The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Rieger v. Wat Buddhawararam of Denver, Inc. on Thursday, November 21, 2013.
Premises Liability—Summary Judgment—Licensee Versus Invitee—Vicarious Liability.
On July 26, 2010, Martin Rieger and his friend Chris Margotta volunteered their time to trim a large tree on property owned by Wat Buddhawararam of Denver, Inc. (Temple). While Rieger was holding a ladder for Margotta so he could cut branches, one of the branches fell off and struck Rieger, causing him serious injuries.
Rieger sued the Temple, which designated Margotta as a nonparty at fault. Rieger then amended the complaint to name Margotta as a defendant but subsequently voluntarily dismissed him, acknowledging that Margotta was immune from liability under the Volunteer Service Act and the Federal Volunteer Protection Act. Rieger still maintained that the Temple was vicariously liable for Margotta’s negligence.
The Temple filed for summary judgment pursuant to the Colorado Premises Liability Act (CPLA). The district court granted the Temple’s motion, and Rieger appealed.
Rieger argued that the district court erred by finding he was a licensee rather than an invitee for purposes of the CPLA. The district court concluded that Rieger was a volunteer, and Rieger offered no evidence that would contradict that conclusion. Volunteers generally are classified as licensees under the CPLA. Therefore, the court did not err.
Rieger also argued that the district court erred in holding that the Temple was not vicariously liable for Margotta’s negligence. The Court found that CRS § 13-21-115(2) clearly manifests the General Assembly’s intent to abrogate the common law of landowner duties and that it is the sole remedy for plaintiffs bringing claims against landowners for injuries occurring on their property. Rieger only argued he was an invitee, which the Court concluded he was not. He made no argument that the Temple had a duty to him as a licensee. Even if he had, the undisputed evidence was that the Temple did not create any danger nor did Rieger allege any failure to warn on the part of the Temple. The summary judgment was affirmed.
Summary and full case available here.