Articles Posted in Colorado Supreme Court

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The Colorado Supreme Court concluded here that nothing in the language of the Colorado uninsured/underinsured motorist statute, 10-4-609 C.R.S. (2016) precluded an agent from exercising either apparent or implied authority to reject UM/UIM coverage on behalf of a principal. In line with this reasoning, the agent’s rejection of UM/UIM coverage was indeed binding on the principal. Respondent Brian Johnson tasked a friend with purchasing automobile insurance for the new car that he and the friend had purchased together. The friend did so, and in the course of that transaction, she chose to reject uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage on the new car. After an accident in that car with an underinsured motorist, Johnson contended that his friend’s rejection of UM/UIM coverage was not binding on him. View "State Farm v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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Because the plain language of the exculpatory clauses at issue in this case did not limit the homeowner’s association’s liability, and the association, as an entity distinct from internal boards acting as its agents, could not benefit from exculpatory clauses protecting those agents, the Colorado Supreme Court concluded the petitioners could bring their claims against the association. Petitioners Mac McShane and Cynthia Calvin had hoped to build a multistory home overlooking the Roaring Fork Valley. After belatedly discovering their design for that home exceeded county height regulations, they ended up with something less: a one-story home and an attached “pod.” Making the required changes proved costly, and they sued the homeowners association which allegedly improperly approved the architectural plans, then later allegedly improperly denied approval of revised plans. View "McShane v. Stirling Ranch Property Owners Association, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 1990, after Denver determined that it needed a new airport, a group of citizens formed the Stapleton Redevelopment Foundation to develop the former Stapleton International Airport. The Stapleton Redevelopment Foundation created a master plan to convert the former airport site. In 1995, the private, nonprofit Stapleton Development Corporation (“SDC”) was formed to lease and sell the former airport property. SDC selected Forest City as the master developer for redevelopment of the property. Forest City sold the vacant residential lot at issue here to a professional home builder, Infinity Home Collection at Stapleton, LLC (Infinity), with whom Respondent/Cross-Petitioner Tad Rogers had contracted to build a home. When Infinity purchased the lot from Forest City, the lot was vacant, did not have utilities, and still needed to be graded to its final configurations. Rogers ultimately purchased the lot and the home from Infinity. The home included a foundation drain system designed to collect ground water into a sump pit and to pump that water into the yard by way of a sump pump. Because of the high water table beneath his house, coupled with calcite leaching from the recycled concrete aggregate base course used to construct the roads, calcite built up in the foundation drain around Rogers' house. In turn, this water and calcite buildup made his basement uninhabitable and caused his sump pump to run and discharge more water. This case presented an issue of whether contractual privity was necessary for a home buyer to assert a claim for breach of the implied warranty of suitability against a developer. The Colorado Supreme Court held that, because breach of the implied warranty of suitability was a contract claim, privity of contract was required in such a case. Here, because the home buyer did not have contractual privity with the developer, he could not pursue a claim against the developer for breach of the implied warranty of suitability. View "Forest City v. Rogers" on Justia Law

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This case centered on a contract dispute between Clean Energy Collective LLC (CEC) and two defendants, Borrego Solar Systems, Inc. (Borrego) and 1115 Solar Development, LLC (1115 Solar). CEC was a Colorado limited liability company; Borrego was a California corporation headquartered in San Diego, and 1115 Solar was a Delaware limited liability company with its principal place of business in California. Borrego was 1115 Solar’s parent company and owned the latter in its entirety. CEC’s claims against Borrego and 1115 Solar arose from an asset purchase agreement (“APA”) to construct several solar photovoltaic projects. The APA specified that CEC would pay defendants to construct three power-generation projects in Massachusetts and allowed for additional projects pursuant to separate contracts governed by the APA’s terms. After the parties were unable to resolve disagreements regarding pricing and payments for projects subject to the APA (all of which were to be completed outside Colorado) CEC sued the defendants in Colorado, asserting claims for breach of contract and breach of warranty. The issue presented for the Supreme Court's review was whether the trial court erred in concluding Borrego was subject to general personal jurisdiction in Colorado. Because the trial court did not assess whether Borrego was essentially at home in Colorado, the Court concluded it did not fully apply the test announced in "Magill v. Ford Motor Co.," (379 P.3d 1033), and therefore erred in exercising general personal jurisdiction over Borrego. Applying the complete test itself, the Court concluded Borrego was not subject to general jurisdiction in Colorado. View "In re Clean Energy Collective LLC v. Borrego Solar Sys., Inc." on Justia Law

