Colorado Supreme Court Opinions

October 10, 2017

2017 CO 97. No. 16SC184. City of Arvada ex rel. Arvada Police Department v. Denver Health and Hospital Authority.

Prisons—Costs of Incarceration. 


Arvada police arrested a severely injured man and sent him to Denver Health Medical Center. Denver Health and Hospital Authority (Denver Health) sued Arvada for the cost of care, claiming that CRS § 16-3-401, which says that persons in custody “shall be . . . provided . . . medical treatment,” required Arvada to pay the hospital for the detainee’s care. Here, the Supreme Court clarified that (1) whether a statute provides a private right of action is a question of standing, and (2) the same test for a private right of action under Allstate Insurance Co. v. Parfrey, 830 P.2d 905 (Colo. 1992), applies for claims against both governmental and non-governmental defendants. Applying Parfrey to Denver Health’s statutory claim, the Court held that CRS § 16-3-401 does not provide hospitals a private right of action to sue police departments for the cost of providing healthcare to persons in custody. Accordingly, it concluded that the trial court erred by granting summary judgment to Denver Health on the statutory claim. The Court remanded the case for consideration of Denver Health’s unjust enrichment claim based on Arvada’s statutory duty to provide care for persons in custody.


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2017 CO 98. No. 13SC128. Fuentes-Espinoza v. People.

Alien Smuggling—Field Preemption—Conflict Preemption. 

This case required the Supreme Court to determine whether Colorado’s human smuggling statute, CRS § 18-13-128, is preempted by the federal Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 USC §§ 1101–1537 (2017) (INA). The Court concluded that the INA preempts CRS § 18-13-128 under the doctrines of both field and conflict preemption. In reaching this conclusion, the Court agreed with a number of federal circuit courts that have reviewed the same INA provisions at issue here and have determined that those provisions create a comprehensive framework to penalize the transportation, concealment, and inducement of unlawfully present aliens and thus evince a congressional intent to occupy the field criminalizing such conduct. In addition, applying the analyses set forth in those federal decisions, the Court concluded that CRS § 18-13-128, like the state human smuggling statutes at issue in the federal cases, stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of Congress’s purposes and objectives in enacting its comprehensive framework. Accordingly, the Court reversed petitioner’s judgment of conviction under CRS § 18-13-128.

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