Justia Colorado Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Injury Law
Meeks v. SSC Colorado Springs Colonial Columns Operating Co.
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
Griffith v. SSC Pueblo Belmont Operating Co.
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
Martinez v. Estate of Bleck
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
Magill v. Ford Motor Co.
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
Johnson v. Colorado
Petitioner Donald Johnson was convicted of careless driving-no injury, and the county court ordered him to pay $23,435.20 in restitution for pecuniary losses suffered by, among others: (1) a woman whose vehicle he struck with his vehicle; and (2) the woman’s seven medical providers. Initially, the restitution payments were disbursed to the woman, who was obliged to pay her medical providers. After the State learned that the woman had not paid the providers, it moved to change the restitution payee, so that the restitution payments would be disbursed directly to the providers. The court granted that motion. Johnson moved for reconsideration, arguing the State's request to change the restitution payee was effectively a new restitution request and was untimely. The county court rejected this argument and denied Johnson’s motion. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Johnson v. Colorado" on Justia Law
Open Door Ministries v. Lipschuetz
Jesse Lipschuetz lived next door to Open Door Ministries. Lipschuetz filed claims against the City of Denver and Open Door looking to revoke a rooming and boarding permit the City granted to Open Door. The trial court concluded the City should not have issued the permit, but stayed revocation until Open Door's cross-claims were resolved. Several months later, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Open Door on those cross-claims. On appeal, Lipscheutz argued Open Door's cross-claims against the City were barred by the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act because they "could lie in tort." Therefore, Lipscheutz argued, the trial court lacked jurisdiction over the cross-claims. The court of appeals agreed with that reasoning, and reversed the trial court. The Supreme Court reversed the appellate court, finding that the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act did not apply to Open Door's request for prospective relief to prevent future injury. Because Open Door had not suffered an injury before it filed its cross-claims, the Act did not bar those claims seeking prospective relief from future injury. Therefore, the trial court had jurisdiction over those cross-claims. View "Open Door Ministries v. Lipschuetz" on Justia Law
Pinnacol Assurance v. Hoff
Norma Hoff owned a home she rented through a property management agency. The roof sustained hail damage, and she contracted with Alliance Construction & Restoration, Inc. (Alliance) to make the repairs. Alliance subcontracted the roof repairs to MDR Roofing, Inc. (MDR). MDR employed Hernan Hernandes as a roofer. While working on Hoff's roof, Hernandez fell from a ladder and suffered serious injuries. He filed a workers' compensation claim against MDR, but MDR's insurer, Pinnacol Assurance, denied the claim because MDR's insurance coverage had lapsed. The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review was whether Pinnacol had a legal obligation to notify MDR of a certificate of insurance when the policy evidenced by the certificate was cancelled. Based on the certificate at issue in this case and the applicable statute, the Colorado Supreme Court concluded that the insurer had no such obligation. Therefore, the Court reversed the appellate court's judgment to the contrary. View "Pinnacol Assurance v. Hoff" on Justia Law
Am. Family Mut. Ins. Co. v. Hansen
Respondent Jennifer Hansen was injured in a motor vehicle accident in late 2007. Four months later, she presented an underinsured motorist (“UIM”) claim to petitioner American Family Mutual Insurance Company (“American Family”), insurer of her vehicle. As proof of insurance, Hansen offered lienholder statements issued to her by American Family’s local agent that identified her as the named insured at the time of the accident. American Family’s own records, however, indicated that the named insureds on the policy at the time of the accident were Hansen’s stepfather and mother, William and Joyce Davis (the “Davises”). In reliance upon the policy as reflected in its own records, American Family determined that Hansen was not insured under the policy and denied coverage. Hansen filed an action against American Family asserting claims for breach of contract, common law bad faith, and statutory bad faith for unreasonable delay or denial of benefits under sections 10-3-1115 and -1116, C.R.S. (2015). Prior to trial, American Family reformed the contract to name Hansen as the insured, and the parties settled the breach of contract claim, leaving only the common law and statutory