January 20, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Sovereign Immunity Under CGIA Waived for Injuries Suffered During Operation of Jail

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Hernandez v. City & County of Denver on Thursday, October 18, 2018.

Negligence—Willful and Wanton Conduct—Colorado Governmental Immunity Act—Public Employee—Waiver of Sovereign Immunity—Jail Operation.

Hernandez sustained injuries while a pretrial detainee at the Denver Detention Center. She sued six of the jail’s employees, including Deputy Sheriff Dodson, alleging, as relevant to this appeal, willful and wanton conduct. Following an evidentiary hearing pursuant to Trinity Broadcasting of Denver, Inc. v. City of Westminster, 848 P.2d 916 (Colo. 1993), and pursuant to C.R.C.P. 12(b)(1), the district court found that Dodson and another defendant had not engaged in willful and wanton conduct and therefore enjoyed immunity from suit on those allegations.

On appeal, Hernandez alleged that the district court erred in finding Dodson was entitled to immunity. The Colorado Governmental Immunity Act provides that a public employee may not assert immunity in an action for injuries resulting from the negligent operation of a jail, regardless of whether the employee engaged in willful and wanton conduct. Because the allegations of willful and wanton conduct here do not raise an issue of sovereign immunity, the district court erred in dismissing them before trial via Rule 12(b)(1) and a Trinity hearing.

The order was vacated and the case was remanded for further proceedings.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

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