Mother claimed condition of pond caused son’s drowning

Verdict: $4,000,000
Case: Vennie Mangus and Steve Colligan, Individually and as Heirs and Personal Representatives of Orion Colligan, Decreased v. Apartment Management Consultants LLC, a Utah Limited Liability Company and The Lakes at Monaco Colorado LLC, A Delaware Limited Liability Company, No. 09cv3388
Court: District Court, City and County of Denver, CO
Judge: John Madden IV
Date: 9/24/2010

Plaintiff Attoney(s): Phillip Harding, Harding & Associates, Denver, CO
Mike Lazar, Harding & Associates, Denver, CO
Ronald Rodboy, Law Offices of Ron Podboy, Denver, CO (Amy Johnson)

Defense Attorney(s): Mike W. Jones, Hall & Evans, L.L.C., Denver, CO
Mark S. Ratner, Hall & Evans, L.L.C., Denver, CO

Facts & Allegations

On June 6, 2008, plaintiffs’ decedent Orion Colligan, 6, was playing outside the front door of an apartment unit leased by his mother, plaintiff Vennie Magnus, at the Lakes at Monaco Pointe apartment complex in Denver.

Magnus alleged that she was talking on the telephone at the time and was checking on Orion every couple of minutes. Just before the phone conversation ended, she observed that Orion was no longer outside the front door of the apartment. This prompted her to frantically knock on the doors of her neighbors and report her missing son to the apartment manager. She then called 911 and shortly thereafter, Orion’s body was found at the bottom of the six-foot pong located 60 feed from Magnus’ apartment.

Magnus and Steve Colligan, the child’s father, individually and on behalf of their son, sued the property manager, Apartment Management Consultants LLC, and the property owner, the Lakes at Monaco Colorado LLC. They alleged that the defendants failed to properly maintain the pond, creating a dangerous condition. They alleged that this failure made the defendants liable for Orion’s wrongful death.

Magnus testified that she first inquired about the depth of the pond when she first visited the apartment complex. She claimed that an agent of Apartment Management told her that the pond was shallow.

Plaintiffs’ counsel argued that the defendants failed to adequately maintain the ponds, allowing inordinate amounts of algae, slime and fowl feces to accumulate on the concrete surfaces and edges of the pongs. They contended that these accumulations made the ponds very slippery. They further argued that the accumulations made the ponds very slippery. They further argued that the accumulations on the ponds’ embankments made it difficult to climb out of the ponds, particularly due to the vertical edgse of the ponds’ embankments. In addition, the responding firefighter who discovered Orion’s body testified that he needed the assistance of three of his colleagues to extricate himself from the pond, in which the embankments prevented him from extricating himself independently.

According to plaintiff’s counsel, the defendant’s apartment manager in 2007 was aware of the pond’s danger and increased surveillance of it, as well as sent letters to residents informing them of the danger that the pond posed. After that manager left the position, which was prior to the minor’s drowning, there was no evidence to demonstrate that any subsequent manager continued to warn tenants of the pond’s dangerous conditions. Counsel contended that the apartment complex contained a fenced perimeter and its leasing office required a lock to be open to gain access. They, therefore, contended that any reasonable resident, such as Magnus, believed that the apartment complex as a whole was safe and posed no immediate danger to its tenants. Depsite the known danger, the defendants unreasonably failed to pretext the minor, asserted counsel.

The defendants denied the allegations. Defense counsel argued that the pond was not a dangerous condition and that the minor’s death was the result of his mother’s failure to maintain adequate supervision of him.


deathl emotional distress; loss of society
Orion drowned. He died on June 6, 2008, at the age of 6.
Orion’s parents sought to recover damages for their loss of companionship and emotional distress. Magnus talked about the creativity her son exhibited, and his passion for nature and science. Magnus also discussed her inability to reproduce due to complications of a miscarriage.


The jury found the defendants 100 percent negligent for the accident. If found that the defendants knew about a danger on the preoprty or, using reasonable care, should have known about one. It further determined that the defendants failed to use reasonable care to protext against the danger on the property and that their faulure was a cause of the injuries, damages or lossed suggered by plaintiggs. No negligence was found on the part of Orion’s mother, Magnus.

The jurt awared Magnus and Colligan $4 million. However, as a result of Colorado’s cap of its wrongful death statute, the award was reduced to $436,070

Steve Colligan: $2,000,000
Vennue Mangus: $2,000,000
Demand: $424,000
Offer: $57,500
Insurer(s): Axis Surplus Insurance Co. for both defendants

Trial Details

Trial Length: 5 days
Trial Deliberation: 4 hours
Jury Vote: 6-0
Jury Composition: 3 male, 3 female