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Colorado’s excessive court docket rejects Adams County case in opposition to DIA over noise violations — reversing $33.5 million judgment

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The Colorado Supreme Courtroom on Monday dismissed an plane noise violations case in opposition to Denver Worldwide Airport that had prompted a decrease court docket to award $33.5 million to Adams County and different plaintiffs.

The excessive court docket concluded that Adams County’s 2018 lawsuit in opposition to DIA was filed 20 years too late. The county and different collaborating communities, together with Aurora, alleged that the airport had been underestimating its noise impacts on surrounding neighborhoods for years by utilizing a technique that violated an inter-county settlement.

By rejecting the breach-of-contract declare, the 6-0 opinion overturned a 2020 district court docket judgment in opposition to DIA that had accrued sufficient curiosity to just about double its $33.5 million worth, in response to an airport monetary report. In 2022, the Colorado Courtroom of Appeals upheld the judgment.

In its 38-page ruling, the Supreme Courtroom conceded that DIA breached a 1988 intergovernmental settlement with Adams County that required the airport to make use of a “noise-monitoring” system to report noise ranges produced by plane utilizing the power. As a substitute, DIA used a “noise-modeling” system that estimated noise ranges.

However the court docket concluded that Adams County was conscious of DIA’s violation of the settlement way back to 1995, the 12 months the airport opened. It had three years beneath the state’s statute of limitations to file a criticism.

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“But it surely sat on its rights till 2018,” Justice Carlos Samour wrote for the court docket. “By then, it was too late.”

Replete with playful aviation-themed language, the opinion speaks to the excessive court docket’s “takeoff level” in its evaluation of the case and characterizes the court docket as being “piloted” by state legislation to reach at its ruling.

“Subsequent, we comply with the prevailing common-law winds and enhance our statutory evaluation with our case legislation and federal choices making use of Colorado legislation,” Samour wrote. “We proceed by explaining that prudent public coverage issues justify our course.”

Lastly, the opinion states that the justices “land on the conclusion that Adams’ breach-of-contract declare is time-barred.” Justice Maria E. Berkenkotter didn’t take part within the court docket’s consideration of the case.

The court docket discovered that the statute of limitations utilized to the second the county first turned conscious that the 53-square-mile airport — land that used to belong to Adams County — was utilizing the incorrect system to measure noise. It didn’t matter that Adams County had not quantified the hurt from plane noise violations to surrounding communities till a few years later, the court docket stated.

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“In sum, the proverbial clock began ticking no later than 1995, as Adams undisputedly knew then that Denver was utilizing a modeling system as a substitute of a monitoring system, in contravention of the IGA,” the court docket’s opinion says.

A spokeswoman for the county declined to remark Monday afternoon.

Everett Martinez, the final counsel for DIA, stated that not solely was the unique $33.5 million judgment from a Jefferson County District Courtroom choose wiped away by Monday’s ruling, however tens of millions extra in curiosity that had accrued had been additionally overturned.

He estimated the present judgment worth at “almost $50 million,” however it could be even increased. The airport’s annual monetary report for 2022, its most up-to-date, valued the judgment plus curiosity at $57.6 million as of Dec. 31, 2022.

“The Colorado Supreme Courtroom accurately acknowledged that this long-running lawsuit ought to have been dismissed years in the past as a result of the claims asserted within the case are usually not legally legitimate,” Martinez stated. “We’re grateful that (the judgment) has been overturned and we will put this litigation behind us.”

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