Articles Posted in Injury Law

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Littleton firefighter Jeffrey Christ was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme (“GBM,” a type of brain cancer). After undergoing surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, he returned to work, but ultimately died as a result of the disease. He (and later his widow and child) sought workers’ compensation benefits to cover his cancer treatment, asserting that his brain cancer qualified as a compensable occupational disease under the “firefighter statute” of the Workers’ Compensation Act of Colorado. .At issue here was whether Christ’s employer, the City of Littleton, and Littleton’s insurer, Cannon Cochran Management Services, Inc. (collectively “Littleton”), successfully overcame a statutory presumption that Christ’s condition resulted from his employment as a firefighter. After review, the Supreme Court held that the employer, through a preponderance of the evidence, could meet its burden to show the firefighter's cancer "did not occur on the job" by establishing the absence of specific causation. Here, the ALJ applied the statutory presumption and found that Littleton established by a preponderance that Christ's GBM condition was not caused by his occupational exposures. A panel of the Industrial Claim Appeals Office (“Panel”) reversed, concluding that Littleton’s medical evidence was insufficient to overcome the presumption. In a split decision, a division of the court of appeals affirmed the Panel. Because the Supreme Court disagreed with the court of appeals’ interpretation of the breadth of the statutory presumption and of the employer’s burden to overcome the presumption, the Court concluded that the court of appeals erroneously evaluated the medical evidence presented by Littleton and erroneously failed to defer to the ALJ’s findings of fact, which are supported by substantial evidence. The court of appeals' judgment was therefore reversed and the case remanded back to the Panel for reinstatement of the ALJ’s original findings of fact, conclusions of law, and order. View "City of Littleton v. Indus. Claim Appeals Office" on Justia Law

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Castle Rock firefighter Mike Zukowski was diagnosed with melanoma. He had three surgeries to remove the melanoma and was then released to return to work on full duty. He sought both medical benefits and temporary total disability benefits under the "firefighter statute" of the Workers’ Compensation Act of Colorado, asserting that his melanoma qualified as a compensable occupational disease. At issue here was whether Zukowski’s employer, the Town of Castle Rock, and Castle Rock’s insurer, the Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency (collectively, “Castle Rock”), could overcome a statutory presumption that Zukowski’s condition resulted from his employment as a firefighter by presenting evidence indicating that Zukowski’s risk of melanoma from other sources was greater than his risk of melanoma from firefighting. After review, the Supreme Court held that the employer, through a preponderance of the evidence, could meet its burden to show the firefighter's cancer "did not occur on the job" by establishing the absence of specific causation. Here, Castle Rock sought to establish the absence of specific causation by presenting evidence indicated that Zukowski's particular risk of developing melanoma from other, non-job-related sources outweighed his risk of developing it from on-the-job, and that an employer could rely on such evidence to overcome the statutory presumption. The Court affirmed the court of appeals and remanded this case back to the ALJ for reconsideration. View "Indus. Claim Appeals Office v. Town of Castle Rock" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review stemmed from a medical malpractice action, and whether, as a matter of law, a known suicidal patient admitted to the secure mental health unit of a hospital and place under high risk precautions, could be subject to a comparative negligence defense when the patient attempted suicide while in the hospital's custody. P.W. sued Children's Hospital both individually and as conservator of his son K.W., who was in a minimally conscious state after an unsuccessful attempt to kill himself by hanging while at the Hospital. The trial court granted P.W.'s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the Hospital's comparative negligence and assumption of risk defenses. The trial court also issued an order preventing the Hospital from obtaining K.W.'s pre-incident mental health records. The Hospital petitioned the Supreme Court to review: (1) whether the trial court abused its discretion by precluding discovery of K.W.'s mental health records; (2) whether the trial court abused its discretion by precluding discovery of K.W.'s treating psychiatrist's records when they were a part of a continuing course of treatment that included Children's Hospital; and (3) whether the trial court erred in granting P.W. summary judgment dismissing the comparative negligence and assumption of risk defenses despite evidence K.W. could think rationally and protect himself from harm during the hospitalization. The Supreme Court concluded that the Hospital could not assert comparative negligence or assumption of risk as a matter of law, and that it did not need to address the trial court's discovery order. View "P.W. v. Children's Hospital" on Justia Law

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This case concerned the nature of transactions that petitioners, national litigation finance companies, made with tort plaintiffs seeking funds to pay personal expenses while waiting for their lawsuits to settle or go to trial. Plaintiffs usually agreed to pay the companies a sum of money from the future litigation proceeds. By the terms of the agreements, any money the companies give tort plaintiffs were not to be used to prosecute the legal claims. The specific issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court’s review centered on whether the companies’ forwarding of expense money to tort plaintiffs constituted a “loan.” Petitioners contended they were “asset purchases,” but the Colorado Uniform Consumer Credit Code interprets these transactions as loans. The Supreme Court agreed with the UCCC: these transactions are loans. View "Oasis Legal Fin. Grp. v. Coffman" on Justia Law

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Allstate Insurance Company petitioned for review of a court of appeals' judgment that reversed the dismissal of a breach of assignment claim brought by Medical Lien Management (MLM). The district court effectively construed MLM's Lien and Security Agreement with a motor vehicle accident victim (upon which the underlying complaint was premised), as failing to assign the victim's right to the proceeds of his personal injury lawsuit against Allstate's insured. The court of appeals found a valid assignment to MLM all rights to the future proceeds from the personal injury claim in an amount equal to the costs of medical services paid for by MLM, as well as a sufficient allegation in the complaint of an enforceable obligation by Allstate to pay the assigned sums to MLM. The Supreme Court reversed, finding that the court of appeals erred in finding the purported assignment in this case. View "Allstate Insurance Co. v. Medical Lien Management, Inc." on Justia Law

