March 17, 2018

Colorado Court of Appeals: District Court Abused its Discretion by Failing to Apply Three-Part Test for Excusable Neglect

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Taylor v. HCA-HealthONE, LLC on Thursday, March 8, 2018.

Medical Malpractice—Service—C.R.C.P. 4(m)—C.R.C.P. 60(b)—Excusable Neglect.

Plaintiff filed a medical malpractice action but failed to serve defendants within the C.R.C.P. 4(m) deadline. The district court dismissed the action without prejudice, and because the statute of limitations had run, plaintiff could not refile the lawsuit. She moved to set aside the judgment under C.R.C.P. 60(b) based on excusable neglect. Without holding a hearing, the district court concluded that counsel’s docketing errors did not amount to excusable neglect and denied the motion.

On appeal, plaintiff first argued that the district court’s dismissal order was invalid under C.R.C.P. 4(m) because the delay reduction order was premature. Although the rule requires notice before dismissal, it does not require notice after expiration of the service deadline. Thus, plaintiff was not entitled to additional notice beyond the delay reduction order and the district court’s order of dismissal was valid.

Plaintiff also argued that the court erred in failing to apply the three-factor test in Craig v. Rider, 651 P.2d 397 (Colo. 1982), in evaluating her Rule 60(b) motion to set aside the order of dismissal. That test requires the district court to consider not just whether the neglect that resulted in the order of dismissal was excusable, but also whether the plaintiff has alleged a meritorious claim and whether relief from the order would be consistent with equitable considerations. The district court abused its discretion in failing to analyze the Rule 60(b) motion under the three-part Craig test.

The order was vacated and the case was remanded to the district court to apply the Craig test.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Physician-Patient Privilege Bars Defendants from Consulting Ex Parte with Non-Party Witnesses

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in In re Bailey v. Hermacinski on Monday, March 5, 2018.

Physician-Patient Privilege—Implied Waiver.

In this original proceeding, the supreme court considered the scope of the physician-patient privilege in a medical malpractice action. Contrary to the conclusion of the trial court, the court held that plaintiffs’ non-party medical providers were not in consultation with defendants such that the typically privileged information held by those non-party medical providers was no longer protected by the physician-patient privilege. Therefore, the trial court abused its discretion when it granted defendants’ request to hold ex parte interviews with those non-party medical providers on consultation grounds. However, the court remanded the case to the trial court for consideration of whether plaintiffs impliedly waived the protection of the physician-patient privilege such that ex parte interviews may still be permitted.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Nonparty at Fault Statute Does Not Preclude Evidence of Subsequent Providers’ Negligence

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Danko v. Conyers, M.D. on Thursday, February 8, 2018.

Torts—Medical Malpractice—Evidence—Pro Rata Liability—Non-Party Fault—Costs.

Dr. Conyers performed carpal tunnel surgery on Danko. He did not order a post-operative biopsy to detect possible infection and ultimately released Danko from further care. Danko sought a second opinion from Dr. Scott, who performed a minor procedure on Danko’s wrist and later diagnosed her with an infection. Subsequently, Danko saw Dr. Savelli, who recommended a regimen of antibiotics and periodic surgical debridement of infected tissue. Two weeks later, Danko consulted Dr. Lindeque, who amputated Danko’s forearm. Danko filed a complaint alleging that Dr. Conyers negligently failed to detect an infection resulting from the surgery, which led to amputation of her forearm. The jury found Dr. Conyers liable and awarded damages of $1.5 million.

On appeal, Dr. Conyers challenged the trial court’s exclusion of his evidence that physicians who treated Danko after the surgery were at fault for the amputation. Dr. Conyers did not seek to apportion fault between himself and the other providers. Instead, he sought to admit evidence of their negligence as a superseding cause of Danko’s amputation. Such evidence is admissible under C.R.S. § 13-21-111.5 (the nonparty at fault statute) even if a nonparty at fault has not been designated. Thus, the part of the trial court’s ruling excluding evidence that was based on C.R.S. § 13-21-111.5(b)(3) was incorrect. But the trial court also based its ruling on Restatement (Second) of Torts § 457, which provides an exception to the liability of initial physicians for harm from subsequent physicians’ extraordinary misconduct, a superseding cause. Here, the trial court acted within its discretion in excluding evidence of the other providers’ fault, under both Restatement § 457 and CRE 403, because Dr. Conyers had not presented evidence sufficient to invoke the extraordinary misconduct exception. Further, the trial court did not err in instructing the jury consistent with this ruling.

