. Because the Colorado legislature limited when public entities such as the school district may be sued, the issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court’s review was whether the Lovelands’ lawsuit fell within one of the limited exceptions to sovereign immunity under the Act. The Supreme Court concluded the facts as the Lovelands have alleged them, did not satisfy the dangerous-condition requirement, and that the trial court was correct to conclude the recreation-area waiver did not apply. View "St. Vrain Valley Sch. Dist. RE-1J v. Loveland" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Jessica Ferrer and her companion, Kathryn Winslow, were injured when a taxicab driven by Tesfamariam Okbamicael struck them as they crossed a street in Denver. Okbamicael worked for Colorado Cab Company (“Yellow Cab”), which owned the taxicab. Ferrer brought this suit against Okbamicael and Yellow Cab (collectively, “Defendants”), alleging that Okbamicael was negligent and that Yellow Cab was vicariously liable for his negligence under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Ferrer also alleged that Yellow Cab was liable for her injuries suffered in the collision under theories of direct negligence (negligence as a common carrier) and negligent entrustment, hiring, supervision, and training. In an amended answer to the complaint, Yellow Cab admitted that Okbamicael was an employee acting within the course and scope of his employment with Yellow Cab at the time of the accident. Defendants then moved for partial judgment on the pleadings, seeking to dismiss Ferrer’s direct negligence claims against Yellow Cab. The trial court granted Defendants’ motion, applying the rule from “McHaffie v. Bunch,” (891 S.W.2d 822 (Mo. 1995)), that an employer’s admission of vicarious liability for an employee’s negligence bars a plaintiff’s direct negligence claims against the employer. Agreeing with the trial court’s application of the “McHaffie” rule, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "In re Ferrer" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether Colorado had jurisdiction to award benefits for out-of-state work-related injuries and to impose a statutorily penalty on an employer under 8-41-204, C.R.S. (2016), when the employer was not a citizen of Colorado, and had no offices or operations in Colorado, only that the employer hired a Colorado citizen within the state. The Supreme Court held that on the facts presented here, Colorado lacked personal jurisdiction over the employer. View "Youngquist v. Miner" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Arnold Calderon was injured in a vehicle accident with an uninsured motorist. At the time, petitioner was insured with respondent American Family Mutual Insurance. American Family paid the policy limit to petitioner's medical providers; it denied payment with respect to his uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM), disputing the amount of petitioner's damages. A jury returned an award in petitioner's favor. The trial court offset the amount of the jury award by the amount already paid to the medical providers. Petitioner argued on appeal of that offset, that the "MedPay" coverage was separate from the UM/UIM coverage, and that the MedPay amount should not have been deducted. The Supreme Court reversed, finding that the amount of UM/UIM coverage, as listed in petitioner's policy, in this case should not have been reduced by the MedPay amount. View "Calderon v. American Family Mutual Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Christine Griffith filed a complaint against eleven entities and two individuals alleging they injured her father, who was a resident of a nursing home operated by defendant SSC Pueblo Belmont Operating Company (d/b/a Belmont Lodge Health Care Center). Plaintiff alleged that her father's injuries eventually caused his death. The individuals and four of nine entities conceded jurisdiction and answered the complaint. Five entities contested jurisdiction, arguing they were nonresident companies not subject to Colorado's jurisdiction. The issue for the Colorado Supreme Court's review centered on when a nonresident parent company could be subject to jurisdiction in Colorado based on the activities of its resident subsidiary. The Court held that trial courts had to perform a two-step analysis before concluding a nonresident parent company was subject to personal jurisdiction in Colorado. Because the trial court in this case did not perform that analysis, the case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Griffith v. SSC Pueblo Belmont Operating Co." on Justia Law

