Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Colorado Supreme Court
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In November 2015, Mark Kinslow hit Daniala Mohammadi with his car while she was riding her bicycle. Mohammadi, who was a minor at the time of the accident, sued Kinslow in December 2019, more than two years but less than three years after she turned eighteen. Kinslow moved to dismiss the suit, arguing that the statute of limitations had expired two years after Mohammadi’s eighteenth birthday. Mohammadi countered that the usual three-year statute of limitations for motor vehicle accidents had not started to run until her eighteenth birthday.The trial court granted Kinslow’s motion to dismiss, concluding that Mohammadi was required to bring her claim either within three years of the incident, or within two years after she turned eighteen. The court of appeals reversed this decision, agreeing with Mohammadi and concluding that it was bound by decisions of the Supreme Court of Colorado providing that statutes of limitations are “tolled” for claims by a minor plaintiff until the minor turns eighteen.The Supreme Court of the State of Colorado reversed the court of appeals' decision. The court concluded that the plain language of section 13-81-103(1)(c), C.R.S. (2023), gives a plaintiff who turns eighteen within the three-year limitation period for a motor vehicle accident a statute of limitations that is the longer of (1) the full three years normally accorded an accident victim, or (2) two years from their eighteenth birthday. For Mohammadi, this meant that she was required to bring her claim by January 1, 2019—two years after she turned eighteen. Because her suit was filed after that date, it was untimely. The court remanded the case with instructions to dismiss. View "Kinslow v. Mohammadi" on Justia Law

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In this case, the Supreme Court of the State of Colorado was called upon to decide a matter related to the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act (CGIA). The case involved a wrongful death action brought by the family and estate representatives of two brothers, Walter and Samuel Giron, who died when Officer Justin Hice accidentally collided with their van while pursuing a suspected speeder. Officer Hice and his employer, the Town of Olathe, claimed immunity under the CGIA. The Plaintiffs countered that the Defendants were not entitled to immunity because Officer Hice failed to use his emergency lights or siren continuously while speeding before the accident.The court had to interpret the CGIA and related traffic code provisions to determine the relevant time period for an officer’s failure to use emergency alerts. The court concluded that the CGIA requires a minimal causal connection between a plaintiff’s injuries and the fact that an officer did not use emergency signals while speeding. This means that an officer has access to immunity while speeding only during those times when the officer is using alerts.The court disagreed with the lower court's interpretation that an officer who fails to use his alerts at any point during the pursuit waives immunity for the entire pursuit. Instead, the court held that under section 24-10-106(1)(a) an emergency driver waives immunity only if the plaintiff’s injuries could have resulted from the emergency driver’s failure to use alerts.The court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and remanded the case for the court of appeals to determine if Officer Hice’s failure to use his lights or siren until the final five to ten seconds of his pursuit could have contributed to the accident. View "Hice v. Giron" on Justia Law

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In this case, Beverly Stickle sued Jefferson County after sustaining an injury from a fall in a parking structure adjacent to a county building. She claimed that a poorly marked curb, which created an optical illusion and made the walkway and parking area appear as a single flat surface, was a dangerous condition that caused her injury. The county argued for dismissal on the grounds of immunity under the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act (CGIA), asserting that the parking structure was not a "building" and that the condition causing the injury was solely due to the parking lot's design. However, the Supreme Court of the State of Colorado affirmed the lower courts' decisions, holding that the parking structure qualified as a "building" under the CGIA. The court also held that the optical illusion was not solely attributable to the parking lot's design but was also, at least in part, a result of the maintenance of the facility. As such, the county was not immune from the lawsuit under the CGIA, and Stickle's claim could proceed. View "County of Jefferson v. Stickle" on Justia Law

