Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Colorado Supreme Court
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The Colorado State Engineer, and the Division Engineer for Water Division 3 (the “Engineers”), brought claims against Nick Meagher for injunctive relief, civil penalties, and costs, arising from Meagher’s failure to submit Form 6.1, "Water Use Data Submittal Form," as required by Rule 6.1 of the Rules Governing the Measurement of Ground Water Diversions Located in Water Division No. 3, The Rio Grande Basin (the “Measurement Rules”). Meagher appealed the water court’s orders denying his motion to dismiss the Engineers’ claims and granting the Engineers summary judgment on those claims, contending the court erred by: (1) denying his motion to dismiss because the Engineers’ claims were mooted by his ultimate submission of Form 6.1; (2) granting summary judgment for the Engineers based on an erroneous interpretation of Rule 6.1 and section 37-92-503, C.R.S. (2019), and notwithstanding the existence of genuine issues of material fact as to his culpable mental state and the amount of the civil penalties to be imposed; (3) enjoining future violations of Rule 6.1; and (4) awarding costs and fees to the Engineers. Finding no reversible error, the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed the water court's judgment. View "Colorado v. Meagher" on Justia Law

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A driver for Colorado Cab Company LLC (“Colorado Cab”) picked up an intoxicated Curt Glinton and one of Glinton’s friends. After stopping at their destination, the driver told Glinton the total fare. Glinton became upset, started yelling at the driver, and eventually grabbed and punched the driver from behind. Meanwhile, Jose Garcia had called a cab from a house nearby. When he saw the cab occupied by Glinton drive by, he thought that it might be the cab he had called, and he began to follow it. When he was roughly a block away from the cab, he heard the driver screaming for help. Garcia ran to the cab and, through the cab’s open driver’s-side door, told Glinton to stop. Glinton shifted his aggression to Garcia, telling him to “mind his own business.” This gave the driver the chance to exit the vehicle. Glinton also exited the vehicle, escalated his aggression toward Garcia, and began to throw punches at Garcia. Garcia was then hit over the head, causing him to fall to the ground. Glinton then entered the driver’s seat of the still-running cab and started driving. He hit the still-down Garcia once with the cab, then backed up and again ran Garcia over. As a result, Garcia suffered several severe injuries. Garcia filed a negligence action against Colorado Cab, arguing that Colorado Cab had knowledge of forty-four passenger attacks on its drivers in the previous three years but had failed to install partitions or security cameras in its cabs. In asserting his claim, Garcia relied on the rescue doctrine. Colorado Cab countered that it owed no duty to Garcia to prevent intentional criminal acts, and that even if it was negligent, Garcia was comparatively negligent because he “[made] a decision to get involved in the situation.” The jury found for Garcia and awarded him $1.6 million in total damages. It allocated 45% of the fault to Colorado Cab (for a sum of roughly $720,000), 55% to Glinton, and 0% to Garcia. The trial court denied Colorado Cab's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. The Colorado Supreme Court held that for a person to qualify as a rescuer under the rescue doctrine, he must satisfy a three-pronged test: plaintiff must have (1) intended to aid or rescue a person whom he, (2) reasonably believed was in imminent peril, and (3) acted in such a way that could have reasonably succeeded or did succeed in preventing or alleviating such peril. The Supreme Court concluded that, on the facts of this case, Garcia satisfied this test at trial. View "Garcia v. Colorado Cab Co." on Justia Law

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The Town of Monument (the “Town”) purchased a piece of property on which it planned to build a water tower. Neighboring property owners objected, arguing that the property was subject to a restrictive covenant limiting construction to single-family residences. According to the property owners, if the Town were to violate that covenant by building a water tower, the Town would be taking the restrictive covenant from each of the covenant-subject properties, and it would therefore have to compensate the property owners for the diminution in value caused by that taking. The Colorado Supreme Court answered the question of whether a restrictive covenant diminished the value of property adjacent to the government property such that the change constituted a taking. In Smith v. Clifton Sanitation District, 300 P.2d 548 (Colo. 1956), the Court held that when state or local government acquires property subject to a restrictive covenant and uses it for purposes inconsistent with that covenant, “no claim for damages arises by virtue of such a covenant as in the instant case, in favor of the owners of other property” subject to the covenant. Petitioners asked the Supreme Court to confine "Smith" to its facts or overrule it entirely. The Court declined, instead reaffirming that where a government entity has obtained property for public purposes, the government may use that land for a purpose inconsistent with a restrictive covenant without compensating all of the other landowners who are subject to that restrictive covenant. View "Forest View Co. v. Town of Monument" on Justia Law

