Articles Posted in Colorado Supreme Court

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In 2012, Khalil Laleh brought a forcible entry and detainer action against his brother, Ali Laleh. The litigation later grew so unwieldy that the trial court appointed Gary Johnson as an accounting expert (and later as a special master) to resolve the feuding brothers’ complex accounting claims. The Laleh brothers signed an engagement agreement with Gary C. Johnson and Associates, LLC, setting forth the scope of Johnson’s services and payment. Johnson commenced work, but before he completed his accounting reports for the trial court, the brothers settled their case and the court dismissed the suit. Johnson later informed the trial court that Khalil and Ali refused to pay both his outstanding fees and his costs incurred post-settlement in attempting to collect the outstanding fees. Following a hearing, the trial court issued an order ruling that Johnson’s fees were reasonable, and that he was entitled to the post-settlement costs he incurred in trying to collect his outstanding fees. In reaching the latter conclusion, the trial court relied on language in the engagement agreement stating that the Lalehs “are jointly and severally responsible for the timely and complete payment of all fees and expenses” to Johnson. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded that a separate provision of the engagement agreement authorized the award of the disputed post-settlement collection costs. View "Laleh v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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In March 2016, Catholic Health Initiatives Colorado (d/b/a Centural Health – St. Anthony North Hospital) filed suit against architectural firm Earl Swensson Associates (“ESA”) after ESA designed Catholic Health’s new hospital, Saint Anthony North Health Campus (“Saint Anthony”). Catholic Health alleged that ESA breached its contract and was professionally negligent by failing to design Saint Anthony such that it could have a separately licensed and certified Ambulatory Surgery Center (“ASC”). In December 2016, Catholic Health filed its first expert disclosures, endorsing Bruce LePage and two others. Catholic Health described LePage as an expert with extensive experience in all aspects of preconstruction services such as cost modeling, systems studies, constructability, cost studies, subcontractor solicitation, detailed planning, client relations, and communications in hospital and other large construction projects. Catholic Health endorsed LePage to testify about the cost of adding an ASC to Saint Anthony. At a hearing, ESA argued that the lack of detail in LePage’s report prevented ESA from being able to effectively cross-examine him. ESA further argued that striking LePage as an expert was the proper remedy because Rule 26(a)(2)(B)(I) limits expert testimony to opinions that comply with the Rule, and LePage offered no opinions in compliance. In 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court amended Colorado Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(2)(B) to provide that expert testimony “shall be limited to matters disclosed in detail in the [expert] report.” In this case, the trial court concluded that this amendment mandated the exclusion of expert testimony as a sanction when the underlying report fails to meet the requirements of Rule 26. The Supreme Court concluded the amendment created no such rule of automatic exclusion. Instead, the Court held that the harm and proportionality analysis under Colorado Rule of Civil Procedure 37(c) remained the proper framework for determining sanctions for discovery violations. Because the trial court here did not apply Rule 37(c), the Court remanded for further development of the record. View "Catholic Health v. Swensson" on Justia Law

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In 2008, Petitioners, five Colorado companies, entered into separate contracts to buy to-be-built condominium units from Respondent, developer One Ski Hill Place, LLC (“OSHP”). Petitioners paid earnest money and construction deposits of fifteen percent of the purchase price of each unit. But Petitioners were unable to obtain financing and failed to close by the agreed-upon 2010 deadline, thereby breaching the Agreements. Each Agreement contained an identical provision governing default (the “Damages Provision”), which provided, in sum, that if a purchaser of a unit defaulted, then OSHP had the option to retain all or some of the paid deposits as liquidated damages or, alternatively, to pursue actual damages and apply the deposits toward that award. This case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review of whether the liquidated damages clause was invalid because the contract gave the non-breaching party the option to choose between liquidated damages and actual damages. The Court held that such an option does not invalidate the clause and instead parties are free to contract for a damages provision that allows a non-breaching party to elect between liquidated damages and actual damages. However, such an option must be exclusive, meaning a party who elects to pursue one of the available remedies may not also pursue the alternative remedy set forth in the contract. View "Ravenstar v. One Ski Hill Place" on Justia Law

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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