Court Opinions- Jun 24, 2019

People in the Interest of T.B.

The Colorado Sex Offender Registration Act, requires that juveniles who are twice adjudicated for unlawful sexual behavior must register as sex offenders for life. T.B. is one of those juveniles. He appealed the denial of his petition to deregister, arguing that the statute’s requirement that he register as a sex offender for life for offenses that he committed as a juvenile constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. 

The Court of Appeals has repeatedly rejected similar claims, each time on the basis that sex offender registration is not a punishment. 

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The court, however, concluded that the lifetime registration requirement arising from juvenile adjudications constitutes a punishment and, therefore, remanded the case for further proceedings to determine whether the punishment is unconstitutional.

People v. Hamm

Defendant Charles Hamm appealed the district court’s denial of his request for an evidentiary hearing on his petition for postconviction relief. Hamm contended that his trial counsel was ineffective by not advising him that the penalty reductions enacted through the Uniform Controlled Substances Act of 2013 apply retroactively and, therefore, require a reduction in his sentence. 

He also contended that the district court erred in denying him an evidentiary hearing on his challenge to the voluntariness of his stipulation to a 30-year prison sentence.

The Court of Appeals held that, under section 18-1-410(1)(f)(II), C.R.S. 2018, and Crim. P. 35(c)(1), Hamm’s failure to file a direct appeal precluded him from seeking postconviction review of his sentence based on a “significant change in the law.” 

Further, the court held that the trial court did not err in denying Hamm an evidentiary hearing because the act does not apply retroactively and thus cannot reduce Hamm’s sentence.

Martinez v. CSG Redevelopment

Guadalupe Martinez, a resident of the low-income housing facility Casa Loma Apartments, slipped and fell on a walkway leading to the apartment building. Seeking to recover for his injuries, Martinez sued CSG Redevelopment Partners, Casa Loma’s management company and the building’s owner, under the Premises Liability Act and (alternatively) for negligence, alleging that CSGR had allowed snow and ice to accumulate on the walkway.

CSGR moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that, as an “instrumentality” of a public entity — the Denver Housing Authority — it is immune from tort liability under the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act. 

It also argued that the exception to governmental immunity for a dangerous condition on a walkway “leading to a public building open for public business” doesn’t apply because Casa Loma isn’t such a building. 

Martinez opposed the motion. After a Trinity Broadcasting of Denver, Inc. v. City of Westminster, hearing, the district court granted CSGR’s motion, ruling that CSGR is an instrumentality of the DHA and that the public building exception doesn’t apply. 

The Court of Appeals concluded that, because of both DHA’s extensive control over CSGR and CSGR’s public purpose, CSGR is an instrumentality of a public entity within the meaning of the CGIA, and therefore a public entity itself entitled to governmental immunity. 

The court also concluded that the record supports the district court’s finding that Casa Loma isn’t a public building open for public business, and that Martinez’s alternative contention that immunity doesn’t apply because the walkway is part of a “public facility located in [a] recreation area maintained by a public entity,” is unavailing. The court affirmed the district court’s judgment.

Massihzadeh v. Colorado State Lottery Division

Amir Massihzadeh held one of three lottery tickets containing the combination of numbers matching those drawn in the Nov. 23, 2005, Lotto for a $4.8 million jackpot. After the Lottery Division director certified the results and all three tickets became “winning tickets,” the division distributed one-third of the jackpot to each winning ticket holder.

A decade later, the division learned that the other two tickets were acquired as part of a scheme to defraud lotteries in multiple states.

Massihzadeh filed suit, seeking the other two-thirds of the jackpot, with interest. The division successfully moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim for relief. Massihzadeh appealed the district court’s judgment granting the motion to dismiss. The Court of Appeals agreed with the district court that Massihzadeh’s claims are barred by statute.

Ferguson v. Spalding Rehabilitation

Section 13-21-201(1)(b)(I)(B), C.R.S. 2018, a part of the Wrongful Death Act, says that a wrongful death suit may be brought in the second year after a decedent’s death “by the heir or heirs of the deceased.” But is a person adopted as an adult by the decedent considered the decedent’s “heir” under this provision of the WDA? 

The district court answered this question “no,” and therefore dismissed plaintiff Marty Ferguson’s negligence lawsuit against various medical professionals and providers — a lawsuit that she brought on behalf of her late, adoptive parent, Ann Ferguson.

The Court of Appeals, however, answered this question “yes” and reversed the district court’s judgment.

Baum v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office

Jason Baum appealed the final order of the Industrial Claims Appeal Office affirming the summary judgment of the director of the Division of Workers’ Compensation in favor of self-insured employer, United Airlines.

This workers’ compensation action called on the Court of Appeals to clarify the boundary between where an employer can and cannot take credit for having an approved wage continuation plan under section 8-42-124, C.R.S. 2018. UAL paid Baum full pay under its wage continuation plan after he sustained an admitted work-related injury, but UAL also claimed a credit on its final admission of liability for the comparable temporary total disability benefits it would have otherwise been statutorily required to pay Baum. 

This credit increased Baum’s reported TTD benefits, pushing them over the statutory cap. Baum challenged UAL’s right to take the credit. 

But both the director of the Division of Workers’ Compensation and the Industrial Claim Appeals Office held that UAL acted within its rights in taking the credit. 

The Court of Appeals also concluded that UAL was entitled to take the credit, and affirmed.

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