Court Opinions for May 30, 2017

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

England v. Amerigas Propane

Petitioner, Victor England, a truck driver for Amerigas Propane, filed a worker’s compensation claim in 2012 after suffering from a shoulder injury while on the job.

His claim was governed by the Colorado Workers’ Compensation Act and signed by both parties in a form agreement by the director to settle all claims. After experiencing continual pain, England sought further medical treatment, and in 2013, discovered an undiagnosed stress fracture in his scapula. He filed a motion to reopen the settlement. An administrative law judge agreed and the Industrial Claim Appeals Office affirmed but was later reversed by the Court of Appeals.

In the case before the Supreme Court, the justices considered whether a provision of the mandatory form settlement document established by the director of the Division of Work-ers’ Compensation waives an injured employee’s statutory right under section 8-43-204(1) of the Colorado Revised Statutes to reopen a settlement based on a mutual mistake of material fact.

The Supreme Court concluded that it does not because provisions of the form document must yield to statutory rights. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

People v. Opana

The prosecution petitioned for review of the Court of Appeals’ judgment reversing Kalani Opana’s conviction for second-degree murder in the shooting death of one of his housemates. The district court instructed the jury as to the use of deadly physical force in defense of one’s person.

In consideration of the statutory definition of the term “deadly physical force,” which limits the applicability of the term to “force, the intended, natural, and probable consequence of which is to produce death,” the Court of Appeals determined that there was adequate evidence produced at trial for the jury to have found that Opana used physical force not rising to the level of “deadly” physical force, and it concluded that in this case, the failure of the trial court to instruct the jury on the use of physical force generally amounted to plain error.

The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remanded the case for consideration of the defendant’s remaining assignments of error because the Court of Appeals misconstrued the definition of “deadly physical force,” and when that statutory term is properly con-strued, the evidence at trial did not support an instruction on self-defense predicated on the use of other-than-“deadly” physical force.

In the Matter of the Title, Ballot Title and Submission Clause for 2017– 2018 #4

Registered voters Scott Smith and D. Michael Kopp petitioned to appeal the actions of the Ballot Title Setting Board concerning the setting of the title and ballot title and submission clause for Proposed Initiative 2017-2018 #4.

The Supreme Court reviewed Initiative #4, containing a single subject, and considered whether the Supreme Court had authority to review an abstract prepared and submitted to the Title Board as required by section 1-40-105.5 of the Colorado Re-vised Statutes (2016).

The Supreme Court held that Initiative #4 contains a single subject: limiting housing growth in Colorado. The Supreme Court also considered, for the first time, its authority to review an abstract prepared pursuant to section 1-40-105.5, and the proper standard to apply when reviewing such an abstract.

The Supreme Court held that section 1-40-107, grants it reviewing authority, and the proper standard of review is the same standard the Supreme Court applies to the single-subject and clear-title requirements — that is, the Supreme Court drew all legitimate presumptions in favor of the propriety of the Title Board’s decision and only overturned the Title Board’s decision in a clear case. Under that standard, the Supreme Court upheld the Title Board’s approval of the abstract at issue in this case.

Therefore, the Supreme Court affirmed the actions of the Title Board.


People v. George

A jury convicted Matthew Wayne George of multiple offenses arising from his sexual contact with two young girls whom he met on the internet. In appealing the conviction, George asserted two errors: data obtained by forensically examining a GPS device police found in his car after conducting a warrantless search based on third-party consent should have been suppressed, despite later issuance of a warrant to search the device; and the cases involving the two victims, which had been separately charged, were improperly joined for trial.

The Attorney General conceded that George preserved both issues for appeal. The Court of Appeals concluded that the GPS evidence was admissible because the warrant represented an independent source and further concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in joining the cases.

People v. Henley

The defendant, David Allan Henley, appealed the district court’s judgment of conviction entered on jury verdicts finding him guilty of 22 counts of sexual exploitation of a child (possession of materials) and one count of sexual exploitation of a child (possession of more than twenty items). He also appealed the district court’s related habitual criminal adjudications.

The Court of Appeals vacated the defendant’s convictions and adjudications because there was insufficient evidence that the photographs on which the charges were based constitute “erotic nudity” so as to qualify as “sexually exploitative material” under the charging statute, section 18-6-403 of the Colorado Revised Statutes. They held that images which, when viewed objectively, aren’t “erotic nudity” don’t become so merely because a particular person — one not involved in the creation or distribution of the images — looks at them for the purpose of personal sexual gratification.

People v. Perez-Rodriguez

The defendant, Rogelia Perez-Rodriguez, appealed the judgment of conviction and sentence entered on jury verdicts finding him guilty on two counts each of aggravated incest, sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust as a pattern of conduct, and sexual assault with the actor 10 years older than the victim. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Erika Galindo v. Valley View Association

Plaintiffs Erika and Jose Galindo asserted causes of action against Valley View Association, doing business as Valley View Hospital, for negligence after the death of their daughter, Ariana, in utero. They alleged that medical personnel at the hospital acted negligently in diag-nosing and treating Erika Galindo when she went to the hospital show-ing signs of a ruptured placenta. They further asserted that as a result of that negligence, Ariana died and they were injured.

The district court dismissed the claims the plaintiffs asserted based on Ariana’s death and certified its order as final under Colorado Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b).

The Court of Appeals concluded that the district court erred in ruling that there was no just reason to delay an appeal of its order and dis-missed the appeal.

Richard Hutchison v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office

In this workers’ compensation action, claimant Richard Hutchison, challenged an order apportioning his benefits award. An administrative law judge determined that only one-third of his injury was work-related. The Industrial Claim Appeals Office affirmed the ALJ’s decision. The Court of Appeals concluded that Hutchison’s benefits award was properly apportioned and therefore affirmed the panel’s decision.