News and Views

Kaye and Bush, LLC Successfully Represents Widow in Legal Hurdle in Wrongful Death Action

by: Mari Bush on

Kaye and Bush, LLC law partner, Bruce Kaye, is part of a successful wrongful death litigation team that prevailed on a complex issue involving governmental immunity. Bruce Kaye and the Kaye and Bush firm are co-counsel in Collins v. The State of Colorado and the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Background of Wrongful Death Claim

Kaye and Bush, LLC and Gregory Giometti and Associates represent Dana Collins in this wrongful death claim. Mrs. Collins’ husband, John, was killed when he was driving home in the westbound lane of Highway 24 on August 9, 2013. This stretch of state highway had been designed and built decades earlier, with a culvert designed to handle a 100-year flood. The year before Mr. Collins’ wrongful death, however, the topography of this stretch of highway had been dramatically ravaged by the Waldo Canyon Fire. The Waldo Canyon Fire ran parallel to westbound Highway 24. The landscape trees and shrubs were burned, resulting in increased amounts of water and debris funneled into this culvert.

Mr. Collins and other drivers were caught in the rainstorm on August 9, 2013. The existing culvert became clogged with water and debris, causing water and debris to pour onto the highway. Mr. Collins’ partially buried body was found near Mile Marker 297 on Highway 24.

Governmental Immunity Issue

Mrs. Collins brought claims against the State of Colorado (“Colorado”) and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). These state entities moved to dismiss the lawsuit because of a doctrine of “sovereign immunity.” This doctrine stems from old English common law (“the King—sovereign—is immune from suit) and continues to flourish in England and throughout the United States. Sovereign immunity prohibits legal actions against the government except in very specific, designated situations. Where legal action against the government is permitted, it is described as a “waiver of sovereign—or governmental-- - immunity”.

Kaye and Bush, LLC has extensive experience in litigation involving governmental immunity issues, as well as catastrophic automobile or truck accidents.

Court Hearing about Mrs. Collins’ Wrongful Death Claim and Governmental Immunity.

Bruce Kaye and co-counsel participated in a lengthy hearing before the trial court judge. The issue was whether or not Mrs. Collins’ claims could proceed-- - was there reason to think that Colorado and CDOT “waived” their sovereign immunity under the circumstances presented? Bruce Kaye and co-counsel successfully laid out the reasons why Mrs. Collins deserved her day in court. Specifically, the trial court judge found that these public entities could be sued because after the Waldo fire, CDOT failed to install a new culvert that could have maintained the original efficiency of the highway.

Because of this ruling, Mrs. Collins, the client of Kaye and Bush, LLC, would have been permitted to proceed with her case, letting a jury determine what is appropriate. The State/CDOT, unfortunately, have decided to appeal the trial court’s ruling. Bruce Kaye is optimistic that Mrs. Collins’ position will prevail on appeal. The State’s decision to appeal Mrs. Collins’ favorable ruling will, however, delay her ability to go to trial.

Kaye and Bush, LLC often works with other attorneys or law firms, in Colorado and in other states, where such collaborations make sense for their clients. Kaye and Bush, LLC has extensive experience representing individuals in catastrophic injury or wrongful death civil suits.

If you are interested in learning more about this, please contact us at 303.477.8787 or email us at info@kayebushlaw.com.