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This case concerned the design and construction of a single-family residence in Pitkin County, Colorado. Heritage Builders, Inc. (“Heritage”) was retained as the general contractor by the original owners of the property, Karen and Courtney Lord. Pitkin County issued a certificate of occupancy for the home in September 2006. In November 2011, Richard Goodman purchased the property from the Lords. Then, sometime between March and June 2012, Goodman discovered the alleged construction defects in the home. Goodman gave Heritage informal notice of his construction defect claims in July 2013. In this original proceeding, the issue presented for the Colorado Supreme Court’s review was whether the statute of repose in section 13-80-104(1)(a), C.R.S. (2016), barred a general contractor’s third-party claims brought in response to a homeowner’s claim for construction defects discovered in the fifth or sixth year following substantial completion of an improvement to real property. The Court held that such claims are timely, irrespective of both the two-year statute of limitations in section 13-80-102, C.R.S. (2016), and the six-year statute of repose in section 13-80-104(1)(a), so long as they are brought at any time before the ninety-day timeframe outlined in section 13-80-104(1)(b)(II). View "In re Goodman v. Heritage Builders" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Arnold Calderon was injured in a vehicle accident with an uninsured motorist. At the time, petitioner was insured with respondent American Family Mutual Insurance. American Family paid the policy limit to petitioner's medical providers; it denied payment with respect to his uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM), disputing the amount of petitioner's damages. A jury returned an award in petitioner's favor. The trial court offset the amount of the jury award by the amount already paid to the medical providers. Petitioner argued on appeal of that offset, that the "MedPay" coverage was separate from the UM/UIM coverage, and that the MedPay amount should not have been deducted. The Supreme Court reversed, finding that the amount of UM/UIM coverage, as listed in petitioner's policy, in this case should not have been reduced by the MedPay amount. View "Calderon v. American Family Mutual Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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Petitioner John Van Rees, Sr. contracted with respondent Unleaded Software, Inc. to perform web-related services and to design additional websites. After Unleaded missed deadlines and failed to deliver the promised services, Van Rees sued, asserting multiple tort claims, a civil theft claim, three breach of contract claims, and a claim for violations of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act (CCPA). The trial court granted Unleaded's 12(b)(5) motion, dismissing all but Van Rees' contract claims, on which a jury found in Van Rees' favor. Van Rees appealed, and the court of appeals affirmed. After its review, the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part. The appellate court had determined that the tort and civil theft claims were barred by the "economic loss rule" because they were related to promises memorialized in the contracts, and the CCPA claim failed to allege a significant public impact. The Supreme Court found the issue pertaining to the economic loss rule was not whether the tort claims related to a contract, but whether they stemmed from a duty independent of the contact. The Court found pre-contractural misrepresentations in this case distinct from the contract itself, and could have formed the basis of an independent tort claim. Accordingly, the Court reversed as to Van Rees' tort claims. With respect to civil theft, the court affirmed the court of appeals on the ground that the claim failed to adequately allege the "knowing deprivation of a thing of value." View "Van Rees v. Unleaded Software, Inc." on Justia Law

