Government Liability in Colorado

Justice for the Seriously InjuredSUMMARY OF THE LAW OF GOVERNMENTAL IMMUNITY AND LIABILITY IN COLORADO.

In Colorado, as in most states, the common law rule of ‘sovereign immunity’ (that is, the King (ie.,government) can do no harm) is overhauled by statute BUT still applies in all but waiver situations.  In other words, there must be a waiver of immunity, as defined in C.R.S. § 24-10-106 (CGIA), or  immunity remains.

§ 24-10-106. [Effective Until 5/20/2016] Immunity and partial waiver:

(1) … Sovereign immunity is waived by a public entity in an action for injuries resulting from:
(a) The operation of a motor vehicle, owned or leased by such public entity, by a public employee while in the course of employment, except emergency vehicles operating within the provisions of section 42-4-108(2) and (3), C.R.S.;
(b) The operation of any public hospital, correctional facility, as defined in section 17-1-102, C.R.S., or jail by such public entity;
(c) A dangerous condition of any public building;
(d)
(I) A dangerous condition of a public highway, road, or street which physically interferes with the movement of traffic on the paved portion, if paved, or on the portion customarily used for travel by motor vehicles, if unpaved, of any public highway, road, street, or sidewalk within the corporate limits of any municipality, or of any highway which is a part of the federal interstate highway system or the federal primary highway system, or of any highway which is a part of the federal secondary highway system, or of any highway which is a part of the state highway system on that portion of such highway, road, street, or sidewalk which was designed and intended for public travel or parking thereon. As used in this section, the phrase “physically interferes with the movement of traffic” shall not include traffic signs, signals, or markings, or the lack thereof. Nothing in this subparagraph (I) shall preclude a particular dangerous accumulation of snow, ice, sand, or gravel from being found to constitute a dangerous condition in the surface of a public roadway when the entity fails to use existing means available to it for removal or mitigation of such accumulation and when the public entity had actual notice through the proper public official responsible for the roadway and had a reasonable time to act.
(II) A dangerous condition caused by the failure to realign a stop sign or yield sign which was turned, without authorization of the public entity, in a manner which reassigned the right-of-way upon intersecting public highways, roads, or streets, or the failure to repair a traffic control signal on which conflicting directions are displayed;
(III) A dangerous condition caused by an accumulation of snow and ice which physically interferes with public access on walks leading to a public building open for public business when a public entity fails to use existing means available to it for removal or mitigation of such accumulation and when the public entity had actual notice of such condition and a reasonable time to act.
(e) A dangerous condition of any public hospital, jail, public facility located in any park or recreation area maintained by a public entity, or public water, gas, sanitation, electrical, power, or swimming facility. Nothing in this paragraph (e) or in paragraph (d) of this subsection (1) shall be construed to prevent a public entity from asserting sovereign immunity for an injury caused by the natural condition of any unimproved property, whether or not such property is located in a park or recreation area or on a highway, road, or street right-of-way.
(f) The operation and maintenance of any public water facility, gas facility, sanitation facility, electrical facility, power facility, or swimming facility by such public entity;
(g) The operation and maintenance of a qualified state capital asset that is the subject of a leveraged leasing agreement pursuant to the provisions of part 10 of article 82 of this title;
(h) Failure to perform an education employment required background check as described in section 13-80-103.9, C.R.S.

Notice Required to Governmental Agency

In all claims against governmental agencies (including claims against its employees), statutory notice must be served by certified mail on the appropriate agent within approx. 6 months (specifically, one hundred eighty-two days) of the date of injury. The notice must substantially comply with the provisions of C.R.S. § 24-10-109.  The filing of notice does not abrogate the statute of limitations, which still must be complied with despite notice (although some tolling rules apply).

LIMITATIONS ON DAMAGES

The waiver of liability is limited in the amount of damages that can be claimed, to the sum of three hundred fifty thousand dollars; except, for an injury to two or more persons in any single occurrence, the sum of nine hundred ninety thousand dollars.

COMMON LAW IMMUNITIES STILL APPLY

Although the doctrine of sovereign immunity is abolished in those enumerated areas above, certain common law immunities still are retained.  For example, the qualified immunity of prosecutors and judges is retained.

This is an area of law that is technical and fraught with land mines.  In some circumstances, if a case is dismissed for failure to give notice or state a claim under the statute, attorney’s fees and costs can be awarded against the party bringing the case.  It is important to entrust serious injury cases to an experienced GOVERNMENT IMMUNITY lawyer.  Lawyer James Avery has over thirty years experience handling government immunity cases, including several years working as a defense lawyer for University Physicians and Hospitals, and Colorado Counties Casualty and Property Pool (CAPP).   To get a FREE CASE EVALUATION, complete the form on this page or call AVERY LAW FIRM today.

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