Justia Civil Procedure Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Colorado Supreme Court
GHP Horwath, P.C. v. Kazazian
In this case, the Supreme Court of Colorado considered a petition from GHP Horwath, P.C., Nadine Pietrowski, Bohn Aguilar, LLC, Michael G. Bohn, and Armando Y. Aguilar, asking the court to permanently enjoin Nina H. Kazazian from proceeding pro se in Colorado state courts. Over the past eleven years, Kazazian, a pro se litigant and former attorney, had initiated at least ten lawsuits and twice as many appeals, most of which were found to be duplicative, meritless, or frivolous. Her actions led to her disbarment and multiple sanctions. The court noted that while every person has the right to access Colorado courts, this right is not absolute and may be curtailed when a pro se party persistently disrupts judicial administration by filing meritless and duplicative claims. The court found that Kazazian's actions placed a strain on judicial resources and were harmful to the public interest. Therefore, the court granted the petitioners' requested relief and ordered that Kazazian be permanently enjoined from proceeding pro se in Colorado state courts. View "GHP Horwath, P.C. v. Kazazian" on Justia Law
City & County of Denver v. Board of County Commissioners
In a dispute between Adams County and the City and County of Denver over the use of a noise-modeling system instead of a noise-monitoring system at Denver International Airport, the Supreme Court of Colorado held that Adams County's breach-of-contract claim, brought in 2018, was barred by the statute of limitations. The court found that the claim accrued no later than 1995, when Adams County became aware of Denver's breach of their contract by using a noise-modeling system. The court concluded that under Colorado law, a breach-of-contract claim accrues at the time the breach is discovered or should have been discovered by the exercise of reasonable diligence. The court dismissed the argument that the claim only accrued when Adams County became aware of the full extent of its damages and had certainty of harm and incentive to sue in 2014. View "City & County of Denver v. Board of County Commissioners" on Justia Law
In Re Colorado in interest of children and concerning J.L.M. and J.P.
The Washington County Department of Human Services (“WCDHS”) and the Board of County Commissioners of Washington County (“the Board”)—collectively, Washington County, contended a Colorado district court erred when it failed to adhere to Colorado v. Madera, 112 P.3d 688 (Colo. 2005) in granting Father’s request for an in camera review of documents that were allegedly protected by the attorney-client privilege. The district court and Father countered that Madera was inapposite and that the challenged ruling was free of error because it is consistent with the Colorado Supreme Court's decision in Alcon v. Spicer, 113 P.3d 735 (Colo. 2005). The issue this case presented was whether Madera or Alcon, issued six days apart in the spring of 2005, controlled in this case. Here, in response to a subpoena duces tecum served by Father, Washington County provided a privilege log listing documents allegedly protected by the attorney-client privilege. After reviewing the log, Father insisted the privilege did not apply, and the parties were unable to resolve their dispute informally. Consequently, Father asked the district court to conduct an in camera inspection of the documents identified in the log. Because the log provided vague descriptions of the withheld documents, the district court could not assess Washington County’s claim of privilege. It thus granted Father’s request for an in camera review. In doing so, the district court neither made Madera’s required findings nor employed Madera’s analytical framework. Washington County argued the district court’s failure to conform to Madera rendered the in camera order faulty. But the district court and Father responded that Madera didn't apply. Instead, they maintained, Alcon applied. The Supreme Court concluded the district court correctly followed Alcon, not Madera, in this case. And the Court further concluded that, consistent with Alcon, the court correctly granted Father’s request for an in camera review because Washington County’s log did not permit an assessment of the claim of privilege. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "In Re Colorado in interest of children and concerning J.L.M. and J.P." on Justia Law
Colo. State Bd. of Educ. v. Adams Cnty. Sch. Dist. 14
The “rule of Martin,” applied to state agencies, political subdivisions, and officials acting in their official capacity, was a judicially created rule that precluded standing to challenge a government entity’s decision when: (1) the state agency, political subdivision, or official seeking review is subordinate to the government entity whose action is challenged; and (2) no statutory or constitutional provision expressly authorizes the subordinate party to seek judicial review of the superior government entity’s action. The Colorado State Board of Education (“the State Board”) invoked this doctrine in successfully moving to dismiss claims brought by Adams County School District 14 (“Adams 14”) challenging the State Board’s decision to remove its accreditation and order its reorganization. Adams 14 challenged the district court’s dismissal of its claims and the political subdivision doctrine itself, contending that the doctrine has become unmoored from its jurisprudential origins and results in the unfair denial of judicial relief to public entities that have been injured by state agencies and statutes. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded the political subdivision doctrine and its articulation in the rule of Martin generated unnecessary confusion and were ultimately duplicative of the two-part test for standing set forth in Wimberly v. Ettenberg, 570 P.2d 535 (Colo. 1977). The Court therefore abandoned the doctrine and the rule of Martin and instead hold that Wimberly supplied the sole test for determining whether a party has standing in Colorado. Evaluating each of Adams 14’s claims under Wimberly, the Court further held that all were correctly dismissed for lack of standing. View "Colo. State Bd. of Educ. v. Adams Cnty. Sch. Dist. 14" on Justia Law
