Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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Alexander Clark brought a medical malpractice lawsuit against the estate of his late pain management specialist, Dr. Daniel Brookoff. Clark claimed Dr. Brookoff negligently prescribed a prolonged course of drugs to alleviate Clark’s chronic pain and that Dr. Brookoff did not adequately inform his patient (then a minor) of the risks associated with the drug. Clark claimed that his consumption of the drug caused neurological and urological damage. Prior to trial, Clark indicated that he intended to present testimony about conversations he and his mother had with Dr. Brookoff prior to and during treatment. The Estate responded by filing a motion to exclude such evidence in accordance with Colorado’s Dead Man’s Statute. The trial court agreed that the anticipated testimony was inadmissible. Unable to introduce that testimony, Clark abandoned his informed consent claim, and the case proceeded to trial on his negligence claim. After judgment was entered in favor of the Estate, Clark appealed the order prohibiting him or his mother from testifying about their conversations with Dr. Brookoff. The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s decision to bar this testimony and remanded the case for a new trial on Clark’s informed consent claim. In so doing, the appellate division relied on case law predating the 2002 and 2013 amendments to the Dead Man’s Statute to conclude that, despite its current language, the statute was not applicable “in any civil action” but only when the outcome of a proceeding will increase or diminish an estate. Because Dr. Brookoff had an insurance policy, the court of appeals reasoned that any liability would be covered by insurance and thus would not diminish his estate. The court therefore declined to apply the Dead Man’s Statute. Following denial of its petition for rehearing, the Estate petitioned for certiorari. The Colorado Supreme Court held the Dead Man’s Statute was applicable “in all civil actions.” Because the statute applied irrespective of the potential impact of a judgment on an estate, the Court also held the existence of insurance coverage was not a factor militating for or against the applicability of the Dead Man’s Statute. View "Estate of Daniel Brookoff, M.D., v. Clark" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Albert Johnson sought review of the court of appeals’ judgment reversing jury verdicts in his favor on personal injury claims against Ryan Schonlaw and VCG Restaurants of Denver, Inc. At the close of the case, the district court overruled the objections of Schonlaw and VCG to its announced decision to allow the alternate to deliberate to verdict with the other jurors. The court of appeals concluded that the trial court had erred in allowing an alternate juror to participate in jury deliberations over the objection of a party, and that the error gave rise to a presumption of prejudice, which remained unrebutted by Johnson, and therefore required reversal. The Colorado Supreme Court determined the error in this case did not affect the substantial rights of either Schonlaw or VCG, and it should have been disregarded as harmless, as required by C.R.C.P. 61. The judgment of the court of appeals was therefore reversed, and the case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Johnson v. Schonlaw" on Justia Law

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In 2011, Defendants Mitchell Davis, Samuel Stimson, Peter Stimson, and Christopher Torres threw a party at a house they were renting in Boulder to celebrate one defendant’s birthday and another’s college graduation. They invited a number of people, and information about the party was posted on social media. Between 20 and 120 guests attended at various points throughout the evening. Not all who came to the party had been specifically invited by the defendants. Some heard about it from other party-goers. Some guests may have brought their own alcohol, but alcohol was provided by the party hosts as well. Plaintiff Jared Prezkurat and Hank Sieck went to the party that night with Victor Mejia. Mejia had heard about the party through a friend, Robert Fix, who knew the defendants and helped plan the party. Sieck was twenty-years old. None of the defendants knew Sieck before that night. Sieck drank both beer and hard alcohol at the party. Around 2 a.m., Sieck, Mejia, and Przekurat left the party in Przekurat’s car. Sieck drove, at times going more than one-hundred miles per hour. He lost control of the car and drove into a ditch, rolling the car several times. Przekurat was thrown from the vehicle and suffered severe, life-altering injuries. The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review was whether Colorado’s dram-shop liability statute required a social host who provided a place to drink alcohol have actual knowledge that a specific guest was underage to be held liable for any damage or injury caused by that underage guest. Concluding that the plain language of the statute was unambiguous, the Supreme Court held that it did: a social host have actual knowledge of an underage guest’s age in order to be liable for injury or damages resulting from that guest’s intoxication. View "Przekurat v. Torres" on Justia Law

