Court Opinions- Nov 23, 2020

Cisneros v. Elder

In this action, Saul Cisneros sought money damages for having been wrongfully held in the El Paso County jail after his daughter posted his bond. 

State and local governmental entities in Colorado, including jails and the people who run them, are generally immune from being sued. Cisneros chose to sue under the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act, which waives sovereign immunity under specified circumstances. If there is not a statute that gives a right to sue a governmental entity or employee, a plaintiff’s suit against the entity or employee must be dismissed.

In this case, Cisneros argued that a statute that allows a suit to be brought against El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder for negligence also allowed Elder to be sued for intentional conduct — specifically, the decision to keep Cisneros imprisoned even though his daughter had posted bond to secure his conditional release. The district court read the pertinent provision of the CGIA to permit the suit to go forward against Elder.

The Colorado Court of Appeals reversed this decision because “negligence” should be literally interpreted and does not mean intentional conduct. The court found that the General Assembly never meant for this statute to apply to intentional conduct, and because it is bound by the General Assembly’s legislative intent in enacting the pertinent provision, it reversed.

Walker v. Ford Motor Co.

In a case stemming from a 2009 vehicle accident in which it was discovered that a defective driver’s seat may have caused additional injury in a collision, Ford Motor Company appealed the district court’s award of prejudgment interest to Forrest Walker. The award came   after  entry of an earlier judgment that had been reversed on appeal. 

A division of the Colorado Court of Appeals considered how C.R.S. section 13-21-101 , which governsi interest on personal injury money judgments, applies to a judgment obtained after the previous judgment in the same case had been overturned on appeal. The division concluded that the plaintiff is entitled to the prejudgment interest rate prescribed by  section 13-21-101(1) on the amount of the new judgment from the date the first judgment was entered to the date the second judgment is entered. 

The division held that, notwithstanding Ford’s successful prior appeal, the district court correctly awarded prejudgment interest to Walker from the date that his claim accrued through the date that it finally entered judgment in Walker’s favor and affirmed.

Brooktree Village Homeowners Association, Inc. v. Brooktree Village, LLC

The Brooktree Village Townhomes’ original owner, Combest Construction, sought protection under the Bankruptcy Code after it had completed and sold several townhomes to residential purchasers but before it could complete construction at the development. After Combest’s lender took possession of the development, the lender conveyed the common areas to Brooktree Village Homeowners Association, Inc., the development’s homeowner’s association that Combest had formed.

A second developer, Brooktree Village, LLC, later acquired  undeveloped portions of the development other than the common areas. A construction company affiliated with the developer, Rivers Development, Inc., completed construction of the development. The developer sold all the newly constructed townhomes to individual homeowners. 

After discovering construction defects throughout the development, the association sued the developer and builder, claiming that portions of the builder’s construction work were defective. 

The association sought damages for the cost of repairing the construction defects in the common areas and the cost of repairing the damage in one of the townhomes caused by construction defects in the common areas. 

The association asserted the claims on behalf of itself and its member homeowners, pursuant to C.R.S. section 38-33.3-302(1)(d), under theories of breach of implied warranty, negligence and negligence per se. 

At the conclusion of an eight-day trial, a jury found the developer and builder liable for breach of implied warranty and negligence and awarded the association $1.8 million in damages. 

The jury also found that the association was responsible for 10% of the damages under a comparative negligence theory, but the jury verdict form did not break down the association’s damages between its breach of implied warranty and negligence claims. The trial court awarded the entire $1.8 million to the association on the breach of implied warranty claim, reasoning that comparative negligence does not apply to breach of implied warranty claims.

On appeal, the developer and builder argued the trial court erred in entering the judgment against them. Among other arguments, they raised an issue of first impression in Colorado — whether the association had the right to assert implied warranty claims against them even though the association had not acquired the common areas from the developer, the developer never owned the common areas and a majority of the association’s members had not purchased their townhomes directly from the developer. 

A division of the Colorado Court of Appeals held the association had standing to assert the implied warranty claims. 

Although it also held the trial court erred in admitting evidence regarding damage in one of the townhomes, the division concluded the error was harmless and affirmed.  

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