by
In 2011, OXY USA Inc. (“Oxy”), made a mistake that caused it to overpay its property taxes on oil and gas produced from leaseholds. Oxy failed to deduct certain costs it was entitled to deduct. By the time it realized the mistake, the protest period had expired. The company nonetheless contended it was entitled to abatement and refund of the overpayment pursuant to section 39-10-114(1)(a)(I)(A), C.R.S. (2017). The county board of commissioners maintained that the abatement-and-refund provision did not apply because Oxy was the sole source of the error. Relying on Colorado Supreme Court precedent, the court of appeals held that Oxy couldn't receive abatement and refund for overpayment due to its own mistake. The Supreme Court held section 39-10-114(1)(a)(I)(A) gave taxpayers the right to seek abatement and refund for erroneously or illegally levied taxes resulting from overvaluation caused solely by taxpayer mistake. Therefore, Oxy was entitled to abatement and refund for its overpayment of taxes in the tax year at issue in this appeal. View "OXY USA Inc. v. Mesa County Board of Commissioners" on Justia Law

by
In 2012, Respondent Allister Boustred, a Colorado resident, purchased a replacement main rotor holder for his radio-controlled helicopter from a retailer in Fort Collins, Colorado. The main rotor holder was allegedly manufactured by Petitioner Align Corporation Limited (“Align”), a Taiwanese corporation, and distributed by Respondent Horizon Hobby, Inc. (“Horizon”), a Delaware-based corporation. Align had no physical presence in the United States, but it contracted with U.S.-based distributors to sell its products to retailers who, in turn, sell them to consumers. Boustred installed the main rotor holder to his helicopter and was injured in Colorado when the blades held by the main rotor holder released and struck him in the eye. He filed claims of strict liability and negligence against both Align and Horizon in Colorado. The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review centered on the stream of commerce doctrine and the prerequisites for a state to exercise specific personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded that World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286 (1980), set out the controlling stream of commerce doctrine, which established that a forum state could assert jurisdiction where a plaintiff showed a defendant placed goods into the stream of commerce with the expectation that the goods will be purchased in the forum state. Applying this doctrine, the Court concluded Boustred made a sufficient showing to withstand a motion to dismiss. View "Align Corporation, Ltd. v. Boustred" on Justia Law

by
In this products liability case, the issue before the Colorado Supreme Court was whether the trial court erred when it gave a jury instruction that allowed the jury to apply either the "consumer expectation test" or the "risk-benefit test" to determine whether a driver’s car seat was unreasonably dangerous due to a design defect. The court of appeals concluded that the trial court did err by instructing the jury separately on the consumer expectation test, because the test already comprises an element of the risk-benefit test. The Supreme Court affirmed on different grounds. Previously, the Court determined the risk-benefit test was appropriate test to assess whether a product was unreasonably dangerous due to a design defect where the dangerousness of the design is “defined primarily by technical, scientific information.” The consumer expectation test, by contrast, was “not suitable” in such a case. Here, the jury was tasked with determining whether a car seat was unreasonably dangerous due to a design defect - a determination that, as evidenced by the extensive expert testimony at trial, required consideration of technical, scientific information. Thus, the Court surmised the proper test under which to assess the design’s dangerousness was the risk-benefit test, not the consumer expectation test. Therefore it was error for the trial court to instruct the jury on both tests, thereby allowing it to base its verdict on the consumer expectation test alone. Furthermore, the Court held that the jury’s separate finding of negligence did not render the instructional error harmless. View "Walker v. Ford Motor Co." on Justia Law

by
Defendant James Sampson spoke with a police officer while Sampson was in a hospital for treatment of knife wounds. Sampson told the officer someone the street had stabbed him while trying to rob him, and a Good Samaritan drove him to the hospital. The officer ran Sampson’s name in APD’s information database and learned Sampson was a suspect in a September 2015 domestic violence assault case that allegedly occurred at an address near where Sampson said he was picked up. The officer then sent officers to the address to make sure it wasn’t a crime scene. When the officers arrived at the address, they saw what looked like blood outside the apartment door. No one answered the door, so they forced entry. Inside they found Ms. R. with a stab wound on her thigh. Ms. R. told the officers that Sampson had attacked her with a bat, and she had defended herself with a knife. At the hospital, the officer told Sampson that officers were in contact with Ms. R. and that he knew what had happened at the apartment. At first, Sampson stuck to his original story, but after the officer said, “[L]ook, we already know what happened,” Sampson admitted he had lied. After this admission, the officer read Sampson a Miranda advisement, the sufficiency of which was not in dispute. Sampson acknowledged that he understood his rights, and he agreed to answer questions. Sampson’s statements were at issue in this appeal: whether Sampson was in custody when he spoke to the officer. The trial court ruled Sampson was not in custody for Miranda purposes until the officer gave Sampson a Miranda advisement. Finding the State failed to prove Sampson made a voluntary waiver of his Miranda rights, the trial court suppressed the statements Sampson made after the advisement. The State appealed, and the Colorado Supreme Court reversed, finding defendant was not in custody at any point during his conversation with the officer at the hospital. Therefore, Miranda did not apply, and the trial court was reversed. View "Colorado v. Samspon" on Justia Law