bad faith claims for trial. The trial court ruled that the deviation in the records issued by American Family’s agent and those produced by its own underwriting department created an ambiguity in the insurance policy as to the identity of the named insured, and instructed the jury that an ambiguous contract must be construed against the insurer. The jury found in favor of Hansen on the statutory bad faith claim, indicating on a special verdict form that American Family had delayed or denied payment without a reasonable basis for its action. The trial court awarded Hansen attorney fees, court costs, and a statutory penalty. American Family appealed the judgment and award of statutory damages, arguing, among other things, that the trial court erred in finding that the lienholder statements created an ambiguity in the insurance contract as to the identity of the insured and that, at the very least, the contract was arguably unambiguous such that the company had a reasonable basis to deny coverage and could not be liable for statutory bad faith. The court of appeals affirmed, finding that the lienholder statements created an ambiguity and that, even assuming American Family’s legal position was a reasonable one, American Family could still be held liable for statutory bad faith. After its reverse, the Supreme Court reversed. Because the insurance contract unambiguously named William and Joyce Davis as the insureds at the time of the accident, the trial court and court of appeals erred in relying on extrinsic evidence to find an ambiguity in the insurance contract, "[a]n ambiguity must appear in the four corners of the document before extrinsic evidence can be considered." Accordingly, American Family’s denial of Hansen’s claim in reliance on the unambiguous insurance contract was reasonable, and American Family could not be held liable under sections 10-3-1115 and -1116 for statutory bad faith. View "Am. Family Mut. Ins. Co. v. Hansen" on Justia Law
Fleury v. IntraWest Winter Park Operations Corp.
Petitioner Salynda E. Fleury brought a negligence and wrongful death suit against respondent IntraWest Winter Park Operations Corporation (“Winter Park”) after her husband was killed in an in-bounds avalanche at its resort. Fleury claimed that, although Winter Park knew that avalanches were likely to occur in the area where her husband was skiing that day, it neither warned skiers about this risk nor closed the area. Winter Park filed a motion for a determination of law under C.R.C.P. 56(h) and for judgment on the pleadings under C.R.C.P. 12(c), arguing that in-bounds avalanches were an inherent risk of skiing as defined in the Ski Safety Act of 1979 (SSA) and that the SSA therefore precluded the lawsuit. The trial court agreed and dismissed the action pursuant to section 33-44-112. The court of appeals affirmed the dismissal in a split decision. The Colorado Supreme Court granted certiorari and affirmed: the definition of “inherent dangers and risks of skiing” in section 33-44-103(3.5), C.R.S. (2015), specifically included “snow conditions as they exist or may change.” This phrase encompassed an in-bounds avalanche, "which is, at its core, the movement, or changing condition, of snow." View "Fleury v. IntraWest Winter Park Operations Corp." on Justia Law
City of Englewood v. Harrell
The Colorado Supreme Court accepted this case from the court of appeals because it had granted certiorari in two other cases involving similar issues ("City of Littleton v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office," 2016 CO 25, ___ P.3d ___, and "Industrial Claim Appeals Office v. Town of Castle Rock," 2016 CO 26, ___ P.3d ___). In these cases, the Court interpreted section 8-41-209, C.R.S. (2015), of the Workers’ Compensation Act of Colorado, which provided workers’ compensation overage, under certain conditions, for occupational diseases affecting firefighters. An employer can show, by a preponderance of the medical evidence, either: (1) that a firefighter’s known or typical occupational exposures are not capable of causing the type of cancer at issue, or (2) that the firefighter’s employment did not cause the firefighter’s particular cancer where, for example, the claimant firefighter was not exposed to the cancer-causing agent, or where the medical evidence renders it more probable that the cause of the claimant’s cancer was not job-related. Englewood firefighter Delvin Harrell was diagnosed with melanoma, underwent surgery to remove it, and sought workers' compensation benefits. Englewood sought to overcome the statutory presumption. Because the ALJ and the Panel in this case did not have the benefit of the Supreme Court's analysis in City of Littleton and Town of Castle Rock, it set aside the Panel’s order affirming the ALJ and remanded this case to the Panel with directions to return the matter to the ALJ for reconsideration in light of the "Littleton" and "Castle Rock" decisions. View "City of Englewood v. Harrell" on Justia Law