Simon v. Coppola, 876 P.2d 10 (Colo. App. 1993)

In 1987, James and Marilyn Simon were homeowners who contracted with Tom and Bill Schnell to install a new deck and a used hot tub on their property. The Schnells then contracted with Rob Coppola to inspect the hot tub’s equipment and perform any necessary repairs. The equipment included the heater, circulation equipment and controls for the hot tub. Coppola’s employees installed new controls, and installed the equipment pack in the hot tub. The thermostat was set to the midpoint, and Coppola’s employees informed the Simons that it would be warm enough to use later that evening, and recommended a solar blanket to retain heat in the tub. The couple used the tub that night.

The next morning, Marilyn Simon went out to cut the solar blanket to size, stepping into the tub with one foot. She felt the water was too hot, but lost her balance before she could step out. Marilyn Simon fell into the tub, where she sustained second and third degree burns to the lower half of her body.

The homeowners filed a lawsuit against the hot tub manufacturer, Coppola, and Coppola’s two employees, alleging that there was a defect in the thermostat, and that Coppola was negligent in installing the thermostat and control pack. The Simons settled as to Tom and Bill Schnell before trial, and agreed that they would not execute a judgment against Coppola in excess of $300,000, as he was in the process of bankruptcy.

After the conclusion of trial, the jury found in favor of the homeowners, allocating 75% fault to the manufacturer, and 12.5% to each of the Schnells. The jury found both Coppola and Marilyn Simon negligent, but not liable. The jury awarded $850,000 to Marilyn Simon, and another $25,000 to James Simon for loss of consortium. The court later reduced the award by 25% as the Schnells had settled.

The hot tub manufacturer appealed the decision, citing evidentiary errors and errors in the calculation of damages. The appellate court found that the trial court did not make evidentiary errors, and only remanded the case to consider the award of costs and fees for expert witnesses and video deposition costs.

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