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The facts of this case were similar to those in "Griffith v. SSC Pueblo Belmont Operating Co.," (2016 CO 60 (2016)). The Supreme Court remanded this case back to the trial court for reconsideration under the test it announced in that case. Here, the Court held that the "Griffith" test applied when an issue arose of whether nonresident parent companies were subject to personal jurisdiction in Colorado courts based on the actions of their resident subsidiaries. Plaintiff Khalid Meeks sued ten entities and one individual alleging that the parties injured his mother, a resident of Colonial Columns Nursing Center. Four of ten entities conceded jurisdiction in Colorado; the others argued they were not subject to personal jurisdiction in Colorado. The nonresident defendants were upstream parent companies of the resident nursing center and the four that conceded jurisdiction. On remand, the Supreme Court mandated the trial court hold a hearing to resolve the disputed jurisdictional facts, and apply the "Griffith" framework. View "Meeks v. SSC Colorado Springs Colonial Columns Operating Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Christine Griffith sued nine entities and two individuals, alleging that they injured her father, who was a resident of a nursing home in Colorado. She alleged her father's injuries eventually caused his death. The individuals and four of the nine entities conceded jurisdiction and answered the complaint. The remaining five entities contested jurisdiction, arguing they were nonresident companies who were not subject to personal jurisdiction in Colorado. The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review was the circumstance under which nonresident parent companies could be haled into Colorado courts based on the activities of their resident subsidiaries. The Colorado Supreme Court held that in order for a Colorado court to exercise jurisdiction over a nonresident parent company, the trial court will analyze: (1) whether it may pierce the corporate veil and impute the resident subsidiary's contacts to the parent; and if the veil was pierced, the trial court will analyze (2) all of the subsidiary's contacts to determine whether jurisdiction comports with due process. If the trial court cannot pierce the corporate veil, then it shall treat each entity separately and analyze only the contacts that the parent company has with the state. Because the trial court did not perform this two-step analysis when it determined petitioners were subject to personal jurisdiction in Colorado, the Supreme Court remanded for the trial court to perform that analysis. View "Griffith v. SSC Pueblo Belmont Operating Co." on Justia Law

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Upon obtaining information that Steven Bleck was suicidal and possibly armed, officers with the Alamosa Police Department, including petitioner Jeffrey Martinez, entered Bleck’s hotel room. Bleck did not respond to the officers’ command to show his hands and lie down on the floor. Martinez approached him, and, without holstering his weapon, attempted to subdue him. In the process, the firearm discharged, injuring Bleck. As relevant here, Bleck brought suit against Martinez in federal court, alleging excessive force and a state law battery claim. The federal court granted summary judgment and dismissed Bleck’s federal claim, concluding that there was no evidence that the shooting was intentional. After the federal district court declined to assert supplemental jurisdiction over the state law battery claim, Bleck refiled the claim in state district court. Martinez then moved to dismiss the state law claims against him, arguing he was immune from suit and that his actions were not "willful and wanton." The trial court denied the motion, reasoning that Martinez should have known the situation would have been dangerous by not holstering his weapon prior to subduing Bleck. The court of appeals determined it lacked jurisdiction to hear the appeal, and did not consider Martinez' claim that the trial court applied the wrong "willful and wanton" standard before deciding his motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court agreed that the trial court applied the wrong standard, and that the court of appeals erred in not hearing the appeal. Furthermore, the Supreme Court found the trial court erred by not determining all issues relating to Martinez' immunity claim. View "Martinez v. Estate of Bleck" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review centered on whether the trial court erred in concluding that defendant Ford Motor Company was subject to general personal jurisdiction in Colorado, despite the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision in "Daimler A.G. v. Bauman," (134 S. CT. 746 (2014)). This case arose out of a 2013 accident in Colorado in which plaintiff John Magill's 2007 Ford Fusion collided with a vehicle driven by defendant Mark Polunci. Magill (and his wife) alleged that Ford, as manufacturer of the Fusion, was liable for Mr. Magill's serious injuries based on three causes of action sounding in tort. Ford moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. After review, the Colorado Court determined that the record did not support a finding that Ford was "essentially at home" in Colorado, and therefore not subject to general personal jurisdiction here, "maintaining a registered agent in the state does not convert a foreign corporation to a resident." Because none of the parties resided in Denver and the accident did not occur there, the Supreme Court concluded venue was not appropriate where the action was originally filed, in Denver County. The Supreme Court remanded this case for the trial court to transfer this case to an appropriate venue. The proper venue would then determine whether Ford was subject to specific jurisdiction. View "Magill v. Ford Motor Co." on Justia Law