Court Opinions- Feb 10, 2020

People v. Weston Jefferson Thomas

Weston Thomas lived in a trailer on the victim’s property. According to the victim, she went to Thomas’s trailer after receiving complaints that Thomas was being loud and disruptive. When she did so, Thomas grabbed her by the neck with two hands and slammed her into a nearby parked car. During the altercation, Thomas yelled at the victim that she “didn’t belong in this world.” When the police arrived, they arrested Thomas. As they attempted to handcuff him, Thomas resisted their efforts by flailing his arms. As they attempted to put him in the patrol car, he resisted their efforts by going limp. At trial, the evidence centered on Thomas’ and the victim’s conflicting testimony. The jury found Thomas guilty of third-degree assault, negligent bodily injury to an at-risk adult and resisting arrest. 

Thomas appealed the judgment of conviction and sentence entered on jury verdicts finding him guilty of third-degree assault (a class 6 felony), resisting arrest (a class 2 misdemeanor) and negligent bodily injury to an at-risk adult (a class 6 felony). He also appealed his adjudication and sentencing as a habitual criminal.

A division of the Court of Appeals considered whether a defendant resisted arrest when he went limp while being moved to a patrol car; the condition of the area surrounding an arrest can properly be considered to prove that a defendant’s resistance created a substantial risk of causing bodily injury to the arresting officer; causing negligent injury to an at-risk adult is included in third degree assault causing injury to another person; and section 18-1.3-801(2)(b), C.R.S. 2019, eliminates level 4 drug felonies as triggering and predicate felonies under section 18-1.3-801(2)(a).

The division concluded that, by going limp while being moved to the patrol car, the defendant resisted arrest because he was resisting police efforts to maintain physical control over him and to proceed with arrest procedures of booking and bonding. 

A defendant resists arrest when, among other things, he or she uses means other than the direct use or threat of physical force or violence that “create[] a substantial risk of causing bodily injury to the peace officer or another.” The division concluded that this includes increasing the risk that a peace officer or another will be injured by surrounding conditions. The division also concluded that proof that the victim was a person does not always prove that the victim was at least seventy years old. Hence, negligent bodily injury to an at-risk adult is not a lesser included offense of third-degree assault causing injury to another. The division further concluded that section 18-1.3-801(2)(b) eliminates level 4 drug felonies as triggering felonies for habitual criminal sentencing but does not prohibit courts from considering level 4 drug felony convictions as predicate felony convictions. Therefore, the division affirmed the convictions and sentence.

Korean New Life v. Korean Methodist

This dispute between the local church, Korean New Life Methodist Church, and the national denomination, Korean Methodist Church of the Americas and Pastor Jin Hi Cha, arose from the denomination’s attempt to retitle church property from the local church’s to the denomination’s name, contrary to the local church’s articles of incorporation, bylaws and board resolutions.

As a matter of first impression, a division of the Court of Appeals considered whether a local church submitted to the authority of the national denomination and whether the polity approach or neutral principles of law should be used to answer this question. Relying on Bishop & Dioceses of Colorado v. Mote, 716 P.2d 85 (Colo. 1986), the division held that neutral principles of law should be applied to answer the submission question. 

Because the district court properly applied neutral principles to the hearing facts to conclude there was no submission, the division affirmed the judgment. The division further denied the request for attorney fees.

DIA Brewing Co. v. MCE-DIA, LLC

DIA Brewing Co., LLC had several options after the district court dismissed its claims without prejudice, if it wished to continue litigating against the defendants: move for leave to file an amended complaint that remedied the defects in its original pleading; file an amended complaint with the defendants’ written consent; or commence a new case, with a new complaint. But Brewing chose a different strategy that raises novel issues under Colorado law: it filed an amended complaint, purportedly as a matter of course under C.R.C.P. 15(a), despite the dismissal of its claims. 

A division of the Court of Appeals analyzed when an order for dismissal of claims without prejudice is an appealable final judgment that cuts off a plaintiff’s right to amend as a matter of course. The division decided three questions of law. 

First, it held that, under the facts of this case, the orders dismissing Brewing’s claims without prejudice were not final judgments. 

Second, because the dismissal orders were not final judgments, the division held that Brewing retained the right to amend its complaint as a matter of course under C.R.C.P. 15(a). 

Third, the division held that the district court erred by deciding that Brewing’s amended complaint failed under the futility of amendment doctrine. Thus, it reversed the order striking Brewing’s amended complaint and remanded for further proceedings.

Marissa Ruiz v. Rachel L. Chappell

In this premises liability suit, Marissa Ruiz alleged that she sustained injuries after she slipped and fell on ice on a walkway outside a 7-Eleven store. She appealed the district court’s order, which granted summary judgment for defendant, Rachel Chappell, on the basis that the statute of limitations had run on Ruiz’s claim. 

Disagreeing with Lavarato v. Branney, 210 P.3d 485 (Colo. App. 2009), a division of the Court of Appeals adopted instead the rationale of Krupski v. Costa Crociere S.p.A., 560 U.S. 538 (2010), for determining whether an amended complaint relates back to the filing of the original complaint under C.R.C.P. 15(c). The division reversed and remanded the case for the district court to apply that rationale. On remand, the court must determine whether the newly named defendant knew or should have known that, if it were not for a mistake, the action would have been brought against her, and whether she received such notice of the commencement of the action that she will not be prejudiced in maintaining a defense on the merits to the action. If those criteria are met, the court must reinstate the complaint against the newly named defendant.

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