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Menda Warne appealed the court of appeals' judgment reversing dismissal of Bill Hall's complaint, which asserted a claim of intentional interference with contract. The trial court dismissed the case for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted without addressing the applicable case law in its written order. The court of appeals expressly declined to apply more recent United States Supreme Court jurisprudence governing Fed. R. Vic. P. 12(b)(6), finding itself bound by the Colorado Supreme Court's existing precedent, which heavily relied on the federal Supreme Court's earlier opinion in "Conley v. Gibson," (355 U.S. 41 (1957)). The court of appeals reversed the trial court, finding the complaint sufficient to state a claim. The Colorado Supreme Court found that the court of appeals too narrowly understood the Court's existing precedent. After review of the complaint, the Colorado Supreme Court found that the trial court correctly dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. View "Warne v. Hall" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff’s initial attorneys were discharged for cause and replaced by successor counsel. Initial counsel had been hired on a contingency basis. When discharged, they asserted a lien against any settlement or judgment entered in the underlying action and in favor of the plaintiff. The underlying action was subsequently settled, and successor counsel filed a motion to void the lien. Initial counsel responded by moving to strike successor counsel’s motion and to compel arbitration, based on an arbitration clause contained in initial counsel’s contingent fee agreement with the plaintiff. The district court ultimately concluded that this dispute was between the lawyers, and thus, the arbitration clause contained in initial counsel’s contingent fee agreement with the plaintiff did not apply. The court then determined that initial counsel was not entitled to fees because it had been discharged for cause, and under the express terms of the contingent fee agreement, it had forfeited the right to those fees. Initial counsel appealed, and a division of the court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, concluding that successor counsel’s motion to void the lien at issue was properly filed in the underlying action and that the underlying action was a “proper civil action.” In light of this determination, the Supreme court further concluded that the lien dispute was between initial and successor counsel and that therefore, the matter: (1) was not subject to arbitration pursuant to the arbitration clause in initial counsel’s contingent fee agreement with the plaintiff; and (2) was properly before the district court. View "Martinez v. Mintz" on Justia Law

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Travelers Property Casualty Company of America (Travelers) petitioned for review of a court of appeals judgment affirming the district court’s denial of its motion for directed verdict in a lawsuit brought by its insured, Stresscon Corporation. Stresscon, a subcontracting concrete company, filed suit against Travelers, alleging, among other things, that Travelers acted in bad faith, unreasonably delaying or denying its claim for covered insurance benefits; and Stresscon sought awards of two times the covered benefits along with fees and costs, as prescribed by statute. Stresscon’s claims for relief arose from a serious construction accident in July 2007, which was caused by a crane operator employed by a company that was itself a subcontractor of Stresscon. Stresscon’s general contractor, Mortenson, sought damages from Stresscon, asserting Stresson’s contractual liability for the resulting construction delays, and Stresscon in turn sought indemnification from Travelers. Although there was much dispute over the factual and legal import of Travelers’ reservation of rights and other of its communications with both Stresscon and Mortenson concerning Mortenson’s claim, there was no dispute that by December 31, 2008, Travelers had not paid the damages asserted by Mortenson. The appellate court rejected Travelers’ contention that the no-voluntary-payments clause of their insurance contract relieved it of any obligation to indemnify Stresscon for payments Stresscon had made without its consent. Instead, the court of appeals found that the Colorato Supreme Court's opinion in "Friedland v. Travelers Indemnity Co.," (105 P.3d 639 (2005)) had effectively overruled prior “no voluntary payments” jurisprudence to the contrary and given Stresscon a similar opportunity. The Supreme Court found that its adoption of a notice-prejudice rule in "Friedland" did not overrule any existing “no voluntary payments” jurisprudence in Colorado, and because the Court declined to extend notice-prejudice reasoning in Friedland to Stresscon’s voluntary payments, made in the face of the no-voluntary-payments clause of its insurance contract with Travelers, the judgment of the court of appeals was reversed. View "Travelers Prop. Cas. Co. v. Stresscon Co." on Justia Law