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This case arose from the 2015 mass shooting at Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains’ (“PPRM’s”) Colorado Springs facility, which left three people dead and nine seriously injured. The issue narrowed for the Colorado Supreme Court's review centered on whether plaintiffs introduced sufficient evidence to establish a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Robert Dear’s conduct as the shooter was the “predominant cause” of plaintiffs’ injuries such that PPRM’s conduct, even if it contributed to such injuries, could not be a substantial factor in causing them. Further, the Court was asked to address whether the plaintiffs established a genuine issue of material fact as to whether PPRM’s parent organization, Planned Parenthood Federation of America (“PPFA”), owed them a duty of care. The Court concluded plaintiffs indeed presented sufficient evidence to establish a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Dear’s conduct was the predominant cause of their injuries; and as a matter of law, plaintiffs did not establish that PPFA owed them a legal duty. The Court affirmed judgment of the appellate court. View "Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood, Inc. v. Wagner" on Justia Law

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Dr. Steven Jacobs, Casas Limited Partnership #4, LLP, and IQ Investors, LLC (collectively, “Jacobs”) contended the water court erred in: (1) granting summary judgment to the State Engineer and the Division Engineer for Water Division No. 2 (the “Engineers”) and partial summary judgment for the Park Forest Water District (“PFWD”); (2) imposing civil penalties for Jacobs’s violations of the Division Engineer’s order requiring Jacobs to cease and desist unlawfully storing state waters in two ponds on his properties; and (3) certifying its summary judgment rulings as final pursuant to C.R.C.P. 54(b). In 2012, Casas and IQ Investors acquired certain real properties, together with associated water rights and three ponds, in unincorporated El Paso County, Colorado. In order to satisfy the water needs of the properties, Jacobs negotiated with PFWD to join the properties to PFWD, and these parties formalized their arrangement in an Inclusion Agreement. Pursuant to the Inclusion Agreement, PFWD filed an application seeking to amend its augmentation plan to add Jacobs’s ponds to it. In seeking this amendment, PFWD made clear that it was not requesting new water storage rights for the ponds but rather was simply proposing to replace evaporative losses from them. The water court granted PFWD’s application and ruled that the ponds would be augmented consistent with the requirements of PFWD’s augmentation plan. Suspecting that the initial fill after reconstruction was thus not legally obtained, the commissioner requested that Jacobs provide him with the source of the initial fill and advised that if he did not receive such confirmation, then he would seek an order requiring the release of any illegally stored water. Discussion of this issue apparently went on for more than a year. In the course of such discussions, Jacobs took the position that the Inclusion Agreement covered the initial fill. PFWD, however, contended that that Agreement did not do so and that PFWD was not obligated to provide replacement water for the ponds. On December 23, 2016, having not received satisfactory proof that Jacobs’s initial fill of the ponds was lawful, the Division Engineer issued an administrative order (the “2016 Order”) to Jacobs. Jacobs did not comply with the 2016 Order by the deadline set forth therein. The Engineers thus filed a complaint in the water court for injunctive relief, penalties, and costs to enforce the 2016 Order. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded the water court properly granted both the Engineers’ summary judgment motion and PFWD’s motion for partial summary judgment, and properly imposed civil penalties. View "Jacobs v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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This "highly contentious" marriage dissolution case had heretofore been active for more than fourteen years, and had an "astonishing" six hundred and fifty docket entries. Through it all, the parties had shown an utter unwillingness to co-parent. "Making no secret of the disdain they have for each other," they continued to fight over their son, then age thirteen. Accepting review in its original jurisdiction, the Colorado Supreme Court determined this case presented a rare opportunity to address a legal question of public importance that arose with some frequency in domestic relations cases: When does a motion to restrict parenting time (“motion to restrict”) pursuant to section 14-10-129(4), C.R.S. (2019), require a hearing within fourteen days of the filing of the motion? A magistrate in Arapahoe County District Court applied the analytical framework espoused by the court of appeals in In re Marriage of Slowinski, 199 P.3d 48 (Colo. App. 2008), and found that no hearing was required on Father’s motion to restrict. On appeal, the district court sided with Heidi Wollert (“Mother”) and adopted the magistrate’s order. The Supreme Court overruled Slowinski and held that the particularity requirement in C.R.C.P. 7(b)(1) provided the proper standard to review a section 14-10-129(4) motion. Applying Rule 7(b)(1), the Supreme Court concluded that Father’s motion was sufficiently particular to require a hearing within fourteen days. View "In re the Marriage of Wollert" on Justia Law