On cross-appeal, Danko challenged the trial court’s denial of certain costs, including jury consulting expenses. Danko made a settlement offer under C.R.S. § 13-17-202(1)(a)(I), which Dr. Conyers did not accept. The verdict exceeded the amount of the offer. A party may recover jury consulting expenses when that party made a statutory settlement offer that was rejected, and did better than the offer at trial. Here, the trial court improperly denied costs for jury consulting and related travel expenses.

The judgment was affirmed. The costs award was affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case was remanded to increase Danko’s costs award.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Written Rejection of Enhanced UM/UIM Coverage Not Required

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Airth v. Zurich American Insurance Co. on Thursday, January 25, 2018.

Motor Vehicle Insurance—Uninsured/Underinsured—Summary Judgment.

Airth was seriously injured in an accident while operating a semi truck owned by his employer, Sole Transport LLC, d/b/a Solar Transport Company (Solar). He was struck by a negligent, uninsured driver. Solar had uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) insurance coverage of $50,000 for its employees through a policy issued by Zurich American Insurance Co. Airth brought a claim for declaratory relief, seeking to reform Solar’s policy to provide UM/UIM coverage of $1 million. He alleged he was entitled to the higher amount because Zurich had failed, as required by C.R.S. § 10-4-609, to (1) offer Solar UM/UIM coverage in an amount equal to its bodily injury liability coverage ($1 million), and (2) produce a written rejection by Solar of such an offer. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court entered judgment for Zurich ruling, as a matter of law, that (1) Zurich’s documents adequately offered Solar UM/UIM coverage in an amount equal to the bodily injury liability limits of the policy, and (2) there is no requirement that the rejection of UM/UIM limits in an amount equal to liability limits be in writing.

On appeal, Airth contended that both of the district court’s rulings were incorrect and the court therefore erred in granting Zurich’s summary judgment motion and denying Airth’s cross-motion. C.R.S. § 10-4-609(1)(a) prohibits an insurer from issuing an automobile liability policy unless a minimum amount of UM/UIM coverage is included in the policy, except where the named insured rejects UM/UIM coverage in writing. C.R.S. § 10-4-609(2) requires an insurer, before a policy is issued or renewed, to offer the insured the right to obtain UM/UIM coverage in an amount equal to the insured’s bodily injury liability limits. The facts here were undisputed. Before renewing Solar’s policy, Zurich sent a package of documents pertaining to Solar’s rights related to UM/UIM coverage and Solar’s counsel affirmed that he had read all the documents. This included an opportunity to reject UM/UIM coverage or to select a higher than minimum level of UM/UIM coverage. Airth argued that none of this constituted an “offer” of the ability to obtain higher UM/UIM coverage, because the documents did not contain a premium quote or a way to estimate the premium for purchasing UM/UIM coverage commensurate with a bodily injury liability limit of $1 million. The Colorado Court of Appeals agreed that this would be the case if it were applying the meaning of the term “offer” as used in contract law. But the Colorado Supreme Court has attributed a different meaning to “offer” as it is used in C.R.S. § 10-4-609; the dispositive question is whether, under the totality of the circumstances, the insured was adequately informed that higher UM/UIM coverage was available. Here, that standard was met by the documents Zurich provided to Solar.

Airth also argued that Zurich was not entitled to summary judgment because there was no evidence that anyone from Solar read or understood the document. This argument overlooks that attestation of Solar’s counsel.

Airth further argued that reversal is required because the documents were signed and dated a month after the policy went into effect. The operative question is whether the insurer gave the insured the opportunity to purchase statutorily-compliant coverage before the insured needed it. The record reflects that Solar had received and responded to the notification and offer before the accident that injured Airth.

Airth also contended that the district court erred in determining that the statute only requires a written rejection with respect to the minimum UM/UIM coverage available and not to the additional coverage available. The court agreed with the district court’s conclusion that a written rejection is required only if the insured declines the minimum amount of UM/UIM coverage, which was not the case here.

The judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: CGIA Bars Father’s Claims that City Breached a Duty of Care to Prevent Son’s Death

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in L.J. v. Carracito on Thursday, January 11, 2018.

Wrongful Death—Child Protection Act of 1987—Colorado Governmental Immunity Act—Police Officer—Failure to Report Child Abuse—Public Entity—Vicarious Liability—Tort—Willful and Wanton—Exemplary Damages.