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Jose Garcia sued Colorado Cab Company, LLC (“Colorado Cab”) to recover for severe injuries he suffered while attempting to aid one of Colorado Cab’s drivers, Ali Yusuf. Garcia discovered Yusuf being assaulted by Yusuf’s passenger, Curt Glinton. Enraged by Garcia’s interference, Glinton attacked Garcia, first with his fists and then with the cab itself. The jury determined that Colorado Cab was liable for failing to install certain protective devices and awarded Garcia damages. In a split decision, a division of the court of appeals concluded as a matter of law that Garcia’s injuries resulting from Glinton’s theft and use of the cab as a weapon were “outside the risks reasonably to be anticipated” from both Colorado Cab’s negligence and Garcia’s rescue attempt. The broader question presented to the Colorado Supreme Court was how to analyze proximate cause in the rescuer context. To this, the Court held that, to prove proximate cause, the rescuer must show that his injuries were reasonably foreseeable based on the defendant’s alleged tortious conduct and the nature of the rescue attempt. While the Court agreed with much of the appellate court majority’s analytical framework, the Supreme Court concluded that it erred by deciding the issue of proximate cause as a matter of law. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals and reinstated the jury’s verdict. View "Garcia v. Colorado Cab Company" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Colorado Supreme Court in this matter was a trial court’s order denying immunity to Defendant New Century Hospice, Inc. and its subsidiaries, Defendants Legacy Hospice, LLC, d/b/a New Century Hospice of Denver, LLC, and Legacy Hospice of Colorado Springs, LLC (collectively, “New Century”). New Century argued it was entitled to immunity under four different statutes. Tana Edwards filed suit against New Century (her former employer) and Kathleen Johnson, the Director of Operations for New Century Castle Rock (collectively, “Defendants”). As part of her employment with New Century, Edwards provided in-home care to an elderly patient. In December 2019, Johnson began to suspect that Edwards was diverting pain medications from the patient. Defendants reported the suspected drug diversion to the Castle Rock Police Department and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (“CDPHE”). Defendants also lodged a complaint against Edwards’s nursing license with the Colorado Board of Nursing (“the Board”). After investigations, no criminal charges were filed and no formal disciplinary actions were taken against Edwards. Edwards subsequently brought this action against Defendants, alleging claims for negligent supervision and negligent hiring against New Century, as well as claims for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress against New Century and Johnson. Defendants moved for summary judgment. The trial court granted the motion as to Edwards’s claims for negligent hiring, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, finding that the claims were either time-barred or could not be proven. Three of the statutes New Century cited for its immunity claim, 12-20-402(1), C.R.S. (2022) (“the Professions Act”), 12-255-123(2), C.R.S. (2022) (“the Nurse Practice Act”), and 18-6.5-108(3), C.R.S. (2022) (“the Mandatory Reporter statute”), only authorized immunity for a “person.” Relying on the plain meaning of “person,” the Supreme Court held that New Century was not entitled to immunity under these three statutes because it was a corporation, not a person. The fourth statute, 18-8-115, C.R.S. (2022) (“the Duty to Report statute”), explicitly entitled corporations to immunity, but only if certain conditions were met. Applying the plain language of the statute, the Supreme Court held that New Century was not entitled to summary judgment on the issue of immunity under this statute because it did not carry its burden of demonstrating that all such conditions were met. View "In re Edwards v. New Century Hospice" on Justia Law

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In January 2022, plaintiffs A.S. and her husband B.S. brought a claim under the Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act (CSAAA or “Act”) against a former high school athletic coach and a school district, alleging that the coach sexually abused A.S. between 2001 and 2005 when she was a minor. At the time plaintiffs filed suit, any previously available claims for this alleged abuse was time-barred. The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court’s review was whether the CSAAA was unconstitutionally retrospective to the extent it created a new cause of action for conduct that predated the Act, and for which any previously available claims would be time-barred. The Supreme Court concluded that because the CSAAA created a new cause of action for child sexual abuse, the Act created a new obligation and attached a new disability with respect to past transactions or considerations to the extent it permitted victims to bring claims for which any available cause of action would have been time-barred. Therefore, the CSAAA amounted to unconstitutional retrospective legislation as applied to the plaintiffs’ claim under the Act. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district court’s order granting defendants’ motions to dismiss. View "Aurora Public Schools v. A.S. & B.S." on Justia Law

