In The News

By Holland, Holland Edwards & Grossman, PC 17 Aug, 2017
Best Lawyers in America have again recognized John R. Holland in their list of Best Lawyers under Civil Rights Law, Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury.  

John was also named the 2018 Lawyer of the Year for Denver Plaintiff's Personal Injury Litigation.  Only a single lawyer in each community and practice area is recognized each year.  John previously was named the 2016 Lawyer of the Year for Denver Plaintiff's Medical Malpractice Law. 

John has been listed as a Best Lawyer since 2003.  He has been recognized in the Civil Rights category every year since 2013.

This year, Anna was also recognized by Best Lawyers in the Medical Malpractice category.

By Holland, Holland Edwards & Grossman, PC 01 Jun, 2017

United States District Judge Richard Matsch just ruled that the lawsuit resulting from the fatal shooting of Jaime Ceballos in August 2013 by Thornton police will go to trial against both the officer and the City of Thornton.

Like many mentally ill or disturbed individuals who end up dead at the hands of police officers, the 911 call in this case was placed by a family member looking for help. 

 Mr. Ceballos’ wife called the Thornton Police Department for emergency assistance in getting her husband who was off his psychiatric medications and on drugs to leave the house. When the police arrived, Mr. Ceballos was alone in his driveway pacing around and talking to himself holding a bat. Rather than trying to de-escalate and calm this situation down, the police aggressively and quickly approached Mr. Ceballos with their guns drawn and shot him within under one minute of their arrival. He died instantly in front of his wife, friends, and 16 month old daughter.

Judge Matsch refused to dismiss the claims against the officer for excessive force and also found that the evidence demonstrated that the City of Thornton was deliberately indifferent in not training its officers in how to deal with mentally ill or disturbed individuals. The Judge was particularly concerned that the City of Thornton awarded the police officers “medals of valor” for standing their ground and shooting Mr. Ceballos. The Chief of Police even testified that he would have his officers do everything exactly the same if given another chance.

This case is yet another in a long line of many that deals with the inappropriate and warrior mentality surrounding police interactions with the community in Colorado and elsewhere.

Read the Denver Post article here:

By Holland, Holland Edwards & Grossman, PC 10 Feb, 2017
The firm is pursuing claims on behalf of the Reat family for the death of Jimma Reat.

Jimma Pal Reat was shot and killed by by a group of unknown males early in the morning on April 1, 2012. He died in the arms of his brother and in front of other family members in the car.

This lawsuit brings claims for civil rights violations that have devastated a very loving South Sudanese refugee family, who thought they were finally living in a safe place after having escaped the ravages of war and come to the United States from a refugee camp in Ethiopia.

This happened because of a series of actions by a 911 operator who, during a 15 minute call, instructed these young men to leave the safety of a Wheat Ridge apartment parking lot where they had fled, and return to Denver to meet the police. This was after they had eluded their attackers and reported to 911 an earlier attack by the same men. During the previous unprovoked attack, these same assailants shattered their car’s back window with large beer bottles, injured these young men with a shower of broken glass, repeatedly called them ugly racial slurs, and reportedly brandished a gun.

Despite multiple requests, the 911 operator repeatedly refused to send the police and medical help to Plaintiffs’ safe Wheat Ridge location. Instead, the 911 operator repeatedly instructed these men to leave their known place of safety in Wheat Ridge and return to that very same area inside Denver, as a condition of receiving police and medical help. The 911 operator also instructed these young men to make themselves obvious to the police by pulling their car over and flashing their hazard lights. The operator gave these instructions without simultaneously sending the promised police cover for this dangerous situation until after Jimma Reat was shot and killed.

The District Court found that Plaintiff had stated a due process “state created danger” claim, as the 911 operator recklessly created a dangerous situation for these men that resulted in Jimma Reat’s death. The Court stated that this ruling was well grounded in long established principles announced by the Supreme Court and the 10th Circuit.

