July 25, 2016

Commercial/Preference Owned Business in the Commercial Marketplace

Editor’s Note: This article is reprinted with permission courtesy of Richard F. Busch, II,  www.rbuschlaw.com. All rights reserved.

By Richard F. Busch, II, Esq.

Why should an otherwise commercial company consider entering the Government market place as a prime contractor, vendor, or subcontractor at any level, especially if you can qualify for a preferred status (Veterans, SDVOSB, or Women Owned Small Business? 

Due to the growth in technology, the Government has determined that the commercial business sector must be the primary force to develop and provide the products and services they need to achieve society’s goals. Consequently, the Federal Acquisition Regulation (“FAR”) and the individual agency supplements have been revised to become much more “commercial” friendly in most situations. If the potential contractor is a “commercial” business engaged in supplying commercial products or services, many of the complex requirements simply do not apply. Except for a very limited number of government unique provisions, most clauses are negotiable. In addition, there are award goals set by Federal statute that define prime contracting goals for small businesses, veteran owned small businesses, women-owned small business, Service Disable Veteran Owned Small Businesses, and more.

The following are some general points a commercial/preference business should consider:

  • Just over $573B DoD 2016 proposed spending plan and an additional $163 B for Veterans Affairs programs (total government budgets much bigger)
  • Limited government audit rights for commercial companies with commercial products
  • Terms and conditions more conducive to commercial application (subject to the unique mission of the government)
  • Over 11 Million commercial supplies (products) and services at volume discounts offered on GSA Schedule contracts
  • Favorable research and development terms if negotiated correctly
  • Commercial pricing based on the market—(Government does request the best commercial prices under like terms and conditions)
  • Electronic Payment with automatic interest on due and payable amounts for late payments
  • Joint venture, teaming arrangements, and subcontract opportunities in addition to prime status purchases

The government market sector has vast potential for a company that has the resources and products/services to benefit the goals of the government. If a company is considering doing business with the government, the effort must be based on one simple principle—DO IT RIGHT!

© Busch Law Firm LLC (2016)

Richard Busch, II, is a solo practitioner at The Busch Law Firm, which is a boutique government contract practice firm. His practice involves all aspects of government contracts, commercial contracts, conflict management systems design, ADR, and white collar crime. More specifically, his practice focuses on the formation and administration of contract relationships through the utilization of a proactive approach of addressing the objectives of the relationship, requirements for successful performance, and the resolution of disputes. Mr. Busch has extensive experience in negotiating complex business issues involving high technology and major weapons system contracts, contract compliance issues, and resolving both internal and external disputes involving the business organization. Richard has reviewed and negotiated multimillion dollar solicitations, proposals, equitable adjustments, terminations, and other related government acquisition and commercial-based contract matters with a number of government agencies and subcontractor/vendors. He concentrates on the legal issues facing a corporation doing business with the government or its prime contractors in the areas of construction, high technology, major weapons systems, and information⁄communication technology. Mr. Busch has worked with corporations, the DoD, and other government agencies in the highly structured areas of classified contracts. As a result, he has gained a wealth of experience in dealing with classified authorities pertaining to these agencies. Prior to entering private practice, Mr. Busch held positions as General Counsel of a multi-billion dollar product area with a Fortune 50 defense contractor and a legal advisor to the Director of Contracts at the National Security Agency (NSA).  Mr. Busch earned an L.L.M. (Government Contract Designation) from George Washington University National Law Center, a J.D. from the Hamline University School of Law, and a B.A. from Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri.

The opinions and views expressed by Featured Bloggers on CBA-CLE Legal Connection do not necessarily represent the opinions and views of the Colorado Bar Association, the Denver Bar Association, or CBA-CLE, and should not be construed as such.

 

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CLE Program: Finding Federal Contract Work — Meet the Attorneys, Veterans, the SBA and Bankers Your Clients Need

This CLE presentation will occur on September 16, 2016, at the CBA-CLE offices (1900 Grant Street, Third Floor), from 9 a.m. to 4:10 p.m. Register for the live program here or register for the webcast here. You may also call (303) 860-0608 to register.

Can’t make the live program? Order the homestudy here: CD • MP3Video OnDemand.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Notice-Prejudice Rule Applies Where Claim Filed with Insurance Company After Contractual Period

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in MarkWest Energy Partners, L.P. v. Zurich American Insurance Co. on Thursday, July 14, 2016.

