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Megan Parocha fled from New Jersey to Colorado to escape her abusive spouse. Her husband, who knew that she had come to join her family in Colorado, contacted her almost daily. When she expressed reservations about returning to New Jersey, the frequency and tone of his contact intensified. He called her, emailed her, and texted her repeatedly, and she felt threatened. When Megan sought a civil protection order, her husband claimed that Colorado courts had no jurisdiction to offer her this protection because he was an absent non-resident. This case presented the Colorado Supreme Court the first opportunity to address whether and when a civil protection order was available to a victim of alleged domestic abuse who comes to Colorado seeking refuge from a non-resident. The Court concluded an out-of-state party’s harassment of, threatening of, or attempt to coerce an individual known by the non-resident to be located in Colorado was a tortious act sufficient to establish personal jurisdiction under the state’s long-arm statute, section 13-1-124, C.R.S. (2017). The Court also concluded such conduct created a sufficient nexus between the out-of-state party and Colorado to satisfy the requisite minimum contacts such that the exercise of jurisdiction by a Colorado court to enter a protection order comports with traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. View "Parocha v. Parocha" on Justia Law

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An underinsured motorist struck a car driven by Dale Fisher, causing Fisher injuries requiring over $60,000 in medical care. Fisher was not at fault, and he was covered under multiple State Farm underinsured motorist (“UIM”) insurance policies. State Farm agreed that Fisher’s medical bills were covered under the UIM policies, but it disputed other amounts Fisher sought under the policies, including lost wages. So, State Farm refused to pay Fisher’s medical bills without first resolving his entire claim. Fisher sued, alleging State Farm had unreasonably delayed paying his medical expenses. In response, State Farm argued it had no duty to make piecemeal payments, even for Fisher’s undisputed medical expenses, when it disputed the rest of Fisher’s UIM claim. A jury returned a verdict in Fisher’s favor, finding that State Farm had violated section 10-3-1115, C.R.S. (2017), which provides that an insurer “shall not unreasonably delay or deny payment of a claim for benefits owed to or on behalf of any first-party [insured] claimant.” A division of the court of appeals affirmed. The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review was whether auto insurers have a duty to pay undisputed portions of a UIM claim (like the medical expenses at issue here) even though other portions of the claim remain disputed. The Court held that insurers have a duty not to unreasonably delay or deny payment of covered benefits, even though other components of an insured’s claim may still be reasonably in dispute. Thus, the Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals. View "State Farm v. Fisher" on Justia Law

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Appellee David Ehrnstein was convicted by jury of incest against L.E. He filed a motion for a new trial, alleging that one of his trial prosecutors and the victim advocate in his case had instructed L.E. to avoid a defense subpoena. Prior to holding a hearing on that motion, the trial court found that it was compelled by the rules of professional conduct to appoint a special prosecutor for purposes of the hearing. Pursuant to sections 16-12-102(2) and 20-1-107(3), C.R.S. (2017), the district attorney filed an interlocutory appeal with the Colorado Supreme Court, which was faced with deciding whether the trial court abused its discretion in appointing the special prosecutor. The Court concluded the trial court abused its discretion because it misapplied the law when it concluded that Colo. RPC 3.7 required the appointment of a special prosecutor for purposes of the hearing on the new trial motion in this case. View "Colorado v. Ehrnstein" on Justia Law

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The Jim Hutton Educational Foundation, a surface-water user, claimed that a statute prohibiting any challenge to a designated groundwater basin that would alter the basin’s boundaries to exclude a permitted well was unconstitutional. The water court dismissed that claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding that the surface-water user had to first satisfy the Colorado Groundwater Commission that the water at issue was not designated groundwater. The Colorado Supreme Court affirmed that dismissal, because jurisdiction vests in the water court only if the Colorado Groundwater Commission first concludes that the water at issue is designated groundwater. Therefore, the water court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the Foundation's claim. View "Jim Hutton Educ. Found. v. Rein" on Justia Law

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Doreen Heyboer was a passenger on a motorcycle involved in an accident with an automobile in Denver and suffered catastrophic injuries. As a result of her injuries, her conservator sued the City and County of Denver, alleging that the street’s deteriorated condition contributed to the accident. Denver responded by asserting its immunity under the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act (“CGIA”). Heyboer argued Denver waived its immunity because the road was a dangerous condition that physically interfered with the movement of traffic, and thus, her suit fits an express exception found in the CGIA. After review, the Colorado Supreme Court determined her evidence did not establish that the road constituted an unreasonable risk of harm to the health and safety of the public, nor did her evidence establish that the road physically interfered with the movement of traffic. Accordingly, Denver retained its immunity under the CGIA; the Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals which held to the contrary. View "City & Cty. of Denver v. Dennis ex. rel. Heyboer" on Justia Law