The Tenth Circuit, however, reversed the District Court’s ruling. Plaintiff has currently filed a petition for certiorari with U.S. Supreme Court and the Court has directed the 911 Operator to file his response. Because the 10th Circuit upheld Plaintiffs state law claims, those claims have been refiled in State Court and are currently stayed pending determination of the petition by the U.S. Supreme Court. See the Petition for Certiorari .

See coverage and articles about this tragic incident and lawsuit here:

Westword Article - Jimma Reat's family sues Denver over botched 911 call that led to his death

Denver Post Article - Murdered Sudanese refugee's family sues Denver

CBS News Article & Video - Family Of Murder Victim Sues City Of Denver, 911 Operator

Jimma Reat: Ruling in botched 911 call case opens door to federal civil rights trial.

Judge calls Denver 911 operator's actions in man's death "conscience shocking."

By Holland, Holland Edwards & Grossman, PC 10 Feb, 2017
Holland, Holland Edwards & Grossman, along with co counsel, recently filed suit against Correct Care Solutions, LLC, Arapahoe County and related Defendants for the death of Jeffrey Lillis.

Mr. Lillis was allowed to die on the floor of Arapahoe County Jail from bacterial pneumonia -- a treatable condition.  Mr. Lillis was known to be coughing up blood and to need medical help but instead he was abandoned during this medical crisis.  Jail and medical staff watched Mr. Lillis on video on the floor of his cell while he died.

The lawsuit brings claims for unconstitutional medical care as well as wrongful death on behalf of Mr. Lillis' estate and his family.

See some of the coverage here:
Family Sues After Inmate Found Dead In Cell  
Family sues Arapahoe County, private health care contractor for 2014 jail death
Colorado jail deaths steadily increased, more than doubled from 2011 to June of 2015

By Holland, Holland Edwards & Grossman, PC 08 Feb, 2017

The Firm recently filed a lawsuit for the death of Dennis Choquette against Corrections Corporation of America, other private entities, multiple involved professionals and the Colorado Department of Corrections for deliberate indifference to Mr. Choquette's obvious very serious diabetic condition which previously already ended his ambulation. He was thereafter confined to a wheelchair.

Despite his serious Charcot condition, which was not disclosed to him for a long time after it was diagnosed, Mr. Choquette was required to walk for months even though involved medical staff knew that walking on his foot with his new Charcot condition could destroy the bones which it did.

After months of ignoring his medical needs, Mr. Choquette's foot was known to be so badly deformed and injured that it then required amputation below the knee. Though Mr. Choquette clearly needed such amputation, and begged repeatedly for it to be done, he was denied access to surgical care for many more months and during the times when he was still medically stable.

Mr. Choquette died in custody after his condition and a recurring open ankle area wound deteriorated, became infected and was abandoned to the point of severe sepsis. Upon transfer from DOC to the hospital in this frightful state, a far too late emergency amputation for severe osteomyelitis was performed. Mr. Choquette lived just days past this amputation.

His estate also alleges that the caregivers and systems involved had financial incentives against providing Mr. Choquette with the care he desperately needed unless he was willing to pay for it. He was this both too long kept weight bearing in a private jail which could not possibly meet his serious medical needs or accommodate him and then prevented from being transferred to a hospital for well known to be needed amputation surgery. His persisting medical crisis was treated as if caring for him was a choice rather than mandatory.

Because no one along this disasterous course would get him urgently required medical care, Dennis Choquette also was allowed to suffer greatly for a very long period of time until he died.

See Westword's article on this case, entitled:  The Torturous, Completely Preventable Slow-Motion Death of Dennis Choquette .

Further press related to this can be seen at:

Image from Westword art by Getty Illustrations.
By Holland, Holland Edwards & Grossman, PC 08 Feb, 2017
Having handled many cases, we have learned that Wrongful Death cases often actually begin before death. As the health of your loved one declines, you are understandably focused on doing whatever you can to help them, but are probably also wondering what went wrong and how it could have been avoided. You may even feel the need for there to be an accounting for what happened.

