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Tolle v. Steeland, LLC.

2023 COA 84. No. 22CA0790. Landlords and Tenants—Colorado Premises Liability Act—Contracts—Arbitration Clauses—Wrongful Death—Damages—Action Notwithstanding Death.

September 21, 2023

Wood died from smoke inhalation after a fire broke out in her rental apartment. Defendant Steeland, LLC owned the apartment building, and defendant McKeever was the sole member and manager of Steeland. Wood’s daughters Tolle and Aragon brought claims against defendants under the Wrongful Death Act for (1) negligence, based on defendants’ breach of their duty to provide a reasonably safe property for rent; (2) premises liability to an invitee, based on defendants’ failure to use reasonable care to protect Wood from dangers they knew or should have known about; and (3) premises liability to a licensee, based on defendants’ actual knowledge of dangerous conditions and circumstances not ordinarily present in residential apartment buildings. Defendants moved to compel arbitration under Wood’s lease and dismiss the complaint under CRCP 12(b)(1). The district court denied the motion to compel arbitration, concluding that the arbitration clause in Wood’s lease did not apply to daughters’ claims because the clause did not mention wrongful death claims and such claims are too attenuated from the lease agreement.

On appeal, defendants argued that the district court erred by denying their motion to compel arbitration because daughters’ claims are disputes arising in connection with the lease. However, daughters’ claims arose under and are governed by the Premises Liability Act, which provides the exclusive remedy for wrongful death claims. Therefore, such claims do not arise in connection with the lease and are thus not subject to the arbitration clause. Accordingly, the district court did not err by denying defendants’ motion to compel arbitration and dismiss the case.

The order was affirmed.

Official Colorado Court of Appeals proceedings can be found at the Colorado Court of Appeals website.

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