D.J.M., age 2, died after suffering a beating by his mother’s boyfriend. D.J.M.’s father brought an action against the City of Colorado Springs (City) and Officer Carricato, individually and in his capacity as an officer with the City of Colorado Springs Police Department, for failing to report child abuse that father complained about to them multiple times. The complaint alleged violation of the Child Protection Act of 1987 (CPA); negligence (wrongful death) by the City and Officer Carricato; negligence per se by the City and Officer Carricato; violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by the City and Officer Carricato; vicarious liability against the City; and an entitlement to exemplary damages under C.R.S. § 24-10-118(1)(c) against Officer Carricato. The district court determined that while the negligence claims for wrongful death and negligence per se were barred by the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act (CGIA), the claim for violation of the CPA was not barred because it was not a claim based in tort. The district court allowed the claim for vicarious liability to stand insofar as it related to the violation of the CPA and found, without conducting a hearing under Trinity Broadcasting of Denver, Inc. v. City of Westminster, that the complaint alleged a sufficient factual basis to support a claim of willful and wanton behavior.

On appeal, the City and Officer Carricato argued that the district court erred because the CGIA bars the claim for violation of the CPA and father’s complaint does not allege specific facts sufficient to support a finding that Officer Carricato’s conduct was willful and wanton. The City is undisputedly a “public entity.” The exceptions to sovereign immunity are not applicable here because (1) the enumerated statutory exceptions are not at issue; (2) the CPA does not fit within any of the statutory exceptions; and (3) father is not requesting equitable, remedial, or non-compensatory remedies. Here, the essence of father’s claim is that the City breached a duty of care owed to D.J.M., which caused his death. Because father’s claim lies or could lie in tort, the CGIA bars the claim against the City for alleged violation of the CPA. Thus, the district court improperly denied that part of the motion to dismiss. Similarly, the vicarious liability claims are claims that lie in tort or could lie in tort and are thus barred by the CGIA.

Furthermore, public employees are immune from liability for tort claims unless their act or omission was willful and wanton. The district court must determine whether the conduct was in fact willful or wanton. Here, the district court failed to hold a Trinity hearing on this issue.

Finally, Officer Carricato argued that the claim for exemplary damages cannot stand because it was improperly pleaded and that exemplary damages cannot be awarded against a police officer. The CGIA allows a claim for exemplary damages against public employees only if their conduct was willful and wanton. The claim for exemplary damages against the police officer was prematurely pled.

The portions of the judgment on the claims against the City, the vicarious liability claim, and the exemplary damages claim were reversed. The portion of the judgment relating to the claims against Officer Carricato was remanded.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Treatment with Approved Physician Did Not Terminate Previous Physician’s Authorized Treatment Provider Status

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Berthold v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office on Thursday, November 16, 2017.

Workers’ Compensation—Change of Authorized Treating Physician—Maximum Medical Improvement—Final Admission of Liability.

Claimant sustained work injuries and received medical care from Sharma, an authorized treating physician (ATP). Several months later she requested and received permission, under C.R.S. § 8-43-404(5)(a)(VI)(A), to begin treatment with another physician, Miller. Notwithstanding the agreed-upon change of doctor, claimant’s employer periodically sent her to the see Sharma. After Miller assumed her care, Sharma reported that claimant reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). Miller disagreed. Despite this disagreement, claimant’s employer filed a final admission of liability (FAL) based on Sharma’s conclusion. Claimant challenged the FAL, and an administrative law judge found that Sharma’s status as claimant’s ATP terminated when Miller began treating her, pursuant to C.R.S. § 8-43-404(5)(a)(IV)(C), the automatic termination provision. A panel of the Industrial Claim Appeals Office (Panel) disagreed, concluding that C.R.S. § 8-43-404(5)(a)(IV)(C) applied only if the worker sought a change of physician under C.R.S. § 8-43-404(5)(a)(III). The Panel further held that the termination provision in C.R.S. § 8-43-404(5)(a)(VI)(B), which automatically terminates the relationship between an ATP and an injured worker upon treatment with a new ATP, did not apply either because it was not in effect when claimant changed physicians.

