Published Court Opinions

Editor’s note: Summaries are pulled directly from court opinions and edited for clarity and space.

Colorado Court of Appeals
Court Opinions for March 23

People v. Leverton
A jury convicted defendant, Randall Eric Leverton, of theft by receiving and possession of drug paraphernalia. He appealed, contending the trial court erred by joining the two offenses in a single trial and not allowing him to plead guilty to the paraphernalia charge before joining them and admitting into evidence two witnesses’ prior inconsistent statements. He also contended that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions. Leverton and three other passengers were arrested after a victim’s car was stolen. Leverton was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, a petty offense under section 18-18-428(2), of the Colorado Revised Statutes after a pipe was discovered in the back of the police car. Leverton argued that the trial court erred when it rejected his guilty plea on the paraphernalia charge and then permitted the prosecution to add that charge to the complaint. He claimed that the trial court’s actions violated Colorado’s mandatory joinder statute as well as double jeopardy protections. The court rejected those arguments and the judgment was affirmed.

Gallegos v. LeHouillier
In this case, the plaintiff, Della Gallegos, sued defendants Patric LeHouillier, an attorney, and his law firm, LeHouillier & Associates for legal malpractice. The jury found that LeHouillier had negligently breached his duty of professional care when handling an underlying case for Gallegos. The trial court decided that Gallegos bore the burden of proving that any judgment in the underlying case — a medical malpractice case — was collectible. But the court’s review of the record convinced them that there was no evidence to show that the judgment was collectible. So, the court reversed the judgment. To read more about this opinion, turn to page 6.

Tancrede v. Freund
In this appeal, the court concluded the Premises Liability Act does provide the sole legal remedy for a plaintiff involved in an automobile collision with a defendant landowner on the landowner’s private property. The plaintiff, Faith Leah Tancrede, claimed that she was injured in the collision, was a trespasser on the land and did not allege a willful or deliberate injury. A police accident report determined that Freund was at fault and drove carelessly when rounding a corner of the Denver East Machinery Company building without looking or slowing down. The PLA limits the liability of landowners for injuries occurring on their property. Under the statute, “in any civil action brought against a landowner by a person who alleges injury occurring while on the real property of another and by reason of . . . activities conducted . . . on such property, the landowner shall be liable only as provided in” section 13-21-115(3). The court therefore affirmed the summary judgment entered in favor of the landowners of DEMC and Duane Freund, owner and president of DEMC.

Martinez et al v. Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission
This appeal concerned the scope of authority and obligation delegated to the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission by the General Assembly in the Oil and Gas Conservation Act to regulate oil and gas production in the interests of public health and safety. The district court affirmed the commission’s order after concluding that the commission lacked authority to consider a proposed rule that would require it to readjust the act’s balance between the development of oil and gas resources and protection of public health, safety and welfare. On Nov.15, 2013, the petitioners filed a petition for rulemaking pursuant to the Commission’s Rule 529(b) requesting that the commission refrain from issuing any permits for the drilling of a well for oil and gas unless the best available science demonstrates that drilling can occur in a manner that does not cumulatively impair Colorado’s atmosphere, water, wildlife, and land resources and does not adversely impact human health and does not contribute to climate change. On July 3, 2014, the petitioners appealed the commission’s decision to the district court pursuant to the State Administrative Procedure Act. They contended that the district court and the commission erred in interpreting the act. The court agreed with the petitioners that this conclusion was erroneous, they reversed the judgment of the district court and the decision of the commission and remanded to the district court to return the case to the commission for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

People in the Interest of L.L., a Child
In this dependency and neglect case, mother, A.T., told the juvenile court at a shelter hearing that she had possible Apache Native American ancestry. But, for reasons not disclosed in the record, the parties and the juvenile court did not follow certain procedures mandated by the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. Following a jury verdict, the court adjudicated the child dependent and neglected. The court held a dispositional hearing. On appeal, the mother contended that the court should reverse the adjudicatory judgment for two reasons: the Denver Department of Human Services did not comply with the ICWA notice requirements; and the juvenile court violated ICWA by not requiring the jury to base its findings on a heightened clear and convincing evidentiary standard. The court agreed with the mother that the department did not comply with the ICWA but disagreed that ICWA imposes a heightened evidentiary standard. The court reversed the judgment and remanded the case.  •