Coniaris v. Vail Associates, Inc.

Decision Date23 October 1978
Docket NumberNos. 28129 and C-1554,E,No. 28129,28129,s. 28129 and C-1554
Citation586 P.2d 224,196 Colo. 392
Parties-50.5-101, C.R.S. 1973, In Civil Actionntitled. John A. CONIARIS v. VAIL ASSOCIATES, INC., a Colorado Corporation. John A. CONIARIS v. BELL MASCHINENFABRIK, A. G., a Swiss Corporation, and St. Egydyer Stahl& Drathwerke, an Austrian Corporation. Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc
CourtColorado Supreme Court

Weller, Friedrich, Hickisch & Hazlitt, Geoffrey S. Race, Denver, Holme, Roberts & Owen, Charles J. Kall, Denver, for Vail Associates, Inc.

Margaret Bates Ellison, Theodore S. Halaby, Denver, for Bell Maschinenfabrik, A. G.

Tilly & Graves, Charles Q. Socha, Denver, for St. Egydyer Stahl & Drathwerke.

ERICKSON, Justice.

A question of law was certified to us by Chief Judge Fred M. Winner of the United States District Court for the District of Colorado. C.A.R. 21.1. We elected to answer the question which was submitted to us in the following form:

"Does the Uniform Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act (Colo.Sess.Laws 1977, ch. 195, sec. 1, 13-50.5-101, Et seq. at 808) apply to a satisfaction of a judgment or a settlement made or entered into on and after July 1, 1977, when the settled case arose as a result of an injury-causing act or omission which occurred before June 30, 1977, (the effective date of the Act)?"

The question is answered in the affirmative.

The cases in the federal court which caused the question to be certified to us arose as a result of a March 26, 1976, gondola crash at Lionshead, Vail, Colorado. Four people were killed and eight injured in the crash. The owner and operator of the gondola was Vail Associates, Inc. Bell Maschinenfabrik, A.G., a Swiss corporation, designed, manufactured, and sold the gondola system to Vail Associates. St. Egydyer Stahl and Drathwerke, an Austrian corporation, manufactured and sold the track cable.

Eleven lawsuits were filed to recover damages from Vail Associates, Inc., Bell Maschinenfabrik, A.G., and St. Egydyer, Stahl and Drathwerke. Eight were filed in the United States Court for the District of Colorado.

Vail Associates, Inc. settled certain of the claims and is seeking contribution from Bell Maschinenfabrik, A.G. and St. Egydyer Stahl and Drathwerke. The right of Vail Associates to obtain contribution depends upon our interpretation of the Uniform Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act (hereinafter "Act").

The Act was enacted on June 2, 1977, Colo.Sess.Laws 1977, ch. 195, sec. 1, 13-50.5-101, Et seq. The Act changed the law of Colorado relating to contribution among joint tortfeasors. Prior to the Act, one of several joint tortfeasors could not obtain contribution from a co-tortfeasor after he obtained a satisfaction of judgment and bore the responsibility for the damage suffered by the plaintiff. Hamm v. Thompson, 143 Colo. 298, 353 P.2d 73 (1960). 1

The key issue in this case centers on Section 2, which provides:

"Effective date applicability. This act shall take effect July 1, 1977, and shall apply to Events occurring on and after that date." (Emphasis added.)

In this case, the injuries, deaths, and damages which came about as a result of the gondola crash occurred prior to the effective date, but the settlement was made after the effective date. The question presented is whether the "events" which cause the statute to be applicable are those surrounding the underlying tort, or the judgment, settlement, or release which may serve as a predicate for a claim of contribution.

Authority exists which would justify a conclusion that Vail Associates cannot seek contribution from those charged as joint tortfeasors because the damage which occurred was caused by the gondola crash on March 26, 1976, which was before the effective date of the Act. The word "event," as set forth in Section 2, would thus be tied to the tortious act and not the settlement. See, e. g., Distefano v. Lamborn, 46 Del. 195, 81 A.2d 675 (1951); Klaas v. Continental Southern Lines, 225 Miss. 94, 82 So.2d 705 (1955); Coos-Curry Electric Cooperative, Inc. v. Curry County, 26 Or.App. 645, 554 P.2d 601 (1976); Brunyer v. Salt Lake County, Utah, 551 P.2d 521 (1976); But see Bushnell v. Sillitoe, Utah, 550 P.2d 1284, 1285 n. 2 (1976).