On appeal, claimant contended that her employer erred in relying on Sharma’s MMI finding when issuing the FAL because Sharma was no longer an ATP when he made the MMI finding. She argued that (1) her treating relationship with Sharma was automatically terminated by C.R.S. § 8-43-404(5)(a)(IV) because it applies to all changes of physicians, and (2) even if this section does not apply, her relationship with Sharma was terminated by recently amended C.R.S. § 8-43-404(5)(a)(VI). The Colorado Court of Appeals held that the C.R.S. § 8-43-404(5)(a)(VI)(B) termination provision only applies to requests to change a treating physician made after the effective date of the provision. Second, C.R.S. § 8-43-404(5)(a)(IV) is limited to changes made under C.R.S. § 8-43-404(5)(a)(III) “within ninety days after the date of the injury.” Because claimant’s request in this case to change her physician predated C.R.S. § 8-43-404(5)(a)(VI)(B), and because it was not granted under C.R.S. § 8-43-404(5)(a)(III), her treatment with Miller did not automatically terminate Sharma’s status as an ATP.

The order was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Jury Award of Zero Noneconomic Damages Appropriate Where Injuries were De Minimis

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Miller v. Hancock on Thursday, November 16, 2017.

Non-economic Damages—Jury Award—De Minimis—Pre-Offer Costs—Pretrial Offer of Settlement.

Plaintiff Miller was involved in an automobile accident with defendants, Aragon and Hancock. Miller sued Aragon and Hancock to recover economic and noneconomic damages that he suffered as a result of that accident. Before trial, both Aragon and Hancock made statutory offers of settlement to Miller pursuant to C.R.S. § 13-17-202. The jury awarded Miller only economic damages. Miller filed a motion for new trial on damages, which the trial court denied. Each of the parties also moved to recover their costs, Miller as the prevailing party, and Aragon and Hancock pursuant to C.R.S. § 13-17-202, arguing that the final judgment Miller recovered did not exceed their respective pretrial settlement offers. The court did not award Miller costs against Hancock, but awarded Hancock the entire amount of her claimed costs that accrued after her first offer. The court awarded costs in favor of Miller and against Aragon and denied Aragon’s request for costs.

On appeal, Miller contended that the trial court erred by denying his motion for new trial on damages. He argued that a jury’s failure to award noneconomic damages is impermissible as a matter of law when the jury returns a verdict awarding economic damages. Miller contended that it was undisputed that his injuries were more than de minimis; however, his characterizations of the relevant facts and evidence lack record support. The jury could have reasonably concluded that Miller’s injuries from the accident were de minimis. Thus, the record here was sufficient to support the jury’s award of zero noneconomic damages.

Miller also argued that the trial court should have included his pre-offer costs when determining whether Hancock’s pretrial offers of settlement exceeded the amount Miller recovered from Hancock at trial. Whether a statutory offer includes pre-offer costs depends on the language of the offer. Hancock’s offers unambiguously included costs, so Miller was entitled to have his pre-offer costs included in his final judgment for the purpose of determining whether either of Hancock’s offers entitled her to recover her post-offer costs pursuant to C.R.S. § 13-17-202. Thus, the trial court erred by interpreting Hancock’s offers to exclude costs.

Miller next argued that the trial court erroneously reduced the costs he was entitled to recover, yet awarded Hancock the entire amount of her claimed costs without subjecting her costs to similar scrutiny. Here, the trial court abused its discretion when it reduced the amount of Miller’s recoverable costs without making adequate findings as to whether those costs were reasonable and necessary.

The order denying Miller’s motion for a new trial on damages was affirmed. The awards of costs to Hancock and Miller were reversed and the case was remanded for further proceedings to determine Miller’s costs and whether, after determining Miller’s costs, Hancock made a settlement offer pursuant to C.R.S. § 13-17-202 that exceeds the amount of Miller’s final judgment, inclusive of pre-offer costs and interest.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Risk-Benefit Test is Proper Test in Products Liability Action

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Walker v. Ford Motor Co. on Monday, November 13, 2017.

In this case, the supreme court considered whether a trial court erred when it gave a jury instruction that allowed the jury to apply either the consumer expectation test or the risk-benefit test to determine whether a driver’s car seat was unreasonably dangerous due to a design defect. The court concluded that the risk-benefit test is the appropriate test to assess whether a product was unreasonably dangerous due to a design defect when, as here, the dangerousness of the design is “defined primarily by technical, scientific information.” Ortho Pharm. Corp. v. Heath, 722 P.2d 410, 414 (Colo. 1986), overruled on other grounds by Armentrout v. FMC Corp., 842 P.2d 175, 183 (Colo. 1992). The court further concluded that the jury’s separate finding of negligence did not render the instructional error harmless in this case.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Restitution Statute Does Not Require Prosecution’s Requested Specificity for Setoff

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Stanley on Thursday, September 7, 2017.