In re Edwards v. New Century Hospice
At issue before the Colorado Supreme Court in this matter was a trial court’s order denying immunity to Defendant New Century Hospice, Inc. and its subsidiaries, Defendants Legacy Hospice, LLC, d/b/a New Century Hospice of Denver, LLC, and Legacy Hospice of Colorado Springs, LLC (collectively, “New Century”). New Century argued it was entitled to immunity under four different statutes. Tana Edwards filed suit against New Century (her former employer) and Kathleen Johnson, the Director of Operations for New Century Castle Rock (collectively, “Defendants”). As part of her employment with New Century, Edwards provided in-home care to an elderly patient. In December 2019, Johnson began to suspect that Edwards was diverting pain medications from the patient. Defendants reported the suspected drug diversion to the Castle Rock Police Department and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (“CDPHE”). Defendants also lodged a complaint against Edwards’s nursing license with the Colorado Board of Nursing (“the Board”). After investigations, no criminal charges were filed and no formal disciplinary actions were taken against Edwards. Edwards subsequently brought this action against Defendants, alleging claims for negligent supervision and negligent hiring against New Century, as well as claims for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress against New Century and Johnson. Defendants moved for summary judgment. The trial court granted the motion as to Edwards’s claims for negligent hiring, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, finding that the claims were either time-barred or could not be proven. Three of the statutes New Century cited for its immunity claim, 12-20-402(1), C.R.S. (2022) (“the Professions Act”), 12-255-123(2), C.R.S. (2022) (“the Nurse Practice Act”), and 18-6.5-108(3), C.R.S. (2022) (“the Mandatory Reporter statute”), only authorized immunity for a “person.” Relying on the plain meaning of “person,” the Supreme Court held that New Century was not entitled to immunity under these three statutes because it was a corporation, not a person. The fourth statute, 18-8-115, C.R.S. (2022) (“the Duty to Report statute”), explicitly entitled corporations to immunity, but only if certain conditions were met. Applying the plain language of the statute, the Supreme Court held that New Century was not entitled to summary judgment on the issue of immunity under this statute because it did not carry its burden of demonstrating that all such conditions were met. View "In re Edwards v. New Century Hospice" on Justia Law
Killmer, Lane & Newman v. B.K.P., Inc.
The Colorado Supreme Court granted review in this case to consider whether the common law litigation privilege for party-generated publicity in pending class action litigation excluded situations in which the identities of class members were ascertainable through discovery. In 2018, two law firms, Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP and Towards Justice (collectively, along with attorney Mari Newman of Killmer, Lane & Newman, “the attorneys”), filed on behalf of former employee and nail technician Lisa Miles and those similarly situated a federal class action lawsuit. This lawsuit named as defendants BKP, Inc.; Ella Bliss Beauty Bar LLC; Ella Bliss Beauty Bar-2, LLC; and Ella Bliss Beauty Bar-3, LLC (collectively, “the employer”), among others. The employer operated three beauty bars in the Denver metropolitan area. Pertinent here, the class action complaint alleged that the employer’s business operation was “founded on the exploitation of its workers.” The complaint alleged that the employer violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Colorado Wage Claim Act by not paying service technicians for hours spent performing janitorial work, electing to forgo hiring a janitorial service. The Supreme Court concluded the division erred in conditioning the applicability of the litigation privilege in pending class action litigation on whether the identities of class members were ascertainable through discovery. The Court reached this conclusion for two reasons: (1) ascertainability was generally a requirement in class action litigation, and imposing such a condition would unduly limit the privilege in this kind of case; and (2) the eventual identification of class members by way of documents obtained during discovery was not a substitute for reaching absent class members and witnesses in the beginning stages of litigation. The Court found the litigation privilege applied in this case: five allegedly defamatory statements at issue "merely repeated, summarized, or paraphrased the allegations made in the class action complaint, and which served the purpose of notifying the public, absent class members, and witnesses about the litigation, were absolutely privileged." View "Killmer, Lane & Newman v. B.K.P., Inc." on Justia Law
Colorado in interest of H.J.B.