Insurance—Notice-Prejudice Rule—Occurrence Liability Policy.

MarkWest Energy Partners, L.P. (MarkWest), a natural gas company, procured from Zurich American Insurance Company (Zurich) a commercial general liability policy (the policy) with a limited pollution liability endorsement (the endorsement), covering “incidents” occurring between November 1, 2012, and November 1, 2013. On November 4, 2012, MarkWest was constructing a pipeline when a chemical used in the drilling process escaped the drilling area, thereby contaminating the surrounding area. MarkWest immediately reported the incident to local environmental officials, who approved a chemical cleanup protocol and confirmed that cleanup had been successfully completed in February 2013. On March 28, 2013, MarkWest notified Zurich of the contamination and filed an associated claim. Zurich denied the claim because MarkWest had failed to provide notice within 60 days of the incident, as required by the endorsement. MarkWest filed an action for damages, and the district court granted Zurich’s motion for summary judgment.

On appeal, MarkWest contended that the notice-prejudice rule applied and the district court erred in granting Zurich’s motion for summary judgment. Colorado’s notice-prejudice rule applies even where, as here, the notice requirement is a condition precedent to coverage under an occurrence liability policy. Therefore, unless Zurich can show that its ability to investigate the occurrence or defend against a claim was prejudiced by MarkWest’s late notice, the court cannot deny a claim based solely on a failure to strictly comply with the notice provision. Because the district court concluded otherwise, its decision was reversed and the case was remanded for further proceedings.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Proposed Development Plan Need Not Include Outdoor Gathering Space

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Rangeview, LLC v. City of Aurora on Thursday, July 14, 2016.

Rezoning of Property—Site Plan—Standards—Abuse of Discretion.

BFR’s application to rezone its parcel of property (the property) was granted. Rangeview LLC owns Rangeview Estates, which borders the property to the west, and Eades and Sellery each own property in the neighborhoods surrounding the property. Rangeview, Eades, and Sellery (collectively, Rangeview) filed the underlying action against the City of Aurora, claiming that the Aurora City Council exceeded its jurisdiction in granting BFR’s application to rezone the property. The district court affirmed the City Council’s decision.

On appeal, Rangeview argued that City Council abused its discretion by approving the site plan because the plan did not include an outdoor gathering space as mandated by the Aurora Municipal Code’s (Code) sustainable infill redevelopment (SIR) zoning district design standards. The Code defaults to the terms of the SIR handbook, which states that projects “should” provide a public space. Therefore, although a public space is desirable, it is not required. Because City Council’s approval was supported by competent evidence, it did not abuse its discretion.

Rangeview also argued that City Council abused its discretion in rezoning the property to an SIR district when the property does not meet the requirements of an “infill development parcel,” the proportions of which are defined in the Code. Because the Code language’s ordinary meaning does not reference any requirement related to the proportions of developed boundaries, the City Council did not abuse its discretion by approving the rezoning request even though the property would not meet the definition of an “infill development parcel.”

The judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Jury Properly Instructed on Elements of Theft

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Stellabotte on Thursday, July 14, 2016.

John Arthur Stellabotte is the owner of J&J Towing. After several incidents where J&J towed cars without authorization and charged high fees for return of the vehicle, Stellabotte was charged with six counts of aggravated motor vehicle theft, four counts of theft, and five habitual criminal counts. He was convicted of one count of aggravated motor vehicle theft, two class 4 felony counts of theft, one class 2 misdemeanor count of theft. He was sentenced to 24 years on all felony theft counts and one year on the misdemeanor count, to run concurrently.

On appeal, Stellabotte raised two contentions related to jury instructions, argued that his sentence should be halved because of new legislation reducing the severity of the offenses, and argued the 24-year sentences were grossly disproportionate to the severity of the offenses. The court of appeals analyzed the jury instructions and found no error; the instructions correctly stated the law despite formatting differences. The court also disagreed with Stellabotte that the trial court erred in using the dictionary definition of “authorization.” The court of appeals found no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s definition. However, the court of appeals agreed with Stellabotte that he should receive the benefit of the legislative changes. Because the General Assembly reduced the theft offenses to class 5 felonies, Stellabotte should have been sentenced under the legislative scheme in effect at the time of sentencing.