Quickly, you find yourself in a hospital where your parent or other relative is undergoing a battle to save their life after what appears to be negligence in the nursing home or assisted living facility dehydration, a fall, a medication error, or a long variety of other wrongful acts that too frequently occur in these facilities.

The doctors at the hospital advise you that you need to start thinking about palliative care and that there is no reasonable prospect for a restoration of their former quality of life. You choose to place your loved one on hospice or in another nursing home. The doctors at the hospital know and tell you what happened. They also often document it carefully in their written reports and discharge summaries. They must advise you that your loved one is not going to make it. But your loved one lives weeks or months after the original incident, and when they pass, the people caring for them in a different facility don’t know or may not want to report the actual history of the situation.

 It is important that all caregivers involved understand and accurately document what happened to your loved one.

Without consulting those who know, without review of the records of what really happened, they certify that death is from natural non negligent causes dementia, a failed heart, some long standing condition. At these times of maximum pain and stress, it is important to try to talk to the doctor who may be certifying the death and to give them the background of what actually happened to place your mother and father in their care. You can even provide them with the key records from the hospital which you should get as you are leaving. You can ask them to review these. You can also ask the doctor at the end to talk with the doctors who know the true history if they do not know it themselves. This is important advocacy, difficult and painful to do under the horrible stresses that you are under, but one that can help ensure the best chances for justice when you begin the process of considering bringing a case and must undertake the burden of proving what actually wrongfully caused a tragic preventable outcome.

By Holland, Holland Edwards & Grossman, PC 19 Jan, 2017

A video recorded by an officer-worn body cam shows troubling footage of DPD officers needlessly tasing a local homeless man in the chest, striking him with the taser during an incident in June 2016 and then telling paramedics an exaggerated version of how the event unfolded and the level of threat the man posed.  The officers also offered a version of events in their written report that favored their own side and covered for the abuse.

The video shows Greg Heard, a  homeless black being instructed by Officer Greg Dulayev to come out from behind bushes he had been using as cover. Mr. Heard can be seen immediately complying, showing Officer Dulayev both palms of his empty hands and that he was clearly unarmed. Mr. Heard then slowly and calmly crawls out, stands up, and takes a step in order to comply with the officer’s command that he get out from behind the bushes, displaying no agitation, no aggression, not attempting to escape, and posing no threat to anyone.  It is clear in the video that Mr. Heard was trying to be cooperative, submit to the officer’s orders, and explain his situation, but before being given a meaningful chance to do so, he is needlessly tased in the chest and apparently ALSO struck with the butt of a taser by Officer Dulayev, causing him immediate, serious pain and difficulty breathing for minutes thereafter.

The video goes on to show that as Mr. Heard fell to the ground, incapacitated by the tasing - Officer Dulayev then put his knee in Mr. Heard’s back and began shouting: “Stop resisting! Stop resisting!” to cover up the fact that he had just rendered Mr. Heard defenseless with the taser with no justification and despite no resistance whatsoever.

Later in the video, Officer Dulayev and another responding officer can be heard continuing to cover up their abuse during after-action discussion with paramedics who arrived on the scene. In their reports, the officers pretend that this homeless man was disobeying repeated orders and threatening them, while the video plainly shows he was doing no such thing. The video shows a disturbing example of the cultural pattern present in part of DPD that condones officers giving false reports to investigators and in official records that cover for their abuses - practice that continues to be tolerated by Denver’s top officials.

This matter of concern has received significant public attention including the video.   John Holland and Dan Weiss are preparing a federal lawsuit regarding this tasing.   

