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Maldonado v. Pratt

Court of Appeals of Colorado, Second Division

November 17, 2016

Lisa Maldonado and the Estate of Jacob Maldonado, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
Dennis Pratt and Karon Pratt, a/k/a Karen M. Pratt, Defendants-Appellees.

          Pueblo County District Court No. 14CV30856 Honorable Kimberly Karn, Judge

          Earl & Earl, PLLC, Collin J. Earl, Ryan T. Earl, Colorado Springs, Colorado, for Plaintiffs-Appellants

          Nathan, Bremer, Dumm & Myers, P.C., Mark H. Dumm, Kaitlin M. Akers, Denver, Colorado, for Defendants-Appellees

          OPINION

          HARRIS, JUDGE

          ¶ 1 In this appeal, we must determine whether an amended complaint's new claim against a new defendant, asserted after the statute of limitations has run, relates back to the date of the original complaint.

         ¶ 2 Plaintiffs Lisa Maldonado and the Estate of Jacob Maldonado (collectively, the Estate) sued Dennis Pratt II (Pratt Jr.) for wrongful death, in connection with Pratt Jr.'s fatal shooting of Jacob Maldonado (Maldonado). Months later, after the statute of limitations had run on any negligence claims, the Estate sought to amend its complaint to add a new claim under the Premises Liability Act against Pratt Jr.'s mother (Karen) and father Dennis Pratt (Pratt Sr.) (collectively, the Pratts). The Estate contended that it had recently learned that the Pratts, not Pratt Jr., owned the property where the shooting occurred.

         ¶ 3 We conclude, as the district court did, that the Pratts did not have timely notice of the original action. Accordingly, the amended complaint does not relate back to the original complaint and the Estate's claim is time barred.

         ¶ 4 We therefore affirm the district court's entry of judgment in favor of the Pratts.

          I. Background

         ¶ 5 The Pratts and Pratt Jr. own adjacent properties in a rural area near Pueblo, Colorado. Pratt Jr. stored used car parts on his property, in a spot located about a quarter mile from his parents' house.

         ¶ 6 Pratt Jr. began to suspect that someone was stealing the car parts. On the night of October 16, 2012, he drove his truck to the storage area. When he saw beams from three flashlights approaching the area, he got out of his truck and fired his rifle in the direction of the lights, killing Maldonado.

         ¶ 7 A jury convicted Pratt Jr. of negligent homicide and he was sentenced to six years' imprisonment.

         ¶ 8 On September 16, 2014, one month before the end of the limitations period, the Estate filed a wrongful death action against Pratt Jr., alleging a single claim of negligence based on his act of shooting Maldonado. The complaint was served on Pratt Jr. at the Department of Corrections (DOC), where he was serving his sentence.

         ¶ 9 On April 1, 2015, the Estate filed an amended complaint, retaining the wrongful death claim against Pratt Jr. but asserting an additional claim against the Pratts under the Premises Liability Act (PLA), section 13-21-115, C.R.S. 2016. As the Estate later explained, the Pratts' insurance company had conducted an investigation of the Estate's claim against Pratt Jr. in January 2015, and had determined that the property where the shooting occurred was owned by the Pratts, not by Pratt Jr.[1]

         ¶ 10 The Pratts filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings and/or for summary judgment, arguing that the two-year statute of limitations had run and, therefore, the claim against them was time barred.[2] The Estate countered that, under C.R.C.P. 15(c), the amended complaint related back to the original complaint.

         ¶ 11 The district court disagreed, concluding that the Pratts did not have notice of the original lawsuit and, even if they had received notice, they would not have expected that, but for a mistake in pleading, they would have been named as defendants in the wrongful death action. Accordingly, the ...


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