The court vacated Stellabotte’s sentences and remanded for the court to resentence him in the correct presumptive range. The court emphasized that this decision did not affect the aggravated motor vehicle theft or misdemeanor counts, only the class 4 felony theft convictions. Finally, the court of appeals rejected Stellabotte’s argument that the sentences were disproportionate to the severity of his crimes.

Judge Dailey concurred in part and dissented in part; he would have affirmed the sentences on the theft counts since the incidents occurred when the old sentencing scheme was in effect.

Colorado Supreme Court: Disclosed Costs Can Be Actionable Under CCPA if Costs Are Not Actual, Necessary, and Reasonable

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in State v. The Castle Law Group, LLC on Monday, July 5, 2016.

In this C.A.R. 21 original proceeding, the State appealed from the trial court’s order barring testimony of market rate prices. The State brought CCPA claims against Castle and several affiliated vendors, alleging that the vendors conspired with Castle to charge above market rate prices for various foreclosure-related services, and the inflated charges were eventually carried by mortgage servicers and the public because they relied on Castle’s representation that the costs were “actual, necessary, and reasonable.”

The trial court limited the State’s ability to provide market rate comparisons because it ruled that charging high prices is not illegal, and as long as Castle disclosed everything it charged, there was no deception. The Colorado Supreme Court disagreed with the trial court’s characterization of the CCPA claims. The court ruled that the trial court misperceived the alleged deception: that the prices charged were not “actual, necessary, and reasonable.” Because market rate comparison evidence directly impacts the determination of whether the charges were “actual, necessary, and reasonable,” the supreme court made its Order to Show Cause absolute and remanded to the trial court for further proceedings.

Colorado Supreme Court: Title of Ballot Initiative Misleading and Confusing

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in In re Title, Ballot Title, and Submission Clause for 2015-2016 #156 on Tuesday, July 5, 2016.

Initiative #156 seeks to restrict the sale of certain “intoxicants” at retail food stores, including full strength beer, liquor, marijuana, and marijuana products. The Colorado Supreme Court held that the title was confusing because it could invoke voter speculation as to whether the initiative sought to prevent current holders of licenses of those “intoxicants” from renewing their licenses, to revoke the licenses of current holders, or to prevent new licenses from issuing. The court remanded to the title board.

Tenth Circuit: Overly Optimistic Reporting Not Enough to Prove Scienter

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Anderson v. Spirit AeroSystems Holdings, Inc. on Tuesday, July 5, 2016.

Spirit AeroSystems Holdings, Inc., agreed to manufacture parts for two Gulfstream aircraft and a Boeing 787. Spirit managed the production of the parts through three projects, each of which encountered production delays and cost overruns. Nevertheless, Spirit executives expressed optimism to investors about the company’s ability to break even. However, in October 2012, Spirit announced the projected loss of hundreds of millions of dollars on the three projects. The investors brought a class action against Spirit and four of its executives—CEO and president Jeffrey Turner, CFO Philip Anderson, Oklahoma Senior Vice President Alexander Kummant, and Vice President Terry George, who was overseeing the Boeing 787 project—for violating § 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act and SEC Rule 10b-5. Plaintiffs alleged that Spirit and the executives misrepresented and failed to disclose cost overruns and project delays. Defendants moved to dismiss, arguing that the plaintiffs failed to allege facts showing misrepresentations or omissions that were false or misleading and material, and failed to show scienter. The district court granted defendants’ motion, in part agreeing that plaintiffs had failed to show scienter. Plaintiffs appealed.

The Tenth Circuit compared the evidence set forth by plaintiffs to show scienter with the defendants’ explanations, noting that the inference of scienter would only suffice if it were at least as cogent and compelling as any other inference that could be drawn from the facts. Plaintiffs alleged that defendants knew throughout the class period that the projects were experiencing setbacks and generating so much in additional costs that a loss would be inevitable, yet they failed to warn investors of the forward loss until October 2012. Defendants argued that despite the setbacks, they were optimistic that the projects would meet the original cost forecasts, and expected revenues to exceed total costs. When Spirit realized that a loss was likely, it promptly announced a forward loss on the three projects. The Tenth Circuit found Spirit’s explanation that it was overly optimistic more compelling than an inference that the executives intentionally misrepresented or recklessly ignored economic realities. The Tenth Circuit noted that the plaintiffs presented little evidence to presume malevolence over benign optimism.

