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Colorado Supreme Court Opinions
February 25, 2013

2013 CO 14. No. 10SC853. Mountain States Mutual Casualty Company v. Roinestad.
Insurance—Duty to Indemnify—Pollution Exclusion Clauses.

Respondents were overcome by poisonous hydrogen sulfide gas while cleaning a large grease clog in a sewer near the Hog’s Breath Saloon & Restaurant. The district court concluded that the restaurant caused respondents’ injuries by dumping substantial amounts of cooking grease into the sewer. On summary judgment, the district court found the restaurant liable under theories of negligence and off-premises liability, and entered a damage award in respondents’ favor.

Mountain States Mutual Casualty Company sought a ruling that it had no obligation to indemnify the restaurant and the district court agreed, holding that dumping substantial amounts of cooking grease constituted a discharge of a pollutant under the policy’s pollution exclusion clause. The court of appeals reversed. It held that the terms of the pollution exclusion clause were ambiguous and that its application to cooking grease could lead to absurd results and negate essential coverage.

The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals. The restaurant discharged enough cooking grease into the sewer system to create a five- to eight-foot clog that led to a dangerous buildup of toxic gas—conduct that violated a city ordinance prohibiting the discharge of a pollutant in an amount that creates an obstruction to the sewer flow. The Court agreed with the district court that, under the circumstances of this case, the discharge of cooking grease amounted to a discharge of a pollutant. Accordingly, the Court held that the pollution exclusion clause barred coverage in this case.

2013 CO 15. No. 12SA123. People v. Theander.
Custodial Interrogation—Involuntary Statement—Hospital Bed Interrogation—Fifth Amendment.

The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s order suppressing the statements defendant made to police while being interrogated at the hospital following her suicide attempt. The Court held that the hospital bed interrogation was not custodial because (1) the police officers did not restrain defendant; (2) they conducted the interview in a polite and non-confrontational manner; (3) they repeatedly informed defendant that she was not in custody and was welcome to speak with a lawyer; and (4) they terminated the interview minutes after defendant told them she wanted to end it. The Court further held that defendant’s statements were made voluntarily because there was no showing that coercive police conduct played a significant role in inducing defendant’s statements.

2013 CO 16. No. 11SC53. A.M., by and through his Guardian ad Litem v. A.C.; People in the Interest of A.M. v. N.M.
Dependency and Neglect—Termination of Parental Rights—Rights of Intervenors—Due Process Rights of Parents—Foster Parents.

The Supreme Court considered whether foster parents who intervene in a dependency and neglect action pursuant to CRS § 19-3-507(5)(a) possess only a limited right to participate in a hearing on a motion to terminate parental rights. The Court construed § 19-3-507(5)(a) and concluded that foster parents who have properly intervened are afforded the same degree of participation as all other parties at a termination hearing. In addition, the Court concluded that parents’ due process rights were not impacted by the full participation of foster parents in the termination hearing. Therefore, the Court held that foster parents who meet the required statutory criteria to intervene may participate fully in the termination hearing without limitation.

Colorado Supreme Court Opinions