by
Several days before trial, Jesus Ronquillo decided he’d had enough of the lawyer he’d hired to defend him. Counsel asked to withdraw, noting that he had been fired, and that he and Ronquillo had suffered a complete breakdown in communication. The trial court denied counsel’s motion to withdraw, reasoning that it was too late in the game for counsel to exit the case because of non-payment, particularly in a case involving out-of-state witnesses. Therefore, the judge told Ronquillo he could go to trial as scheduled with retained counsel, or he could represent himself. Ronquillo chose the court’s first option, and a jury convicted him as charged. Ronquillo appealed. A division of the court of appeals concluded that the trial court erred by focusing on the non-payment issue and by not addressing the alleged breakdown in communication. To obtain substitute counsel in this retained-to-appointed scenario, it held, the defendant had to show good cause. So, the division remanded the case to the trial court to expressly address that issue. The question for the Colorado Supreme Court’s resolution was whether on facts such as those in this case, a defendant must show good cause to fire retained counsel. The Court held that the Sixth Amendment right to hire counsel of choice includes the right to fire that counsel without showing good cause, even when a defendant seeks court-appointed counsel as a replacement. “But while a defendant may fire retained counsel for any reason, he may be limited in his options going forward in ways he does not appreciate. Thus, before granting defendant’s request to release retained counsel, a trial court must ensure that the defendant understands the consequences of doing so.” View "Ronquillo v. Colorado" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner Bernardino Fuentes-Espinoza challenged his convictions under Colorado’s human smuggling statute on the ground that that statute was preempted by the federal Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). In 2007, Fuentes-Espinoza was walking along the Las Vegas Strip when an individual approached him and offered him $500 to drive several family members from Phoenix to Kansas. En route, Fuentes-Espinoza stopped at a gas station in Wheat Ridge, Colorado to get gas and to repair a broken taillight. As pertinent here, he went into the station to pay and gave the clerk a one-hundred-dollar bill, which apparently had been included in the travel money that Fuentes-Espinoza had received. The clerk determined that the bill was counterfeit and called the police. A responding police officer asked Fuentes-Espinoza about the counterfeit bill and the people in the van. The officer then spoke with the people in the van and requested identification from them. After doing so, the officer spoke with his supervisor to report on his investigation and to get further instructions. The supervisor told the officer to bring the group to the police station, and the officer did so. The officer then called the human smuggling hotline, and the hotline sent representatives to the station to assist. The court of appeals did not consider Fuentes-Espinoza’s preemption argument because it was unpreserved. The Colorado Supreme Court exercised its discretion to review that argument and concluded that the INA preempted section 18-13-128 C.R.S. (2017) under the doctrines of both field and conflict preemption. The Court reversed the appellate court’s judgment, and remanded this matter for further consideration. View "Fuentes-Espinoza v. Colorado" on Justia Law

by
When Arvada, Colorado police officers responded to a reported domestic disturbance in Terry Ross’s home, Ross went into a bedroom and shot himself. Officers radioed for an ambulance whose crew delivered him to the hospital. There, doctors treated Ross’s wounds as Arvada officers kept watch over him. When Ross, and later his estate, could not pay for his care, the hospital billed the City of Arvada nearly $30,000. The question presented by this case was essentially whether Arvada had to pay the tab. The trial court and court of appeals said yes; both read Colorado’s “Treatment while in custody” statute as entitling the hospital to relief. Relying on Poudre Valley Health Care Inc. v. City of Loveland, 85 P.3d 558 (Colo. App. 2003), the trial court decided the statute assigned police departments (or any agency that detains people) a duty to pay healthcare providers for treatment of those in custody. The court of appeals affirmed on essentially the same grounds. The Colorado Supreme Court, however, concluded the statute did not create any duty to a healthcare provider. Furthermore, the Court concluded that the hospital’s claim for unjust enrichment survived. Because that claim was contractual, the Court concluded the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act did not prohibit it. Therefore, the Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals in part and remanded for further proceedings. View "City of Arvada ex rel. Arvada Police Department v. Denver Health" on Justia Law