The Tenth Circuit approved of the district court’s consideration of a lack of a motive to commit securities fraud as a mitigating factor against scienter. Although the plaintiffs did not need to show a motive, the absence of one was relevant. The plaintiffs also proposed testimony by corroborating witnesses, but the Tenth Circuit determined the witnesses were too far removed from the executives to have been able to testify as to the executives’ state of mind. Plaintiffs also alleged that the defendants had a duty to disclose project overruns and delays, but the Tenth Circuit refused to infer scienter from the defendants’ failure to disclose, finding instead that there was no evidence that the defendants knew they needed to disclose more or were reckless in their failure to disclose. The Tenth Circuit disposed of plaintiffs’ remaining claims, characterizing them as “fraud by hindsight” but not securities fraud. Plaintiffs argued that Spirit’s recovery plan for the 787 project supported an inference of scienter, but the Tenth Circuit again accepted the defendants’ explanations of innocent optimism. The plaintiffs also argued that the sheer magnitude of the loss supported an inference of scienter, but the Tenth Circuit noted that the plaintiffs failed to show that the executives knew that their public reports were too encouraging or had recklessly failed to heed red flags from problem reports.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal. Judge McHugh concurred in part and dissented in part; she would have found that Anderson and Turner made materially false statements, therefore satisfying the scienter element.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Jurisdiction for Appeal of Final Administrative Action Lies in Court of Appeals, Not District Court

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in West Colorado Motors, LLC v. General Motors, LLC on Thursday, June 30, 2016.

Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction—Motion to Dismiss—Final Agency Action.

Park Meadows is a franchised Buick and GMC automobile dealership located in Lone Tree. Alpine is also a franchised Buick and GMC automobile dealership located in Denver. General Motors, LLC (GM) is a manufacturer and distributor of automobiles. C.R.S. § 12-6-120.3(1) required GM to provide at least 60-days notice to certain of its franchised dealers if it intended to relocate an existing motor vehicle dealer to a location that was within another motor vehicle dealer’s “relevant market area.” GM provided statutory notice to Park Meadows that it intended to approve the relocation of the Alpine dealership to Littleton. Park Meadows then sent a letter to the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Revenue protesting the relocation and requesting an investigation, hearing, or cease and desist order. The Executive Director responded, stating that there was no basis to proceed with an investigation. Park Meadows sent another letter to the Executive Director, alleging violations of C.R.S. § 12-6-120.3. The Executive Director responded, again stating there was no basis upon which to proceed with an investigation. Park Meadows then filed a complaint in Denver District Court alleging that GM unreasonably approved Alpine’s relocation in violation of C.R.S. § 12-6-120.3(1.5) and, in the alternative, against the Executive Director to order her to undertake an investigation or other action. The Executive Director filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that her second letter was “final agency action” that was subject to review only in the court of appeals. The district court agreed and dismissed the action as to the Executive Director. It denied a motion by Park Meadows for reconsideration. Alpine filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, which the district court granted, finding that jurisdiction for any relief lies in the court of appeals.

Park Meadows appealed all three orders, arguing that the Executive Director’s second letter did not constitute “final agency action.” The court disagreed. It found that the letter was clearly final action finding that Park Meadows had no basis on which to proceed. The court then found no abuse of discretion in the district court’s denial of Park Meadows’ motion for reconsideration. The court also affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the claim against Alpine because the court had sole jurisdiction to review the Executive Director’s decision.

The orders were affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

The Ethical Danger of the Microsoft/LinkedIn Merger

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on Stuart Teicher’s blog, “Keeping Lawyers Out of Trouble,” on June 16, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Headshot-Stuart-TeicherBy Stuart Teicher

This week it was announced that Microsoft is buying LinkedIn. There are some hidden attorney ethics implications about which we all need to be aware.

A review of the recent news articles announcing the acquisition reveals that a key motivating factor in Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn was access to LinkedIn’s data.  Of course, sharing data is nothing new. But when companies improve their ability to share our data across various platforms, my ears perk up. Not just because it’s creepy or because of obvious privacy implications. The type of data sharing they’re contemplating in the Microsoft/LinkedIn combination makes me worry about confidentiality (and other) issues.