We are persuaded, however, that the cases from the jurisdictions comprising the minority are the better reasoned. Layne v....

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23 cases
  • Sziber v. Stout
    • United States
    • Michigan Supreme Court
    • October 31, 1984
    ...of the basis of such underlying cause of action irrelevant whether it be common law or statute"); Coniaris v. Vail Associates, Inc., 196 Colo. 392, 395, 586 P.2d 224 (1978) ("A claim for contribution is an action separate and distinct from the underlying tort. The rights and obligations of ......
  • Brochner v. Western Ins. Co.
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court
    • September 2, 1986
    ...discharges the tortfeasor to whom it is given from all liability for contribution to any other tortfeasor. In Coniaris v. Vail Associates, Inc., 196 Colo. 392, 586 P.2d 224 (1978), we held that the Act applied to settlements entered into on and after July 1, 1977. Because both Brochner and ......
  • Svetz for Svetz v. Land Tool Co.
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Superior Court
    • July 24, 1986
    ...the plaintiff,] but the enforcement of an equitable duty to share liability for the wrong done." Accord: Coniaris v. Vail Associates, Inc., 196 Colo. 392, 586 P.2d 224 (1978) (claim for contribution is separate and distinct from underlying tort; the rights and obligations of the defendants ......
  • Rhode Island Depositors Economic Protection Corp. v. Brown
    • United States
    • Rhode Island Supreme Court
    • May 19, 1995
    ...more than his or her fair share of the liability, and not when the underlying tort occurs. See, e.g., Coniaris v. Vail Associates, Inc., 196 Colo. 392, 395, 586 P.2d 224, 225 (1978) ("no cause of action [for contribution] accrues to a joint tortfeasor until there has been a judgment against......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
4 books & journal articles
  • Tcl - Cercla Contribution Actions After Cooper v. Aviall - September 2005 - Natural Resource and Environmental Notes
    • United States
    • Colorado Bar Association Colorado Lawyer No. 34-9, September 2005
    • Invalid date
    ...02-cv-0428, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5286, *33 (S.D.Ill., March 8, 2005). 79. CRS §§ 13-50.5-101 et seq. 80. Coniaris v. Vail Assocs., Inc., 586 P.2d 224, 225 (Colo. 1978). (c) 2005 The Colorado Lawyer and Colorado Bar Association. All Rights Reserved. Material from The Colorado Lawyer provide......
  • The Apportionment of Tort Responsibility
    • United States
    • Colorado Bar Association Colorado Lawyer No. 15-5, May 1986
    • Invalid date
    ...4 and § 886 A (4) (1979). See generally, Public Service Co. v. District Court, 638 P.2d 772 (Colo. 1981); Coniaris v. Vail Assoc., Inc., 586 P.2d 224 (Colo. 1978); Ringsby. supra, note 28; Leflar, supra, note 27 and Hodges, supra, note 27. 34. Schwartz, supra, note 6 at § 16.4. 35. See, Bro......
  • Chapter 8 - § 8.3 • EXPANDING THEORIES OF LIABILITY
    • United States
    • Colorado Bar Association Practitioner's Guide to Colorado Construction Law (CBA) Chapter 8 Architect/Engineer Liability
    • Invalid date
    ...§ 13-50.5-102.[252] Watters v. Pelican Int'l, Inc., 706 F. Supp. 1452, 1455-56 (D. Colo. 1989).[253] Coniaris v. Vail Assocs., Inc., 586 P.2d 224, 225 (Colo. 1978).[254] Id.[255] Greer v. Intercole Automation, Inc., 553 F. Supp. 275, 277 (D. Colo. 1982).[256] Nat'l Farmers Union Prop. & Cas......
  • Chapter 7 - § 7.9 • CONTRIBUTION, INDEMNIFICATION, AND SUBROGATION
    • United States
    • Colorado Bar Association Product Liability Law and Procedure in Colorado (CBA) Chapter 7 Other Claims
    • Invalid date
    ...by statute on other grounds C.R.S. § 13-21-111.5; see also C.R.S. §§ 13-50.5-104(1) and (2); but see Coniaris v. Vail Assocs., Inc., 586 P.2d 224, 225 (Colo. 1978) ("A claim for contribution is an action separate and distinct from the underlying tort. The rights and obligations of the tortf......

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