by
This case concerned a district court’s authority to continue to collect from petitioner Karla Pineda-Liberato unpaid restitution, court costs, and fees ordered as conditions of a deferred sentence after the completion of that deferred sentence. The State charged Pineda-Liberato with two felony counts of theft ($500 to $15,000) and two felony counts of providing false information to a pawn broker after she pawned a laptop computer and a television that she had rented from Rent-A-Center. Eventually, Pineda-Liberato entered into a plea agreement under which: (1) she would plead guilty to one count of theft; (2) she would receive “a two-year deferred sentence with terms and conditions to include 48 hours of useful public service, pay restitution as ordered by the court, and any other terms and conditions the court deems appropriate”; and (3) the State would dismiss the remaining counts. In addition to these terms, the agreement contained a handwritten addendum that read, “No jail at initial sentencing.” If Pineda-Liberato complied with the terms of her deferred sentence, then, according to the parties’ Stipulation for Supervised Deferred Sentence, Pineda-Liberato could withdraw her guilty plea and the theft charge would be dismissed with prejudice. The Colorado Supreme Court reviewed the two district court orders with the first finding that the court lacked authority to collect unpaid restitution (but that avenues potentially remained open for the victim to do so), and the second finding that the court lacked authority to collect unpaid fees and costs. With respect to restitution, the Court concluded the pertinent statutes allowed the district court to collect any unpaid amounts from Pineda-Liberato after the completion of her deferred sentence, until the restitution has been paid in full. With respect to the fees and costs ordered as probationary-like supervision conditions, however, the Court concluded the district court lacked the authority to collect such unpaid amounts after it terminated Pineda-Liberato’s deferred sentence, withdrew her guilty plea, and dismissed her case with prejudice. View "Pineda-Liberato v. Colorado" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner Ann Hardegger filed a complaint in the district court seeking contribution from respondents Daniel and Cheryl Clark, for their proportionate share of a payment she made to the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) in full satisfaction of the parties’ joint and several tax liabilities. In October 2010, the Clarks filed a joint voluntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition and gave notice to their creditors, including the Hardeggers. The Hardeggers did not file a proof of claim in the bankruptcy proceeding, and the bankruptcy court granted the Clarks a discharge. In Hardegger’s case, the district court found the Clarks responsible for one-half of the IRS indebtedness and entered summary judgment in Hardegger’s favor. A division of the court of appeals reversed, however, concluding that Hardegger’s contribution claim constituted a pre-petition debt that had been discharged in the Clarks’ bankruptcy case. Applying the “conduct test,” under which a claim arises for bankruptcy purposes at the time the debtor committed the conduct on which the claim is based, the Colorado Supreme Court concluded that Hardegger’s claim for contribution arose when the parties’ jointly owned company incurred federal tax withholding liability between 2007 and 2009, rendering Hardegger and Clark potentially responsible for that debt. Because this conduct occurred before the Clarks filed their bankruptcy petition in 2010, Hardegger’s claim constituted a pre-petition debt that was subject to discharge. View "Hardegger v. Clark" on Justia Law

by
In March 2016, Catholic Health Initiatives Colorado (d/b/a Centural Health – St. Anthony North Hospital) filed suit against architectural firm Earl Swensson Associates (“ESA”) after ESA designed Catholic Health’s new hospital, Saint Anthony North Health Campus (“Saint Anthony”). Catholic Health alleged that ESA breached its contract and was professionally negligent by failing to design Saint Anthony such that it could have a separately licensed and certified Ambulatory Surgery Center (“ASC”). In December 2016, Catholic Health filed its first expert disclosures, endorsing Bruce LePage and two others. Catholic Health described LePage as an expert with extensive experience in all aspects of preconstruction services such as cost modeling, systems studies, constructability, cost studies, subcontractor solicitation, detailed planning, client relations, and communications in hospital and other large construction projects. Catholic Health endorsed LePage to testify about the cost of adding an ASC to Saint Anthony. At a hearing, ESA argued that the lack of detail in LePage’s report prevented ESA from being able to effectively cross-examine him. ESA further argued that striking LePage as an expert was the proper remedy because Rule 26(a)(2)(B)(I) limits expert testimony to opinions that comply with the Rule, and LePage offered no opinions in compliance. In 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court amended Colorado Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(2)(B) to provide that expert testimony “shall be limited to matters disclosed in detail in the [expert] report.” In this case, the trial court concluded that this amendment mandated the exclusion of expert testimony as a sanction when the underlying report fails to meet the requirements of Rule 26. The Supreme Court concluded the amendment created no such rule of automatic exclusion. Instead, the Court held that the harm and proportionality analysis under Colorado Rule of Civil Procedure 37(c) remained the proper framework for determining sanctions for discovery violations. Because the trial court here did not apply Rule 37(c), the Court remanded for further development of the record. View "Catholic Health v. Swensson" on Justia Law