♪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.
Tag Archives: Defenses
Westin Operator, LLC v. Jillian Groh, through her guardians and conservators William and Janelle Groh, 2015CO25 (April 13, 2015)
“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.
“Know the Gaps” – Farmer’s Insurance ad. The Colorado Supreme Court granted review of, and answered in the negative the following certified question from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals: “whether the notice-prejudice rule applies to the date-certain notice requirement of claims-made policies.” The notice-prejudice rule (set forth in Friedland v Travelers) allows insureds to avoid the consequence of late notice of a claim under a “prompt-notice” provision if the insurer is not prejudiced. A “claims-made” policy, different from an “occurrence” policy, typically requires that notice of an occurrence be given by a date-certain as a condition precedent to coverage. The date-certain provision is, therefore, a material condition of coverage. Applying the notice-prejudice rule would alter the parties’ agreed allocation of risk, something the Court declined to do.
To read the 10th Circuit’s order following this opinion, click HERE.
Erin A. Young, individually and on behalf of and as next friend of C.Y.; and C.Y., a minor, through his parent Erin A. Young, v. Brighton School District 27J, 2014CO 32 (May 19, 2014)
“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.
St. Vrain Valley School District RE-1J and Cathy O’Donnell v. A.R.L. a minor; Randy Loveland; and Mary Nicole Loveland, 2014CO33 (May 19, 2014)
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.”
Atlantic Richfield Company v. Whiting Oil and Gas Corporation, f/k/a Equity Oil Company, 2014CO16 (March 3, 2014)
“A non-vested property interest is void unless it is certain to vest, if at all, within 21 years after the death of a life in being at the time the interest was created.” Common-law Rule Against Perpetuities (RAP). This case involves a nondonative commercial transaction dating back to 1968, amended in 1983 to include a non-exclusive revocable option. When the plaintiff sought to exercise the option in 2006, defendant claimed the RAP voided the option. The trial court, affirmed by the court of appeals, held that the option was enforceable as reformed under the Statutory RAP (USRAP). The Court affirmed on different grounds, holding that the RAP does not apply in commercial transactions; the rule against unreasonable restraint on alienation does. By holding that the RAP does not apply to revocable options, USRAP reformation was inapplicable. Plaintiff could exercise its option.
In Re: Michael Young and Amy Larson et. al. v. Jefferson County Sherriff and Deputy John E. Hodges and Cristian Robinson, 2014CO1 (January 13, 2014)
“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.
“Don’t wait for the last judgment – it takes place every day.” Albert Camus. In this case, four issues are at play: 1) the equitable doctrine of laches (prevents a party from waiting too long to bring a claim); 2) the statute of limitations for collecting a debt (six years); 3) the doctrine of partial payment (restarts the six years after a partial payment); and 4) the separation of powers doctrine (prevents application of equitable doctrines to expressly conflicting statutes). The court of appeals held that laches cannot shorten a limitations period because the separation of powers doctrine prevented it. The Court reversed because laches does not conflict with the statute of limitations, and the partial payment doctrine does not preclude laches, even though it effectively lengthens the time within which a claim can be brought. The Court remanded for review of the laches claim.