The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in In re Marriage of Gromicko on Monday, January 9, 2017.
In 2015, Lisa Dawn Gromicko (Wife) filed a petition for dissolution of marriage, naming Nickifor Nicholas Gromicko (Husband) as respondent. The petition requested equitable division of marital assets and debts. In order to evaluate Husband’s income, Wife requested records from Husband’s employer, InterNACHI, a nonprofit organized as a § 501(c)(6) trade association. Although Husband initially stated he would not object to the production of certain records, he did not provide them, and Wife requested a status conference. Husband’s counsel, who was also InterNACHI’s general counsel, filed a motion in response to Wife’s discovery request, arguing (1) the only InterNACHI relevant to the divorce proceeding were those reflecting Husband’s compensation and expense reimbursements; (2) the court could not consider InterNACHI a marital asset because Wife did not allege grounds in her dissolution petition to pierce the corporate veil; and (3) the court could authorize Wife to serve a subpoena duces tecum on InterNACHI to produce the relevant documents. The court held the status conference but did not rule on the discovery issues.
Wife then served a subpoena duces tecum on InterNACHI requesting (1) Husband’s employment and compensation; (2) the employment by InterNACHI of any person related to Husband; (3) InterNACHI’s bookkeeping, accounting, and tax return or Form 990 preparation; and (4) InterNACHI’s conflict-of-interest policy. InterNACHI moved to quash the subpoena, arguing that many of the requested documents were privileged, confidential, and irrelevant to the dissolution proceeding. InterNACHI also renewed its motion that Wife did not allege any grounds sufficient to claim that InterNACHI was Husband’s alter ego and pierce the corporate veil. The court denied InterNACHI’s motion to quash, and it filed a C.A.R. 21 interlocutory appeal.
On appeal, InterNACHI argued that the district court abused its discretion in refusing to quash or modify Wife’s subpoena because (1) Wife was required to, but did not, plead in her dissolution petition a claim for piercing InterNACHI’s corporate veil and (2) certain of Wife’s discovery requests were irrelevant to her veil-piercing claim and thus were outside the scope of discovery permitted by C.R.C.P. 26. The court first analyzed the discovery requirements in domestic relations cases, which are governed by C.R.C.P. 16.2, and found that Wife was not required to plead in her dissolution petition a claim seeking to pierce InterNACHI’s corporate veil. However, the supreme court concluded the district court did not use the correct standard in evaluating InterNACHI’s objection to the requested discovery.
The court compared C.R.C.P. 16.2 to the discovery requirements in civil cases, governed by C.R.C.P. 26. The court found the two rules analogous. The court found that its holding in DCP Midstream, LP v. Anadarko Petroleum Corp., 2013 CO 36, applied in this case and required the district court to take an active role in managing discovery. The supreme court found that the district court should initially have granted Wife only such discovery as would reasonably have been necessary to allow her to attempt to establish the existence of the alter ego relationship that she claimed. The supreme court noted that if, after receiving limited discovery, Wife could prove that InterNACHI was Husband’s alter ego, she may then be entitled to receive the information in her initial request, but the court must actively monitor discovery pursuant to DCP Midstream.
The supreme court made its rule to show cause absolute and returned the case to the district court for further proceedings.