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William Persichette, through Franklin D. Azar & Associates, P.C., brought an underinsured-motorist (“UIM”) action against Owners Insurance Company (“Owners”) for allegedly handling his insurance claim unreasonably and in bad faith. About three months later, Persichette retained Mark Levy of Levy Law, P.C. (collectively “Levy Law”) as co-counsel. Owners promptly moved to disqualify Levy Law pursuant to Colo. RPC Rule 1.9(a) on the ground that Levy Law was Owners’ longtime former counsel and had a conflict of interest. The district court denied the motion, finding that Levy Law’s representation of Persichette was not “substantially related” to Levy Law’s decade-plus representation of Owners. Owners then filed a C.A.R. 21 petition invoking the Colorado Supreme Court's original jurisdiction. The Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in denying Owners’ motion to disqualify, and reversed. View "Persichette v. Owners Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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This case and its companion, Yakutat Land Corp. v. Langer, 2020 CO 30, __ P.3d __, arose out of a contentious zoning dispute involving the propriety of constructing a gravity-based mountain roller coaster in a part of the Estes Valley, Colorado in which “significant view sheds, woodlands, rock outcroppings, ridgelines, other sensitive environmental areas and low-density residential development comprise the predominant land use pattern.” The issue presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review centered on whether the Larimer County Board of County Commissioners (the “BOCC”) misconstrued applicable law and abused its discretion in finding that defendant Yakutat Land Corporation’s mountain coaster project was properly classified as a Park and Recreation Facility, rather than as an Outdoor Commercial Recreation or Entertainment Establishment. The Supreme Court concluded the BOCC correctly construed the applicable code provisions, and, applying the deferential standard of review mandated here, it further concluded that the BOCC did not abuse its discretion in classifying the mountain coaster project as a Park and Recreation Facility. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Langer v. Board of County Commissioners" on Justia Law

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This case and its companion, Langer v. Board of Larimer County Commissioners, 2020 CO 31, __ P.3d __, arose out of a contentious zoning dispute involving the propriety of constructing a gravity-based mountain roller coaster in a part of the Estes Valley, Colorado in which “significant view sheds, woodlands, rock outcroppings, ridgelines, other sensitive environmental areas and low-density residential development comprise the predominant land use pattern.” The issue presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review centered on whether the local authorities tasked with making and reviewing zoning determinations abused their discretion in interpreting and applying the Estes Valley Development Code (the “Code”) when they determined that the proposed mountain coaster could be constructed. Applying a deferential standard of review for an action brought pursuant to C.R.C.P. 106(a)(4), the Court concluded that they did not. Furthermore, the Court determined the constitutionality of the Code could not be appropriately raised or considered in a suit brought exclusively as a Rule 106 claim: "Rule 106 proceedings are reserved for challenges to the judicial and quasi-judicial actions of government actors. In other words, these claims challenge the application of a law in a particular instance, not the law itself." View "Yakutat Land Corp. v. Langer" on Justia Law

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The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals certified a question of law to the Colorado Supreme Court. The certified question arose from a dispute in which plaintiff Amica Life Insurance Company sought a declaratory judgment that it was not required to pay defendant Michael Wertz benefits under a life insurance policy naming Wertz as the beneficiary. The policy, which was issued in compliance with a standard enacted by the Interstate Insurance Product Regulation Commission (the “Commission”), contained a two-year suicide exclusion, and the insured committed suicide more than one year but less than two years after Amica had issued the life insurance policy to him. Wertz contended that the policy’s two-year suicide exclusion was unenforceable because it conflicted with Colorado statute, section 10-7-109, C.R.S. (2019). Wertz asserted that the Colorado General Assembly could not properly delegate to the Commission the authority to enact a standard that would effectively override this statute. After review, the Colorado Supreme Court agreed with Wertz, and accordingly, answered the certified question narrowly: the General Assembly did not have the authority to delegate to the Commission the power to issue a standard authorizing the sale of life insurance policies in Colorado containing a two-year suicide exclusion when a Colorado statute prohibited insurers doing business in Colorado from asserting suicide as a defense against payment on a life insurance policy after the first year of that policy. View "Amica Life Insurance Company v. Wertz" on Justia Law