Why they are merging:

According to the Wall Street Journal, Microsoft sees a critical synergy with LinkedIn:

“LinkedIn’s users are, arguably, Microsoft’s core demographic. They also offer Microsoft something it has long sought but never had—a network with which users identify. Microsoft needs to persuade LinkedIn users to adopt that identity, and use it across as many Microsoft products as possible.

Access to those users, as well as the enormous amounts of data they throw off, could yield insights and products within Microsoft that allow it to monetize its investment in LinkedIn in ways that the professional networking site might not be able to. [Microsoft CEO] Mr. Nadella already has mentioned a few of these, including going into a sales meeting armed with the bios of participants, and getting a feed of potential experts from LinkedIn whenever Office notices you’re working on a relevant task.“

In other words, Microsoft wants to have your Outlook and other Microsoft software products speak to your LinkedIn profile. The intersection of that data is valuable—various sellers of products and services would be willing to pay for it.

It appears that Microsoft wants to be able to read through the work we do on their products like Word, review our upcoming appointments in our Outlook calendar, search for keywords in our emails, and then find connections with people with our LinkedIn connections. That’s what they are searching for—connections they could monetize.

For instance, let’s say accountant X has an Outlook Calendar appointment which sets a meeting with “Charles McKenna of Account-Soft Corp.” Microsoft could then search LinkedIn and it would learn that McKenna works for a company that sells workflow management software. Well, now Microsoft knows the accountant is in the market for workflow management software… and they could sell that knowledge to other software companies who would then direct solicitations in the accountant’s direction. That’s an annoyance for an accountant, but a potential ethics disaster if he/she were a lawyer.

Basic issue, Confidentiality:

If Microsoft scours our Word documents and emails, then there could be Rule 1.6 confidentiality issues.  That’s so obvious that we don’t need to spend time talking about it now. I think the more unusual issues come from the Calendar function…

If they leverage the data in our Calendar, it could reveal our client relationships:

The substance of what we learn from the client is confidential, but so is the very existence of the lawyer-client relationship. Will the integration of these platforms make it easier for people to figure out who we represent?

Think about how much information Microsoft could piece together from our Calendar. They might see a potential client introduction (which lists Pete Smith as present), a court appearance (which lists Pete Smith as present), and a meeting for settlement purposes (which lists Pete Smith as present). It’s not going to be too tough for the Microsoft bots to figure out that Pete Smith is your client.

If they leverage data in our Calendar, it could reveal key substantive information that could harm the client:

If Microsoft looks at our Calendar they can see that we’re heading to a particular locale. They might then cross reference our LinkedIn connections and send a message to one of them that says something like, “Your connection Bruce Kramer is going to Chicago next week. Why don’t you look him up?”

That heads-up might give someone the incentive to look into our movements a bit more… and who knows what they could find. What if that info was given to a real estate agent that we know in Chicago… and maybe we are representing a successful land owner… and we’re clandestinely scouting a real estate purchase because we don’t want people to figure out that we’re there on behalf of our deep-pocketed client… because if they know, the purchaser will run up the price. That LinkedIn message tipped off the real estate agent and it could cost the client a lot of money.

If they leverage data in our Calendar, it could end up revealing a misrepresentation:

Imagine that Client A asks you to accompany them to a meeting in Los Angeles. You tell her that you can’t go because you’ll be on vacation on the East Coast. That’s not true, however. The truth is that you’ve already scheduled a meeting with a potentially new client in Los Angeles. You didn’t want Client A to know that you’d be in town because you didn’t want to have to shuffle between clients—it would just be too much work. You could have told Client A that you’d be in town but you didn’t have time to meet her, but you thought she’d be insulted. It was just easier to say you’re far away and be done with it.

Later, Client A gets a LinkedIn message that says, “Your Connection Mary Smith is going to be in Los Angeles next weekend… send her a message and try to link up!” Do you know what you are now? Busted. And not only do you have egg on your face, but you may also have committed an ethical violation.

Is the white lie that you told your client going to be considered a misrepresentation or deception per Rule 8.4(c)? That rule states: “It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to (c) engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation…”

I know what you’re thinking… it was a half-truth. No harm no foul. Well, I searched the ethics code, and I didn’t find the term “white lie” or “half-truth” anywhere in the code. You should also note that Rule 8.4(c) does not require that the misrepresentation be “material.” It doesn’t allow you to lie about inconsequential things and there’s no modifying language- it just says that you can’t lie or deceive.

