The future belongs to those who prepare for it today. – Malcolm X. Medical debt financing companies require a plaintiff to assign the proceeds of their potential future settlement funds up to the amount of medical expenses financed and then demand that the tortfeasor’s insurance company pay them directly. Here, notwithstanding such a demand, Allstate paid the plaintiff, not MLM, who sued. The Court noted an assignment is a transfer of one’s right to performance to another. A conditional right to funds is assignable. But a right to a future right to funds is not, unless it is to all or a determinable portion of the funds. A demand for specific performance of payment of future funds may be enforceable. But an assignment cannot increase an obligor’s burden to perform. Here, the assignment was ill-defined and not independently determinable and thus not an assignment at the time it was made.
**Disclaimer: the author represents a company engaged in business similar to MLM.
♪This land is your land, it’s not my land, I’m not a landowner, so you can’t sue me… Plaintiff tripped and fell on common area sidewalk outside a medical campus. She sued the main tenant. Under the Premises Liability Act (PLA), only “landowners” could be liable for injuries on their land. There are two kinds of landowners: those in possession of the land, and those who are legally responsible for conditions on the land. This case addressed the second category and limited its scope. Here, under its lease, the defendant could not exclude anyone from occupying the land, was not responsible for maintenance or the condition of the sidewalk, and was not conducting any activities on the sidewalk; it also did not assume a duty to repair the sidewalk or create the condition that caused the injuries. Under these facts, the Court held the commercial tenant was not a landowner.
“A reasonable person could foresee that a group of intoxicated individuals evicted from a hotel might be involved in a drunk driving accident that causes injuries.” Opinion. The Court affirmed the court of appeals’ ruling that hotels owe guests a duty of care not to evict them into a foreseeably dangerous environment, taking into account the guest’s physical state and the conditions into which she is evicted, including the time, surroundings and weather. Liability is limited by challenging the causal connection to the injury or by blaming other contributing factors. Whether an act caused an injury is fact-specific making summary judgment for the hotel improper. The dissent agreed the duty existed. But here, the plaintiff walked past two taxis. If the availability of alternative transportation is not sufficient to grant summary judgment for the hotel, then all cases go to a jury.
“A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.” – William Blake. A plurality of the Court held that a tree located in the Cherry Creek State Park that existed before the State built camping facilities, but which is located next to, and whose branches hang over a campsite, is a “natural condition of unimproved property.” Relying extensively on a legislative report written about the CGIA, it held that if a tree is native pre-improvement, as in this case, the State has no duty to make it safe and prevent a branch from falling. Thus, the State is immune, without regard to the location of the tree. That approach, the Court held, balances the cost of maintenance and access to public land. Rosales v. Denver, which analyzed whether trees were public facilities, was overruled. The concurrence would focus on the text: the State is immune if a branch originating from “unimproved property” falls.
“[D]elay in service… cannot be found reasonable simply because the plaintiff made diligent efforts to locate the defendant.” Opinion. Malm filed her personal injury complaint in 2005, one month before the 3-year time limitation ended. In 2013, Malm found Villegas in Germany, and the District Court reopened the case noting the lack of a rule stating a reasonable time for service in a foreign country. Villegas opposed, arguing that the failure to serve her sooner was an unreasonable delay amounting to a failure to prosecute. The Court held that a delay between filing and service of a complaint beyond the statute of limitations is reasonable only if it is the product of either wrongful conduct by the defendant or some formal impediment to service. Without any facts that Villegas deliberately avoided service, the District Court should have dismissed the case for failure to prosecute.
DISCLAIMER: The Author was an attorney on the brief for Petitioner Malm. Andy Helm assisted in the writing of this post.
While the term “treatment” has a prospective focus, the term “diagnosis” does not. – Opinion. After an ER visit, Patient was left brain dead. Afterwards, his roommate asked a doctor if past cocaine use could have been a cause. At trial, roommate’s statement to the doctor was the focus of the defense case. The trial court admitted the evidence and doctors won. The court of appeals held the admission of drug-use evidence was error. The Court disagreed, holding that CRE 803(4), the medical diagnosis or treatment hearsay exception, applied. Statements offered to determine the nature, source or cause of a condition, which also describe medical history and are pertinent to the diagnosis, are excepted, as in this case. No further inquiry into roommate’s motives was required, nor was subjective reliance by the doctor. And, though prejudicial, the statements were not unfair. Doctors win.
“When sidewalks are not available, pedestrians are forced to share the street with motorists, access to public transportation is restricted, and children might not have safe play areas.” – US DOT. Here, a child slipped on a puddle in a walkway running between a public school and its playground. Examining the CGIA, the Court rejected the argument that the “icy walkway waiver” was mutually exclusive of the “recreation waiver.” Rather, each waiver provides a potential avenue for waiver of tort liability, any one of which might suffice. Next it held that, unlike a playground or a parking lot, the walkway is not a “public facility” because: 1) it lacked an intrinsic recreational connection with the playground; 2) it did not broadly promote the purpose of the playground; and 3) excluding walkways like this one was consistent with the legislature’s intent. The school was immune from suit.
“My dream is to have the park system privatized, and run entirely for profit by corporations. Like Chuck E. Cheese.” – Ron Swanson, Parks and Recreation. People can sue governments for injuries occurring at a 1) “public” 2) “facility” 3) “located in” a 4) “recreation area.” The Court defined those 4 terms as follows: 1) accessible and benefiting the public; 2) includes parking lots; 3) promotes recreation; and 4) an area whose primary purpose is recreation. Here, a parking lot next to a public golf course met the criteria. The parking lot was accessible to the public, allowed golfers to conveniently access the course, and golfing was the primary recreational purpose promoted by the lot. The city was not immune from plaintiff’s suit arising from her injury in the parking lot. Two justices would arrive at the same conclusion, but by allowing the city’s designation to drive the analysis.
A playground through a lawyers eye: “Although the individual pieces of equipment each promote specific play activities (e.g., swinging or playing in the sand), they nevertheless collectively promote the common purpose of play and together make a playground a ‘facility’ by virtue of the strong relationship between the individual components.” – Opinion. In this case, applying and expanding on the analysis set forth in Daniel v. Colorado Springs, the Court concluded that a public school playground and its collection of equipment is a “public facility” “located in” a “recreation area.” The case focused on what a “public facility” is: 1) relatively permanent or affixed to land; 2) man-made; 3) accessible to the public; and 4) maintained by a public entity for a common public purpose. The zip line that injured the plaintiff was merely a “dangerous condition,” not itself a “facility.”
“Click it or ticket” does not apply to law enforcement when a deputy is transporting a juvenile and does not secure the juvenile’s seat belt. This case’s first interlocutory appeal involved the County’s unsuccessful claim for immunity under the CGIA. On remand, the County then sought immunity under CRS 19-2-508, which provides for immunity for law enforcement officers who, in good faith, transport a juvenile under the direction of the court. The statute creates a presumption of good faith. After a hearing, the trial court determined that by failing to secure the juvenile’s seat belt, the officers acted in bad faith. On review, pursuant to CAR 21, the Court disagreed and held that allegations of negligence alone are not sufficient to overcome the presumption of good faith, and thus the granting of immunity. The case was sent back to the trial court, again.