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Patricia and Lynette McMichael (“the McMichaels”) were the co-personal representatives for the estate of Charles McMichael (“Mr. McMichael”). The McMichaels alleged Mr. McMichael sustained injuries and died after falling on at least three occasions at a rehabilitation hospital owned by Encompass. Although Mr. McMichael was a resident and Encompass was a resident of Arapahoe County, and the alleged torts occurred at Encompass’s rehabilitation hospital in Arapahoe County, the McMichaels filed their lawsuit in Boulder County. After the McMichaels filed their complaint in May 2022, Encompass failed to file a timely response. The McMichaels moved for default judgment, which the trial court granted. Thirteen days after a response to the complaint was due, Encompass filed two separate pleadings with the court: (1) its attorneys’ entry of appearance; and (2) a motion to set aside the default judgment. In its motion, Encompass argued that the McMichaels’ counsel failed to confer with Encompass’s counsel before filing the motion for default judgment. Encompass contended the McMichaels’ lawyer had been actively engaged for months in communication with its lawyer about, among other things, the proper venue for the case. The issues this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review was the trial court’s order: (1) vacating its prior default judgment against Encompass PAHS Rehabilitation Hospital, LLC d/b/a Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Littleton (“Encompass”); and (2) granting Encompass’s motion to change venue from Boulder County to Arapahoe County. To this the Supreme Court concluded the trial court did not abuse its discretion by choosing to hear this matter on the merits despite Encompass’s thirteen-day delay in responding to the complaint. Further, applying its holding in a companion case, Nelson v. Encompass PAHS Rehabilitation Hospital, LLC, 2023 CO 1, __ P.3d __, the Court concluded the trial court did not err in transferring venue from the Boulder County District Court to the Arapahoe County District Court. "Because the residence of a limited liability company (“LLC”), for venue purposes, is the residence of the LLC, rather than the residences of its members, the county designated in the complaint was not the proper county, and Encompass was entitled to a change of venue as a matter of right." View "McMichael v. Encompass PAHS Rehabilitation Hospital" on Justia Law

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Respondent Floyd Nelson, a resident of Arapahoe County, Colorado alleged that he sustained injuries from a fall at a rehabilitation hospital owned by Encompass PAHS Rehabilitation, LLC d/b/a Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Littleton (“Encompass”), an LLC located in Arapahoe County. Nelson sued Encompass, asserting claims for negligence; medical negligence; and negligent hiring, supervision, retention, and training. Although Nelson was a resident of Arapahoe County, the LLC was located in Arapahoe County, and the alleged torts occurred in Arapahoe County, Nelson brought the action in Boulder County District Court. Encompass argued the trial court erred in looking to the residence of Encompass’s members in determining that venue was proper in Boulder County District Court and thus denying Encompass’s motion for change of venue. Nelson, analogizing to federal diversity cases, argued that the trial court properly looked to the residences of Encompass’s members in deciding where venue lied. In addressing this issue of first impression, the Colorado Supreme Court concluded that the residence of an LLC for venue purposes under C.R.C.P. 98 was controlled by the residence of the LLC, not that of its members. View "Nelson v. Encompass PAHS Rehabilitation Hospital" on Justia Law

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The plaintiff in this product liability case obtained a money judgment to compensate him for personal injuries he sustained in a car accident. The judgment debtor, the manufacturer of plaintiff’s car, appealed, and a division of the court of appeals reversed the judgment. The Colorado Supreme Court affirmed the division’s judgment on different grounds and remanded the matter for a new trial. On remand, plaintiff prevailed again, obtaining a new money judgment. The parties agreed that the nine percent interest rate applied from the date of the accident until the date of the appealed judgment (the first judgment). But the parties disagreed on the applicable interest rate between entry of that judgment and satisfaction of the final judgment (the second judgment). The Colorado Supreme Court held that whenever the judgment debtor appeals the judgment, the interest rate switches from nine percent to a market-based rate. "The outcome of the appeal is of no consequence; the filing of any appeal of the judgment by the judgment debtor triggers the shift in interest rate." Further, the Court held that the market-based postjudgment interest on the sum to be paid had to be calculated from the date of the appealed judgment. Thus, the market-based postjudgment interest rate applied from the date of the appealed judgment (the first judgment) through the date the final judgment (the second judgment) is satisfied. View "Ford Motor Company v. Walker" on Justia Law

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After tripping over a deviation in a sidewalk in the City of Boulder (“City”), Joy Maphis sued the City for her injuries under the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act (“CGIA”). The City moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, arguing that it was immune from suit as the sidewalk did not constitute a “dangerous condition” under section 24-10-106(1)(d)(1), C.R.S. (2021), of the CGIA. The district court denied the City’s motion based on its finding that the deviation was “difficult to detect” and was larger than what the City classified as a “hazard” warranting repair. The City appealed, and the court of appeals reversed, concluding that the undisputed evidence failed to establish that the sidewalk presented the type of dangerous condition for which the City had waived its immunity from suit. After its review, the Colorado Supreme Court agreed with the court of appeals that Maphis failed to establish a waiver of immunity. Reviewing de novo the legal question of whether the sidewalk constituted a dangerous condition under the CGIA, the Court held that Maphis’s evidence did not establish that the sidewalk deviation presented a risk that “exceeded the bounds of reason.” Accordingly, the Court affirmed the court of appeals and held that the City retained its immunity from suit under the CGIA. View "Maphis v. City of Boulder" on Justia Law