Traffic Accident—Unapportioned Settlement—Crime Victim Compensation Program—Restitution—Setoff—Burden of Proof.

Stanley’s automobile insurer, Geico Indemnity Co. (Geico), entered into a “Release in Full of All Claims” (release) with the victim and her husband. Under the settlement, Geico paid the victim $25,000 for all claims related to and stemming from the accident in exchange for a full and final release of all claims against Stanley and Geico. Thereafter, Stanley pleaded guilty to felony vehicular assault, driving under the influence, and careless driving. The prosecution filed a motion to impose restitution and attached a report from the Crime Victim Compensation Program (CVCP). It showed that the CVCP had paid the victim $30,000, the maximum amount allowable by statute, for pecuniary losses proximately caused by Stanley’s criminal conduct. The Court awarded Stanley a $25,000 setoff against restitution for the amount paid by Geico, and ordered him to pay the $5,000 net amount.

On appeal, the prosecution argued that Stanley should not receive a setoff for the settlement funds because the release was an unapportioned settlement that did not “earmark” the proceeds for the same expenses compensated by the CVCP, leaving open the possibility that the victim used the proceeds for losses not compensated by the CVCP. When a victim receives compensation from a civil settlement against a defendant, the defendant may request a setoff against restitution “to the extent of any money actually paid to the victim for the same damages.” For purposes of a setoff, however, the court cannot allocate proceeds from an unapportioned civil settlement agreement without “specific evidence that the settlement included particular categories of loss,” because in civil cases victims may recover both pecuniary losses covered by the restitution statute and other damages specifically excluded under the restitution statute. Because the information needed to determine whether a victim has been fully compensated or has received a double recovery is known only by the victim, once a defendant has shown that a civil settlement includes the same categories of losses or expenses as compensated by the CVCP and awarded as restitution, the defendant has met his burden of going forward, and the prosecution may then rebut the inference that a double recovery has occurred. Here, Stanley met his burden of proving a setoff, but the victim may have used some or all of the settlement proceeds for losses not compensated by the CVCP.

The order was affirmed, and the case was remanded to permit the prosecution to show that the victim did not receive a double recovery from the settlement proceeds and the CVCP payment.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Discovering Discovery: Building Your Case, Deposition Tips, Expert Witnesses, and More

“Reduced to its essence, discovery is the process of identifying, collecting, producing and/or receiving relevant, nonprivileged materials in connection with pending or reasonably foreseeable litigation. With the advent of notice pleading, civil discovery provides access to the relevant information that litigants and their counsel require to make informed decisions about the merits of their case and the potential for settlement.” -Magistrate Judge Craig B. Shaffer

Discovery is a crucial component of every litigation case. In the last 10 years, civil litigation has changed significantly. The proliferation of electronic data and new rules on both the state and federal level create increasingly difficult challenges for preserving, managing, and producing electronically stored information. Conducting discovery outside Colorado has become mainstream as civil litigation has become more national—even global.

This Friday, CBA-CLE will debut the newest title in our litigation library, Discovery in Colorado, at a full-day program, “Discovering Discovery.” Discovery in Colorado is a practical guide to discovery that brings to life the application of the Colorado and Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governing the discovery process. Discovery in Colorado was written by a variety of different practitioners, overseen by Magistrate Judge Nina Y. Wang and Natalie Hanlon Leh, Esq. Attorneys and judges with backgrounds in private, in-house, and government practice authored individual chapters.

Learn different approaches to discovery and hear distinct perspectives from some of the most experienced trial attorneys and judges in Colorado. Each class attendee receives Discovery in Colorado, 1st Edition, as course materials. Explore the ever-changing state of discovery through this valuable course and companion book. Register using the links below, or call (303) 860-0608.



CLE Program: Discovering Discovery

This CLE presentation will occur on Friday, July 28, 2017, at the CLE Large Classroom (1900 Grant St., 3rd Floor) from 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Register for the live program here and the webcast here. You may also call (303) 860-0608 to register.

Can’t make the live program? Order the homestudy here — Video OnDemandMP3 Audio

Colorado Court of Appeals: Attorney Must Assume Financial and Ethical Responsibility in Order to Share Fees

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Scott R. Larson, P.C. v. Grinnan on Thursday, June 15, 2017.

