Red Rocks Rockfall Case Moves Through Appeals Court; Read Both Sides' Arguments
Did the city of Denver's "failure to reasonably maintain" Red Rocks amphitheater cause rocks to fall on concertgoers in 2011? That's the question at the heart of an ongoing lawsuit between the city and four people who were injured in the rockfall. The case is currently moving through the Colorado Court of Appeals, and each side has filed briefs detailing their arguments. Read them below.
The rockfall occurred in September 2011 at a Sound Tribe Sector 9 concert. Several people were injured, and four of them later sued the city of Denver, which owns Red Rocks amphitheater. Their argument? That the city was lax in its efforts to prevent rockfalls. Even though engineers recommended that Red Rocks be inspected and maintained every year, city officials decided to do that every three years instead.
The city asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit. Its attorneys argued that Denver shouldn't be held liable because it's protected under the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act, which shields cities and towns from gratuitous personal-injury lawsuits. But the law doesn't apply in all instances. For example, a city can be found at fault if it knew about a "dangerous condition" at a "public facility" and didn't fix it.
However, Denver's attorneys say Creation Rock, one of two monoliths that flank the seats at Red Rocks and the one from which the rocks fell, is not a "public facility." Furthermore, they argue that Denver was being proactive in its maintenance of the amphitheater and that before this incident, not a single person in recent history had been injured by falling rocks, so there was no reason to think it could happen in 2011.
A Jefferson County district court judge (Red Rocks is located in JeffCo) ruled against the city in 2013. The judge found that since rockfalls had occurred in 1999 and 2007 (no one was hurt in either incident), city officials should have known about the "dangerous condition" at Red Rocks and done more to address it.
The city appealed that ruling to the Colorado Court of Appeals. In June, the city filed its opening brief. The concertgoers' lawyers followed with an answer brief filed in July, and the city recently filed a reply to that answer brief. Many of the arguments are similar to those made before the district court. But will the Court of Appeals have a different take on whether the city should be held liable for the rockfall? Stay tuned.
Continue to read all three briefs.