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When Charlotte Fischer moved into a nursing home, she received an admissions packet full of forms. Among them was an agreement that compelled arbitration of certain legal disputes. The Health Care Availability Act (“HCAA” or “Act”) required such agreements contain a four-paragraph notice in a certain font size and in bold-faced type. Charlotte’s agreement included the required language in a statutorily permissible font size, but it was not printed in bold. Charlotte’s daughter signed the agreement on Charlotte’s behalf. After Charlotte died, her family initiated a wrongful death action against the health care facility in court. Citing the agreement, the health care facility moved to compel arbitration out of court. The trial court denied the motion, and the court of appeals affirmed, determining the arbitration agreement was void because it did not strictly comply with the HCAA. At issue was whether the Act required strict or substantial compliance. The Colorado Supreme Court held "substantial:" the agreement at issue her substantially complied with the formatting requirements of the law, notwithstanding the lack of bold type. View "Colorow Health Care, LLC v. Fischer" on Justia Law

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Charlotte Fischer was moved into a nursing home; after she died, her family initiated a wrongful death action against the health care facility in court. Citing a clause in the admissions agreement, the health care facility moved to compel arbitration out of court. The trial court denied the motion, and the court of appeals affirmed, determining the arbitration agreement was void because it did not strictly comply with the Health Care Availability Act ("HCAA"). In this case, the Colorado Supreme Court considered whether section 13-64-403, C.R.S. (2017) of the HCAA, the provision governing arbitration agreements, required strict or substantial compliance. The HCAA required that such agreements contain a four-paragraph notice in a certain font size and in bold-faced type. Charlotte’s agreement included the required language in a statutorily permissible font size, but it was not printed in bold. Charlotte’s daughter signed the agreement on Charlotte’s behalf. The Supreme Court held the Act demanded only substantial compliance. Furthermore, the Court concluded the agreement here substantially complied with the formatting requirements of section 13-64-403, notwithstanding its lack of bold-faced type. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and remanded for further proceedings. View "Colorow Health Care, LLC v. Fischer" 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 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

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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

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While walking past respondent Alexander Trujillo’s home on his way to the playground, petitioner N.M. became frightened when Trujillo’s two pit bulls rushed at the front-yard fence. Although the dogs did not get out of the yard or touch N.M., N.M. ran across the street and was struck by a passing van, which seriously injured him. N.M., by and through his parent and legal guardian, sued Trujillo for, as pertinent here, negligence. Trujillo moved to dismiss that claim, contending that N.M. had not sufficiently pleaded the requisite element of duty. The district court agreed and dismissed the case, and in a split, published decision, a division of the court of appeals affirmed. The Colorado Supreme Court granted certiorari, and found given the circumstances presented here, concluded Trujillo did not owe N.M. a duty of care. Because N.M.’s claim against Trujillo was predicated on Trujillo’s alleged nonfeasance, or failure to act, and because this case was distinguishable from cases in which a dangerous or vicious animal attacks and directly injures someone, N.M. was required to plead a special relationship between himself and Trujillo in order to establish the duty of care necessary to support a negligence claim. View "N.M. v. Trujillo" on Justia Law

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A provision of the mandatory form settlement document promulgated by the Director of the Division of Workers’ Compensation (“Director”) did not waive an injured employee’s statutory right under section 8-43-204(1), C.R.S. (2016), to reopen a settlement based on a mutual mistake of material fact. Petitioner Victor England was a truck driver for Amerigas Propane. He filed a workers’ compensation claim after sustaining a serious injury to his shoulder in December 2012 while making a delivery for Amerigas. England’s claim was governed by the Colorado Workers’ Compensation Act, which required that settlements between employer and employee must be written, signed by both sides, and approved by the Director or an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). Pursuant to section 8-43-204, the Director promulgated a form settlement agreement (“Form”), which the parties are required to use to settle all claims. In this case, the parties’ settlement agreement was consistent with the Form. England’s pain continued after the settlement agreement was signed and approved. In October 2013, he sought further medical evaluation, which revealed a previously undiagnosed stress fracture in the scapula (shoulder blade) of England’s injured shoulder. Up to this point, no one was aware that this fracture existed. England claims that if he had been aware of this fracture, he would not have settled his claim. England filed a motion to reopen the settlement on the ground that the newly discovered fracture justified reopening his workers’ compensation claim. An ALJ agreed, and the Industrial Claim Appeals Office (ICAO) affirmed. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the Form waived England’s right to reopen. The Colorado Supreme Court held that because provisions of the form document must yield to statutory rights, the court of appeals erred in its conclusion. View "England v. Amerigas Propane" on Justia Law