Fall 2014 Colorado cases of note

Johnson v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., Inc. – The Court of Appeals holds that UM/UIIM waiver needs to be signed by every named insured (CA 10/09/14) When plaintiff’s insurance policy expired, Satriano called State Farm to obtain a policy for the car. Plaintiff was not present during the call. Both plaintiff and Satriano were listed as “named insureds” and Satriano signed a form waiving uninsured or underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage. Plaintiff did not sign the form. Satriano told plaintiff he was “fully covered.”  Plaintiff was subsequently seriously injured in an accident. The at-fault driver was underinsured. State Farm refused to pay UM/UIM under the policy on plaintiff’s car. Plaintiff sued State Farm, and the trial court found that Satriano had acted as agent for plaintiff in waiving the UM/UIM coverage and the driver was bound by that waiver. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that State Farm did not show that plaintiff expressly waived UM/UIM coverage on his car’s policy. The Court found it was unambiguous that a “named insured” under the UM/UIM statutes means all persons listed in a policy. Even if the term were ambiguous, the legislative history and policies for UM/UIM coverage support the conclusion that a waiver of UM/UIM coverage is effective only as to each named insured that has expressly waived it. The Court then examined common law agency principles and concluded that one named insured may not act as an agent for another in waiving UM/UIM coverage on the other’s behalf unless the agent acts with express actual authority from the other. The issue of apparent authority was not addressed.

Gasteazoro v. Catholic Health Initiatives Colorado – The Court of Appeals affirms that the trial court may modify committee approved standard jury instructions where appropriate and that nurses sued in a malpractice action are entitled to an exercise-of-judgment instruction (CA 10/09/14).

Simpson v. Cedar Springs Hosp., Inc.— The Supreme Court held that the trial court erred in finding that a hospital must have “authoritative” documentation of approval by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for the quality management privilege [§ 25-3-109] to apply. (SC 10/14/14) 

Leaf v. Beihoffer – The Court of Appeals held that a claimant’s failure to file income taxes is admissible as impeachment as to truthfulness (CA 09/11/14).


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