A-J.A.B. tested positive at birth for methamphetamine. H.J.B. (“Mother”) admitted methamphetamine use during her pregnancy. In March 2020, less than a month after A-J.A.B.’s birth, the Adams County Human Services Department (“the Department”) filed a petition in dependency and neglect concerning A-J.A.B. The Department’s petition noted that it had no information indicating that A-J.A.B. was an Indian child or eligible for membership in an Indian tribe, although the petition did not identify what efforts, if any, the Department took to determine whether A-J.A.B. was an Indian child. At the shelter hearing, Mother’s counsel informed the court that Mother may have “some Cherokee and Lakota Sioux [heritage] through [A-J.A.B.’s maternal great-grandmother].” However, Mother was uncertain if anyone in her family was actually registered with a tribe and acknowledged that she “probably [wouldn’t] qualify” for any tribal membership herself. The juvenile court ordered Mother to “fill out the ICWA paperwork,” but the court did not direct the Department to exercise its due diligence obligation under section 19-1-126(3). At the next hearing, Mother, who had not filled out the ICWA paperwork, again stated that she had “Native American heritage” through A-J.A.B.’s maternal great-grandmother. Because of these assertions, the juvenile court found that the case “‘may’ be an ICWA case.” By December 2020, the Department moved to terminate Mother’s parental rights. At the pretrial conference, Mother’s attorney informed the court that she spoke with A-J.A.B.’s maternal grandmother, who stated that she “thought that the heritage may be Lakota.” Mother’s attorney told the court “it doesn’t sound like there’s a reason to believe that ICWA would apply” and acknowledged that neither Mother nor A-J.A.B. were enrolled members of any tribe. The juvenile court subsequently concluded that “there [was] no reason to believe that this case [was] governed by [ICWA].” The juvenile court terminated Mother’s parental rights. Mother appealed, arguing the juvenile court erred in finding that ICWA did not apply because the court had a reason to know that A-J.A.B. was an Indian child. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded the Department satisfied its statutory due diligence obligation under section19-1-126(3), and affirmed in different grounds. View "Colorado in interest of H.J.B." on Justia Law
Colorado v. Hill
The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review centered on whether Respondent Roger Hill had a legally protected interest that gave him standing to pursue his claim for a declaratory judgment “that a river segment was navigable for title at statehood and belongs to the State.” To this, the Court concluded he did not: Hill had no legally protected right independent of the State’s alleged ownership of the riverbed onto which he could hook his declaratory judgment claim. Hill's favorite fishing hole was on a riverbed along the Arkansas River. The record owners of the land abutting the river were Mark Warsewa and Linda Joseph, who had a home overlooking the fishing hole. Hill alleged that for several years, he repeatedly attempted to fish there and Warsewa and Joseph chased him off the property, sometimes with force. Hill asserted the riverbed was not in fact owned by Warsewa and Joseph, but instead public land owned by the State of Colorado and held in trust for the people. In both federal and state proceedings, the State argued that it alone could decide whether and when to pursue its property rights and that Hill did not have standing to bring these claims. Hill appealed, arguing that the riverbed was public land as a matter of federal law, and invoking the equal footing doctrine: that the segment of the Arkansas River that traversed the subject property was navigable at statehood, and therefore title to the riverbed transferred to the State by operation of law when Colorado achieved statehood in 1876. Because the federal government did not own the riverbed, it could not have transferred its title to Warsewa and Joseph’s predecessors in interest. A division of the court of appeals upheld the trial court’s dismissal of the quiet title claim, concluding that Hill could not pursue the property rights of the State because he did not himself have any claim to title. The Colorado Supreme Court concurred and affirmed dismissal. View "Colorado v. Hill" on Justia Law
Arvada Village Gardens v. Garate
Under Colorado law, the required notice period for a landlord to give to a tenant before evicting the tenant was ten days. During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Congress passed a law requiring a thirty-day-notice period for eviction from certain rental properties. The question this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court was whether that thirty-day-notice requirement was still in effect or whether it expired along with other aspects of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”). Looking at the plain language of the CARES Act, the Supreme Court concluded the federal thirty-day-notice provision is still in effect for covered properties. View "Arvada Village Gardens v. Garate" on Justia Law
Colorado v. Center for Excellence in Higher Education
Colorado’s Attorney General and the Administrator of the Colorado Uniform Consumer Credit Code (“UCCC”) (collectively, “the State”) sought to enjoin the respondent corporate entities and individuals that made up the career school known as CollegeAmerica (collectively, “CollegeAmerica”) from engaging in conduct that the State believed to be in violation of Colorado law. Specifically, the State contended that several aspects of CollegeAmerica’s marketing and admissions operations constituted deceptive trade practices under the Colorado Consumer Protection Act (“CCPA”) and that CollegeAmerica’s institutional loan program, “EduPlan,” was unconscionable under the UCCC. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded, as did the division below, that the State’s CCPA civil penalty claims were equitable in nature and thus CollegeAmerica was not entitled to a jury trial on those claims. The Court further concluded the division erred in remanding this case for a new trial without first assessing whether CollegeAmerica had, in fact, had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue of significant public impact and, if so, whether the evidence sufficiently established such an impact. Finally, the Court concluded the division correctly determined that CollegeAmerica’s EduPlan loans as a whole were not unconscionable, although the Supreme Court disagreed with the division’s conclusion that individualized evidence regarding the probability of repayment was necessary to establish unconscionability. View "Colorado v. Center for Excellence in Higher Education" on Justia Law