See press coverage of Mr. Heard's tasing:

By Holland, Holland Edwards & Grossman, PC 22 Mar, 2016
The firm has entered its appearances in a New Mexico lawsuit with local co-counsel and filed three amended complaints for egregious deliberate indifference resulting in the deaths of Jesus Marquez, Sharon Jones and William “Billy” Carter. These cases challenge the jail culture at the San Juan County Detention Center and the San Juan Regional Medical Center, which contracts to provide medical care to inmates at this jail, of ignoring the serious and even life threatening medical needs of residents and treating inmates as faking their illnesses to save on the costs of hospitalizations.

Westword has portraited these claims in the following article:

Sharon Jones's Strep Death Among Shocking Prison Tragedies in Lawsuits .

Posted March 22, 2016.

By Holland, Holland Edwards & Grossman, PC 11 Sep, 2015
A common problem facing seriously injured nursing home or hospital claimants bringing suits directly or through their family members is an increasing, often purposeful, failure by facilities to properly document what actually happened in the resident or patient’s charts. Rather, under the guise of what is called quality management or peer review, nursing homes and hospitals increasingly fail to sufficiently and forthrightly chart what actually happened in critical incidents in the victim’s records. Instead, they have care staff write memos to their so called Quality Management (“QM”) committees and stamp them all confidential.

Often when Courts order facilities to give us such documents we find they are actually written on nursing or progress note forms that should have been placed all along in the victims care charts. Thus, frequently the only written factual accounts of what happened to the injured or deceased person are buried in Quality Management files. Lawyers defending health care institutions regularly attempt to prevent such documents from being discovered.

Our firm has been involved in several litigation fights to obtain these materials, successfully arguing that the facts underlying internal investigations by eye witnesses detailing what happened are not state secrets but central case factual evidence that is not privileged and cannot be hidden from discovery in lawsuits under the guise of being part of internal investigations for overall care improvement. There is increasing judicial support from the Colorado Supreme Court and lower courts for this position. The firm participated in a major article discussion of this very serious litigation issue still plaguing wrongful death claims published as a cover story by Westword writer, Alan Predergast.

See the Westword Story here:

What Hospitals Don't Tell Patients and Their Families When Things Go Wrong.
By Holland, Holland Edwards & Grossman, PC 11 Sep, 2015
Usually we aren’t involved in cases until someone has already been seriously hurt or killed. We get called by the family after someone dies or suffers in jail because the jail or medical staff has been deliberately indifferent or negligently refused to get the imprisoned person urgently needed treatment. Most of the time, all that can be done at that point is to bring a lawsuit, try to prevent it from happening again, and seek fair compensation for the victims.

This week the firm obtained an emergency order from Fremont County District Judge Patrick Murphy who modified his previous prison sentence in favor of extended probation and ordered the immediate release of Kathy White from the Department of Corrections so that she can obtain a bone marrow transplant to try to save her life. Prior to this hearing the Department of Corrections had denied medical parole for Ms. White.

Ms. White had been serving time in the Colorado Department of Corrections when it became apparent that she was not going to receive a desperately required bone marrow transplant. She has a donor, her brother, who is an excellent match. She has a team of doctors ready and willing to perform the procedure who powerfully advocated for her release before the Court. They made it clear that Ms. White could not be safely treated while still housed in prison.

Judge Murphy held an emergency hearing and with extraordinary cooperation between the family, the District Attorney, counsel for the victims, probation counselors, and all others concerned, received medical evidence proving the urgent necessity for Ms. White's release. Judge Murphy then personally called Ms. White in prison to inform her of his decision to release her, causing her to burst into tears. He then took additional immediate actions to cut through any possible red tape at DOC and Ms. White was released to her family before Anna and John could even get back to Denver. She is now in the care of her doctors and her medical case is proceeding.

Michael Roberts at Westword has just published a poignant account of this case in which all concerned, normally adversaries, acted jointly to attempt to save a life with the shared understanding that a 4 year sentence for commission of a crime is not ever supposed to be a death sentence and prisoners all have a right to life saving medical procedures.

See the Westword Story here:

Family, D.A., Victims Cooperate to Free Imprisoned Cancer Sufferer Kathy White

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