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After an exchange of Rule 26 disclosures, Anero Resources Corporation, Antero Resources Piceance Corporation, Calfrac Well Services Corporation and Frontier Drilling, LLC (collectively, Antero Resources) asked the trial court to enter a modified case management order requiring plaintffs, William and Beth Strudley, to present prima facie evidence that they suffered injuries attributable to the natural gas drilling operations of Antero Resources. The trial court granted the motion and issued a "Lone Pine" order that directed the Strudleys to provide prima facie evidence to support their claims of exposure, injury, and causation before the court would allow full discovery. The trial court determined that the Strudleys failed to present such evidence, and dismissed their case with prejudice. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that, as a matter of first impression, "Lone Pine" orders were not permitted as a matter of Colorado law. Upon review of the matter from an appeal of the court of appeals, the Supreme Court held that Colorado's Rules of Civil Procedure did not allow a trial court to issue a modified case management order (such as a "lone Pine" order) that required a plaintiff to present prima facie evidence in support of a claim before plaintiff could exercise its full rights of discovery under the Colorado Rules. "Although the comments to C.R.C.P. 16 promote active judicial case management, the rule does not provide a trial court with authority to fashion its own summary judgment-like filter and dismiss claims during the early stages of litigation." View "Antero Resources v. Strudley" on Justia Law

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After a late night out, Jillian Groh brought a group of friends back to a room she rented at the Westin Hotel. Security guards confronted the group about the noise level in the room, and ultimately evicted them, even though Groh and her companions advised the guards they were drunk and could not drive. On the way out, one of the friends asked if the group could wait in the lobby for a taxi (because it was cold outside). The guard blocked the door. Seven people then got into Groh's car, with a drunk driver behind the wheel. Fifteen miles away they rear-ended another vehicle, resulting in a crash that killed one man and left Groh in a persistent vegetative state with traumatic brain injuries. Groh's parents sued the Westin for their daughter's injuries, because of the manner in which the security guards evicted her. The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review was one of first impression: what duty of care, if any, does a hotel owe a guest during a lawful eviction? A divided appellate panel held that the hotel had a duty to evict a guest "in a reasonable manner," noting that this precludes ejecting a guest into a "foreseeably dangerous circumstance" that result from either the guest's condition or the environment. It also held that the Colorado Dram Shop Act did not apply because the hotel did not serve Groh alcohol. The Supreme Court agreed with the appellate court's analysis, and affirmed. View "Westin Operator, LLC v. Groh" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Barbara Jordan sued respondent Panorama Orthopedics and Spine Center, PC for negligence and premises liability. After receiving medical treatment at the Center, Jordan tripped over uneven sidewalk slabs near Panorama's main entrance. She fell and suffered a concussion and an orbital fracture. The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review was whether the Colorado pRemises Liability Act (PLA) applied to a commercial tenant defendant for injuries plaintiff sustained in a common area. Specifically, the case turned on whether the tenant qualified as a "landowner" under the PLA. A jury ultimately found in favor of petitioner. The clinic appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed. After its review, the Supreme Court agreed with the appellate court, concluding that because the clinic neither was in possession of the sidewalk where petitioner fell, it was not legally responsible for the condition of the sidewalk or for the activities conducted or circumstances existing there, so it was not a landowner as defined by the PLA. View "Jordan v. Panorama Orthopedics & Spine Ctr., PC" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Sarah Burnett and a friend went camping at Cherry Creek State Park. They chose a campsite under a canopy of mature cottonwood trees. "The weather that night was uneventful." Early the next morning, while petitioner and her friend remained sleeping inside their tent, a large limb dropped from one of the trees and struck both of them. The blow fractured petitioner's skull and a vertebra, and caused other injuries, including a concussion and multiple lacerations to her scalp and face. The friend suffered only minor injuries, and was able to drive petitioner to the hospital. Petitioner brought a premises liability action against the State Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation, seeking compensation for her injuries, arguing the Park was a "public facility" and the branches overhanging the campsite constituted a "dangerous condition." The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review centered on whether the State waived its immunity for petitioner's injuries. The answer turned on whether the tree was a "natural condition...of unimproved property" under 24-10-106(1)(e) C.R.S. (2014) of the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act. The Court held that a "natural condition of any unimproved property" includes native trees originating on unimproved property. Because a limb from such a tree caused petitioner's injuries, the natural condition provision of the statute immunized the State in this case. View "Burnett v. Dept. of Natural Resources" on Justia Law

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Defendant Marion Villegas appealed the district court's grant of plaintiff Lillian Malm's motion to reopen her personal injury lawsuit, some six years after the case had been marked inactive and closed. The court denied Villegas' motion to reconsider and her motion to dismiss the action for failure to prosecute, despite the passage of more than seven years between the filing and service of complaint. Relying on Malm's self-reported efforts to find and serve Villegas, and Villegas' failure to demonstrate prejudice from the delay, the district court found that service was had within a reasonable time. After review, the Colorado Supreme Court concluded service was delayed for an unreasonable amount of time, and that the district court abused its discretion by not dismissing the lawsuit for failure to prosecute. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded the case to the district court for entry of dismissal. View "In re Malm v. Villegas" on Justia Law