Claims Against Public Entities – Immunity and Notice Issues
By: Chad Lieberman, Esq.
Colorado has 42 state parks and hundreds of publicly owned and operated open spaces, local parks, preserves, hiking paths, recreational facilities and golf courses. Claims for personal injuries associated with these areas are likely controlled by the Colorado Premises Liability Act. C.R.S. § 13-21-115. However, before a claim against a public entity is brought, additional issues need to be considered.
First, you need to analyze whether the prospective defendant may be immune to the claim. Colorado’s Governmental Immunity Act (“GIA”) provides, generally, that a public entity is immune from liability in all claims for injury which lie in tort. C.R.S. § 24-10-106(1). However, the GIA has express exceptions where sovereign immunity is waived. The more prevalent exceptions utilized include: (1) vehicle collisions involving government-owned vehicles; (2) dangerous conditions in a public building; (3) dangerous conditions caused by the accumulation of ice and snow which physically interferes with public access to a public building; and (4) dangerous conditions of any public facility in any park or recreation area maintained by a public entity. C.R.S. § 24-10-106(1)(a)-(i). Each of these exceptions contains caveats and, therefore, I recommend you read the statute in its entirety.
Second, you need to properly notify the governmental entity. Any person claiming to have suffered injury by a public entity must provide written notice to the public entity within 182 days of the date of discovery of the injury. C.R.S. § 24-10-109(1). If the claim is against the state or a state employee, you must file the notice with the attorney general. C.R.S. § 24-10-109(3). If the claim is against any other public entity, you must filed the notice with the governing body of the public entity or with the attorney representing that public entity. Id. The statute provides that effective filing is completed via registered or certified mail. Id. Be advised that this notice requirement is a jurisdictional prerequisite to any action that may fall under the GIA and failure of compliance will forever bar the claim. C.R.S. § 24-10-109(1).