United States District Court, D. Colorado
RAYMOND P. MOORE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for
Summary Judgment (ECF No. 14) and Defendant's
Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 19). For the
reasons given below, Plaintiff's motion is granted, and
Defendant's motion is denied.
diversity insurance case presents an issue of first
impression under Colorado law. The material facts are not
disputed. Plaintiff issued a commercial auto insurance policy
to Defendant's employer. (ECF No. 23-1 at ¶ 10.)
Defendant was seriously injured in an auto accident caused
solely by a co-employee's negligence while both were
acting in the course and scope of their employment.
(Id. at ¶¶ 4, 7.) Defendant's employer
was in compliance with the Workers' Compensation Act of
Colorado (“WCA”), and Defendant received
workers' compensation benefits for his injuries.
(Id. at ¶ 9.)
parties agree that the WCA immunizes Defendant's employer
and the co-employee from suit by Defendant for his injuries
related to the accident. See Colo. Rev. Stat.
§§ 8-41-102, -104; see also Kandt v.
Evans, 645 P.2d 1300, 1304-05 (Colo. 1982).
Nevertheless, Defendant claims he is entitled to
uninsured/underinsured motorist (“UM/UIM”)
coverage under Plaintiff's policy. (ECF Nos. 1 at ¶
10; 7 at ¶ 10.) Plaintiff filed this declaratory
judgment action, seeking a ruling that it is not obligated to
pay Defendant's claim.
argues that Defendant's claim must fail because he is not
legally entitled to recover damages under the policy.
Defendant argues that he is legally entitled to recover under
the policy because he would prevail on a negligence claim for
personal injury damages against the co-employee were it not
for the WCA. Defendant's response to Plaintiff's
motion for summary judgment is nearly identical to his
cross-motion for summary judgment, and the same issue
underlies both motions pending before the Court: whether
Defendant's claim is barred as a matter of law.
parties agree that the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C.
§ 2201(a), provides the proper legal mechanism to
resolve this matter, and the Court concurs. See
Mid-Continent Cas. Co. v. Vill. at Deer Creek Homeowners
Assoc., Inc., 685 F.3d 977, 980 (10th Cir. 2012)
(“[C]ourts [have] the power, but not the duty, to hear
claims for declaratory judgment.”). Moreover, summary
judgment is appropriate here because there is no genuine
dispute of material fact and the resolution of this dispute
turns on a question of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P.
56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322
(1986); Gutteridge v. Oklahoma, 878 F.3d 1233, 1238
(10th Cir. 2018).
parties further agree that Colorado law governs the dispute.
The Court determines issues of state law as it believes the
highest state court would decide them. See Clark v. State
Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 391 F.3d 1234, 1240 (10th Cir.
2003). Decisions of the Colorado Court of Appeals, while not
binding on this Court, are indicative of how the state
supreme court would decide an issue. See Id. at
case requires the Court to examine the interplay between the
WCA and Colorado's UM/UIM statute, Colo Rev. Stat. §
10-4-609. Although there is no state supreme court authority
directly on point, a division of the Colorado Court of
Appeals recently analyzed the interplay between these areas
of law in American Family Mutual Insurance Co. v.
Ashour, 2017 COA 67, 410 P.3d 753, cert.
denied, 2018 WL 495647. The Ashour
division's analysis of relevant state precedent and law
from other jurisdictions provides useful guidance in
resolving this matter.
the WCA provides “the exclusive remedy to a
covered employee” who is injured on the job.
Id. at ¶ 17. Nevertheless, in Ashour,
the division ruled that an injured employee who received
workers' compensation benefits could still pursue a claim
for UIM coverage under his personal auto insurance policy.
Id. at ¶ 1. Interpreting the same language at
issue in this case, the division found that Ashour was still
“legally entitled to recover” under his personal
policy because the public policies behind the WCA and the UIM
statute were not in conflict. Id. at ¶ 71.
reaching this conclusion, the division discussed Borjas
v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance, Co., 33 P.3d
1265, 1269 (Colo.App. 2001), where another division of the
court concluded that an insured could still bring a UM claim
against her own insurer even though the tortfeasor was
entitled to immunity under the Colorado Governmental Immunity
Act (“CGIA”). The Borjas division found
that persons and entities entitled to immunity under the CGIA
would be unaffected by allowing the insured to bring such a
claim, and thus the public policies of the UM/UIM statute and
the CGIA could be served simultaneously. Id.
on similar reasoning, the Ashour division determined
that allowing Ashour to bring his claim would not hinder the
public policy of the WCA, which is to provide a speedy and
reliable source of compensation for injured workers.
Ashour, ¶ 66. Allowing Ashour “to claim
benefits from his own insurance carrier would not in any way
affect the immunity provided to his employer and co-employee
by the [WCA]” because “Ashour did not seek to
recover additional damages from his immune employer or
co-employee; instead, he sought only to enforce the terms
of his insurance policy and recover benefits from his own
insurer.” Id. at ...