April 27, 2017

Archives for March 15, 2017

Finalists Selected for Arapahoe County Court Vacancy

On Tuesday, March 14, 2017, the Colorado State Judicial Branch announced the selection of three finalists to fill a vacancy on the Arapahoe County Court. The vacancy will be created by the retirement of the Hon. Robert C. Tobias, effective May 31, 2017.

The three finalists are Cori Alcock-Christofferson of Centennial, John Scipione of Highlands Ranch, and Don Toussaint of Aurora. Cori Alcock-Christofferson is at the District Attorney’s Office in the 18th Judicial District. John Scipione is a District Court Magistrate in the 18th Judicial District. Don Toussaint is at the Aurora City Attorney’s Office.

Under the Colorado Constitution, the governor has 15 days in which to appoint one of the nominees to the Arapahoe County Court. Comments regarding any of the nominees may be submitted to the governor at gov_judicialappointments@state.co.us. For more information about the nominees, click here.

Colorado Court of Appeals: 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is Not State Employers’ Liability Law

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in City of Lakewood v. Safety National Casualty Corp. on Thursday, March 9, 2017.

42 U.S.C. § 1983—Indemnification—Defense Costs—Insurance—Employer Liability Law.

A City of Lakewood (City) police officer was killed by friendly fire, and his widow filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the City and various fellow officers had violated the deceased officer’s rights under the U.S. Constitution. The City sought indemnification for its own defense costs and those of the officers named in the lawsuit, which the City has an independent statutory duty to cover. The insurance company, Safety National Casualty Corporation, denied coverage. The district court concluded that a § 1983 claim did not arise under an employer liability law of any state and granted summary judgment for the insurance company.

On appeal, the City contended that the district court erred in granting summary judgment to the insurance company because the policy unambiguously covers all defense costs incurred by the City in connection with the § 1983 lawsuit. Specifically, the City argued that the § 1983 municipal liability claim must be covered by the employers’ liability portion of the policy because it is a claim based on work-related injuries that falls outside the ambit of the workers’ compensation laws. However, this overstates the scope of the coverage under the policy. By the policy’s plain terms, the common law claims must arise under the laws of Colorado or “other State(s).” Section 1983 is not a law of Colorado or any other state. Therefore, the City’s defense costs, which were sustained because of liability imposed as a result of the widow’s § 1983 claim, did not arise from a state workers’ compensation or employers’ liability law and were not covered by the policy.

Next, the City contended that it was entitled to reimbursement for amounts it paid to cover the fellow officers’ defense costs. The policy’s definition makes clear that the term “Employee” refers to the injured employee, not to an employee potentially responsible for the injury. “Loss” means payments by the City to the injured employee and the employee’s dependents. Therefore, the City’s indemnification payments to the officers named in the lawsuit do not qualify as losses under the policy and the City is not entitled to reimbursement from the insurance company.

The judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Property Used as Vacation Home and Listed on VRBO Properly Classified as Residential

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in O’Neil v. Conejos County Board of Commissioners on Thursday, March 9, 2017.

Real Property—Residential—Commercial—Ad Valorem Taxes—Burden of Proof.

James and Mary Ellen O’Neil purchased the subject property and built a log house on it for their use as a vacation home and as an inheritance for their sons. The house was initially classified for tax purposes as residential. After the O’Neils listed the property as available for short-term, overnight rental, the Conejos County Assessor (Assessor) reclassified the property, for ad valorem tax purposes, from residential to commercial. The O’Neils filed a petition for abatement with the Conejos County Board of Commissioners (County), which was denied, and then appealed to the Board of Assessment Appeals (Board), which overturned the Assessor’s action and returned the property’s classification to residential for the relevant years.

On appeal, the County contended that the Board improperly classified the O’Neils’ property as residential. The County asserted as a procedural error that that the Board failed to apply the presumption in favor of the Assessor’s property classification. The Board’s order demonstrated that it implicitly applied the presumption in favor of the County, and the O’Neils met their burden of proof to overcome that presumption. On the merits, the Board determined that the proper classification of the property was “residential” because its “predominant and actual use was as a second home.” The Board’s determination had a reasonable basis in law and was supported by substantial evidence in the record.

The order was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 3/14/2017

On Tuesday, March 14, 2017, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued one published opinion and one unpublished opinion.

Max Oil Co., Inc. v. Range Production Co., LLC

Case summaries are not provided for unpublished opinions. However, some published opinions are summarized and provided by Legal Connection.