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In 2011, the City of Aspen adopted an ordinance which imposed a regulatory scheme designed to meet the city council’s “duty to protect the natural environment and the health of its citizens and visitors.” Under the ordinance, grocery stores within Aspen’s city limits were prohibited from providing disposable plastic bags to customers, though they could still provide paper bags to customers, but each bag is subject to a $0.20 “waste reduction fee,” unless the customer was a participant in a “Colorado Food Assistance Program.” This case presented the question of whether Aspen’s $0.20 paper bag charge was a tax subject to voter approval under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (“TABOR”). The trial court held that this charge was not subject to TABOR because it was not a tax, but a fee. The court of appeals concurred with this holding. The Colorado Supreme Court also agreed, finding the bag charge was not a tax subject to TABOR. View "Colorado Union of Taxpayers Found. v City of Aspen" on Justia Law

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In an interlocutory appeal, the Colorado Supreme Court reviewed a district court order suppressing drug evidence that the defendant dropped on the ground when he was approached by the police on the street. The Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in suppressing the evidence because, at the time the defendant dropped the drugs, no seizure had taken place. The Court therefore reversed the trial court’s suppression order and remanded for further proceedings. View "Colorado v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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The Alamosa County Department of Human Services interviewed Mother, who admitted that she was addicted to prescription medications, although she denied selling drugs from her home. Mother had a history of prior referrals to the Department, and her older children had previously been temporarily removed from her home due to her drug use. Meanwhile, the father of the children had been incarcerated following a criminal conviction and remained in custody at the time the Department conducted its investigation. Father had a history of methamphetamine use. In light of the foregoing, the Department filed a dependency and neglect petition with regard to E.M., L.M., and E.J.M. (the “Children”). Although both Mother and Father initially denied the allegations contained in the petition, they subsequently entered admissions, and the court adjudicated the Children dependent and neglected. This case called on the Colorado Supreme Court to decide whether the State could seek to terminate a parent’s parental rights under the relinquishment provision of the Colorado Children’s Code (the “Code”), section 19-5-105, C.R.S. (2017), when the child is already subject to a dependency and neglect proceeding under Article 3 of the Code, sections 19-3-100.5 to -805, C.R.S. (2017). The Court concluded that when a dependency and neglect proceeding is pending, the State can terminate parental rights only through the procedures set forth in Article 3 of the Code and cannot use the more limited processes provided in Article 5. View "Colorado in Interest of L.M." on Justia Law

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In this case the Colorado Supreme Court considered two issues: (1) whether defendant Adam Smith waived or invited error with respect to his claim of a prejudicial simple variance when defense counsel stated that the proposed jury instructions were generally acceptable; and (2) whether a jury instruction that did not identify the particular victim named in the charging document created a simple variance warranting reversal when the jury could potentially have deemed either of two people to be the victim. In light of the Court’s opinion in Colorado v. Rediger, 2018 CO 32, ___ P.3d ___, the Court concluded that Smith neither waived nor invited error with respect to his variance claim because the record did not indicate that he intentionally relinquished a known right or that he injected the alleged error into this case. Consequently, the Court reviewed Smith’s variance claim for plain error, and because the Court could not say that the evidence presented at Smith’s trial obviously would have allowed the jury to conclude that Smith menaced a victim not named in his charging document, the trial court did not plainly err in instructing the jury without specifying the victim. View "Colorado v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The Arapahoe County Department of Human Services filed a petition in dependency or neglect concerning minor child R.S., and naming both parents as respondents. The mother requested a bench trial to adjudicate the dependent or neglected status of the child; the father requested a jury trial. The court held a single adjudicatory trial, with the judge serving as fact-finder with respect to the Department’s allegations against the mother, and a jury sitting as fact-finder with respect to the allegations against the father. The judge ultimately concluded that the child was dependent or neglected “in regard to” the mother. In contrast, the jury, as the father’s fact-finder, concluded there was insufficient factual basis to support a finding that the child was dependent or neglected. In light of these divergent findings, the trial court adjudicated the child dependent or neglected and continued to exercise jurisdiction over the child and the mother, but entered an order dismissing the father from the petition. The mother appealed the adjudication of the child as dependent or neglected; the Department appealed the jury’s verdict regarding the father, as well as the trial court’s denial of the Department’s motion for adjudication notwithstanding the verdict. In a unanimous, published opinion, the court of appeals dismissed the Department’s appeal for lack of jurisdiction, reasoning that the dismissal of a single parent from a petition in dependency or neglect based on a jury verdict was not a final appealable order because neither the appellate rule nor the statutory provision governing appeals from proceedings in dependency or neglect expressly permitted an appeal of a “no adjudication finding.” The Colorado Supreme Court concluded that, with limited exceptions, the Colorado Children’s Code authorized appealed in dependency and neglect cases of “any order” that qualified as a “final judgment.” Here, the trial court’s order dismissing the father from the petition was not a “final judgment,” so the court of appeal lacked jurisdiction and properly dismissed the Department’s appeal. The Court therefore affirmed the court of appeals but under different reasoning. View "Colorado in Interest of R.S." on Justia Law