August 19, 2019

Archives for November 26, 2013

Benjamin E. Currier Named Colorado Bar Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year

BenCurrierRecognizing his leadership and service in the legal community and the community at large, Benjamin E. Currier has been named the Colorado Bar Association Young Lawyers Division’s Gary L. McPherson Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year.

Currier, 35, has been a leader in both the Colorado and Arapahoe Bar Associations. His focus within the organizations has been on access to justice and the ongoing endeavor to meet the needs of those who cannot afford traditional legal services. In 2011, Currier helped establish the Colorado Lawyers for Colorado Veterans program, a statewide pro bono legal services initiative that assists Colorado Veterans, some active duty service members, and their families. The Clinics provide free legal advice by allowing veterans to meet with attorneys who explain legal processes and forms, and distribute resources covering veteran benefits, taxes, housing and family law.

“In my practice and community involvement, I try to keep in mind the need for honesty, integrity, hard-work, and the responsibility to give back to the community on a consistent basis,” Currier said. “As an attorney, I continue to make efforts to be a good steward of and role model for our profession. I am  honored to be recognized by my peers.”

Currier is a shareholder and partner with Miller & Steiert, P.C. in Littleton. He litigates criminal, family law, and general civil disputes.

He is President-elect of the Arapahoe County Bar Association, a graduate and executive committee member of the Colorado Bar Association Leadership Training program, an executive council member and past chair of the CBA Young Lawyers Division, and an Associate Judge for the City of Littleton.  In 2007, the ACBA awarded him with its Young Lawyer of the Year award.

The Gary L. McPherson Outstanding Lawyer of the Year award is given annually to a young lawyer with an outstanding record of professional success, community service achievements, a strong commitment to civic participation and inspiring others. McPherson was honored with the award in 1993; he went on to serve three terms in the state legislature. The award was renamed in his honor following his death in 2000.

“Ben is a humble leader who works hard to promote fairness and justice and to improve the legal profession. He is beyond dedicated to his clients, the bar association, and the community,” said Emma Garrison, chair of the CBA Young Lawyers Division.

Currier will be honored at the CBA YLD holiday party on Dec. 11 and at the Colorado Bar Foundation Annual Bar Fellows Dinner on Jan. 10 at the Hyatt Regency Convention Center.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Summary Judgment Appropriate Where No Disputed Issue of Material Fact Exists

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.

Colorado Court of Appeals: “Proximate Cause” As to Vehicular Assault Correctly Defined in Jury Instruction

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Smoots on Thursday, November 21, 2013.

Vehicular Assault—Driving Under the Influence (DUI)—Jury Instructions—Proximate Cause—Lesser Included Offense.

Defendant appealed the judgment of conviction entered on three jury verdicts finding him guilty of vehicular assault–DUI, DUI, and DUI per se. The convictions for vehicular assault and DUI per se were affirmed, and the DUI conviction was vacated.

According to the People’s evidence, defendant was driving a vehicle east on a two-lane highway while the victim was driving westbound. Defendant swerved into the victim’s lane, striking the victim’s vehicle. The victim suffered serious injuries.

Defendant argued that the jury instructions inaccurately defined proximate cause and thus lowered the prosecution’s burden of proof. The prosecution’s burden in proving vehicular assault–DUI is to establish that the defendant operated or drove a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, and this conduct was the proximate cause of a serious bodily injury to another. Because vehicular assault is a strict liability crime, the prosecution’s burden is to prove only that the defendant voluntarily drove while intoxicated and that his or her driving resulted in the victim’s serious bodily injury. Here, defendant conceded at trial that he was intoxicated at the time of the accident, that he was driving one of the vehicles involved in the collision, and that the victim was injured in the accident. Therefore, taking these admissions into account, the trial court did not err in instructing the jury that “[f]or the purposes of the strict liability crime of Vehicular Assault, ‘proximate cause’ is established by the voluntary act of driving under the influence of alcohol.”

The trial court also did not err in ruling that defendant was not entitled to an intervening cause instruction based on the fact that the victim may have swerved into defendant’s lane first. Even if true, this conduct would not be considered gross negligence, which is needed for an intervening cause instruction.

The judgment was vacated as to defendant’s conviction for DUI. Defendant’s DUI conviction constituted a lesser included offense of his vehicular assault–DUI conviction.

Summary and full case available here.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Subsequent Legislation Made Moot Trade Association’s Claims of Harm

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Colorado Mining Association v. Urbina on Thursday, November 21, 2013.

Environmental Air Quality Regulations—Challenge to Validity of Procedural Rules and Legislation.

Plaintiff Colorado Mining Association (CMA), a trade association representing coal producers, appealed the trial court’s judgment dismissing as moot its claims against defendants Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), CDPHE Executive Director Christopher E. Urbina, the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC), and the Air Pollution Control Division (collectively, agencies). The judgment was affirmed.

CMA alleged that the rulemaking process employed by the agencies in promulgating environmental air quality regulations violated procedural rules, resulting in harm to CMA members. Pursuant to CRS § 25-7-133, a hearing was requested, a bill was introduced, and the bill was enacted into law. Significantly, there has been no challenge to the validity of the statute or the procedures employed to enact it. Therefore, subsequent legislation adopting the regulations—CRS § 25-7-133.5—mooted any procedural challenge to the agencies’ rulemaking. Because an order declaring the AQCC’s procedures invalid would not affect § 25-7-133.5, and the CMA has not challenged the validity of that statute, the relief sought in this appeal—invalidation of the regulations—would have no practical effect. Accordingly, the trial court did not err in dismissing CMA’s claims as moot.

Summary and full case available here.

Colorado Supreme Court: Announcement Sheet, 11/25/2013

On Monday, November 25, 2013, the Colorado Supreme Court issued one published opinion.

Wolfe v. Pawnee Well Users, Inc.

The summary for this case is forthcoming, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Neither State Judicial nor the Colorado Bar Association provides case summaries for unpublished appellate opinions. The case announcement sheet is available here.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 11/25/13

On Monday, November 25, 2013, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued one published opinion and three unpublished opinions.

Little v. Portfolio Recovery Associates

United States v. Gasca

United States v. Eccleston

Case summaries are provided for unpublished opinions. However, published opinions are summarized and provided by Legal Connection.