Attorney Fee Dispute—Referral Fees—Division of Fees.

Grinnan is a general practitioner with limited experience in personal injury cases. Grinnan’s friend Kelley asked Grinnan to represent him in a personal injury case. Grinnan obtained Kelley’s approval to involve Scott Larson., P.C. in the case, and Larson entered into a contingency fee agreement with the Kelley family. As relevant here, the agreement identified Grinnan as “associated counsel,” stated that Grinnan would be paid a percentage of Larson’s fee “not to exceed 100%,” and provided that Larson was responsible for paying case expenses. Grinnan was not a signatory to the agreement.

Larson brought claims against various entities and settled with one early in the case. From Larson’s $333,333 fee on this settlement, he sent Grinnan a check for $50,000. After three years of litigation, the case settled. Based on the settlements, the contingent fee agreement entitled Larson to a fee of $3,216,666.67. Larson had incurred about $300,000 in costs.

Larson and Grinnan couldn’t agree on how to divide the contingent fee. Grinnan entered his appearance, and the court granted his request that all attorney fees paid to Larson be placed in a restricted interest bearing account. Following a hearing, the trial court entered a detailed written order allocating the attorney fees. The trial court declined to divide the fees in proportion to services and found that Grinnan had assumed joint responsibility for the litigation. The court divided the fees by awarding Grinnan 20% of the $333,333.34 from the first settlement and 12.5% of the $2,883,333.33 fee from the other two settlements. The court also awarded Grinnan prejudgment interest at the rate of 8% from the date the settlement checks were issued until final judgment entered on the fees allocated to him. It also awarded Larson interest on the fees placed in the restricted account less the fees awarded to Grinnan (as a wrongful withholding). The court declined to award costs, finding that neither lawyer was the prevailing party.

On appeal, Larson asserted that Grinnan never assumed joint responsibility because he did not assume responsibility for the representation as a whole. The court of appeals found that Grinnan had assumed one of the two components of joint responsibility—financial responsibility for the case—because of Grinnan’s exposure to liability for any malpractice of Larson. A remand was necessary to determine whether he also assumed ethical responsibility, the second component, on which the court had made no findings.

As guidance to the trial court on remand, the court analyzed the ethical responsibility issue. It concluded that a referring lawyer must: actively monitor the progress of the case; make reasonable efforts to ensure that the firm of the lawyer to whom the case was referred has in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that all lawyers in the firm conform to the Rules of Professional Conduct; and remain available to the client to discuss the case and provide independent judgment as to any concerns the client may have that the lawyer to whom the case was referred is acting in conformity with the Rules of Professional Conduct.

On remand, if the court finds that Grinnan assumed ethical responsibility, the court’s fee award will stand, subject to appeal by Larson. If the court finds that Grinnan did not assume ethical responsibility, he is only entitled to fees in proportion to the services he performed, with the referral fees to be reallocated to Larson, subject to appeal by Grinnan.

The court concluded that Grinnan failed to preserve issues he raised on cross-appeal.

Grinnan also contended that the trial court erred in finding a wrongful withholding.  The court found no error in the trial court’s award of prejudgment interest to Larson based on Grinnan’s wrongful withholding.

The court also noted that on remand the trial court could reconsider its decision not to award costs based on its findings on ethical responsibility.

The attorney fee award was vacated, the cross-appealed rulings were affirmed, and the case was remanded.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Dog Owner Owes No Duty of Care to Child who was Scared by Dogs and Ran Into Street

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in N.M. v. Trujillo on Monday, June 26, 2017.

Negligence—Duty of Care—Nonfeasance—Special Relationships—C.R.C.P. 12(b)(5).

This case required the supreme court to determine whether respondent, a dog owner, owed a duty of care to petitioner, a child who became frightened when respondent’s dogs rushed at respondent’s front yard fence and who, although not touched by the fenced-in dogs, ran into the street and was struck and injured by a passing van. Because petitioner’s negligence claim against respondent was predicated on alleged nonfeasance, or failure to act, and because the case is distinguishable from cases in which a dangerous or vicious animal attacks and directly injures someone, petitioner was required to plead a special relationship between himself and respondent to establish the duty of care necessary to support his negligence claim. Petitioner did not, however, plead such a special relationship. Accordingly, the court concluded that, as a matter of law, respondent owed no duty of care to petitioner and thus the district court properly dismissed petitioner’s negligence claim against respondent. The court of appeals’ judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.