These are just a few issues. Some of these are clear ethics concerns, others are more akin to PR nightmares. Are they so terrible that we all need to get off LinkedIn right away? That might be a bit premature. After all, they only just announced the merging of the platforms- they haven’t actually done anything yet. I don’t know what dangers will actually be realized, or whether any dangers will be realized at all. What I do know is that part of being a responsible attorney in this technological age is to be diligent in thinking about these issues. As lawyers practicing in an ever-changing technological environment, we need to be aware of the potential problems. Keep your eye on the news and stay abreast about the details regarding the integration of these two platforms. Then, if you determine that you need to act, do so.  That way we are “keep[ing] abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.” Comment [8], Rule 1.1.

Save the Date!

Stuart Teicher will be at the CLE offices on Thursday, September 8, 2016, to present two ethics programs. Registration is not yet open, but mark your calendars and don’t miss these important programs.

 

Stuart I. Teicher, Esq. is a professional legal educator who focuses on ethics law and writing instruction. A practicing attorney for over two decades, Stuart’s career is now dedicated to helping fellow attorneys survive the practice of law and thrive in the profession. Stuart teaches seminars and provides in-house training to law firms/legal departments.

Stuart helps attorneys get better at what they do (and enjoy the process) through his entertaining and educational CLE Performances. His expertise is in “Technethics,” a term Stuart coined that refers to the ethical issues in social networking and other technology. He also speaks about “Practical Ethics”– those lessons hidden in the ethics rules that enhance a lawyer’s practice. Stuart writes the blog “Keeping Lawyers Out of Trouble.”

Mr. Teicher is a Supreme Court appointee to the New Jersey District Ethics Committee where he investigates and prosecutes grievances filed against attorneys, an adjunct Professor of Law at Rutgers Law School in Camden, New Jersey where he teaches Professional Responsibility and an adjunct Professor at Rutgers University in New Brunswick where he teaches undergraduate writing courses. He is a member of the bar in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In 2014, he authored the book Navigating the Legal Ethics of Social Media and Technology (Thomson Reuters).

Colorado Supreme Court: Economic Loss Rule Does Not Bar Tort Claims Arising Before Execution of Contract

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Van Rees v. Unleaded Software, Inc. on Monday, June 27, 2016.

Economic Loss Doctrine—Conversion and Civil Theft—Public Impact or Interest—Private or Internal Transactions.

After Unleaded Software, Inc. failed to deliver contracted-for websites and services, Van Rees brought suit, alleging various tort theories, civil theft, three breach of contract claims, and a violation of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act (CCPA). The trial court dismissed all but the contract claims, and the court of appeals affirmed, holding that the economic loss rule barred the tort and civil theft claims and that Van Rees failed to allege a significant public impact under the CCPA.

The supreme court affirmed in part and reversed in part. The economic loss rule applies only if there is no independent tort duty. Here, where Van Rees alleged Unleaded induced him into entering a contractual relationship when it knew it would not be able to perform the promised services, there is an independent tort duty, and the court therefore reversed as to Van Rees’s tort claims. The court did not reach the question of the economic loss rule as it relates to civil theft and instead affirmed the dismissal of that claim because Van Rees failed to adequately allege the knowing deprivation of a thing of value. Finally, the court affirmed the dismissal of the CCPA claim for failure to allege a significant public impact.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Economic Loss Rule Bars Tort Claims Against Mortgage Lender

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Miller v. Bank of New York Mellon on Thursday, June 16, 2016.

Dual Tracking—Failure to State a Claim for Relief—Economic Loss Rule—Implied Duty of Good Faith and Fair Dealing—Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress—Fraud—Negligence.

The Millers obtained a note and deed of trust in 2004 to purchase a house, and the loan was transferred several times. They began missing payments in 2007 and filed for bankruptcy and received discharges in 2009. Bank of America, N.A. (BANA) then told the Millers to vacate their house, but they stayed and eventually entered into negotiations with BANA regarding a loan modification. In February 2012, Bank of New York Mellon (BNY Mellon) moved for an order authorizing the public trustee to proceed with a foreclosure sale, pursuant to C.R.C.P. 120. While this Rule 120 action was pending, the Millers filed a complaint against five financial institutions (collectively, the Banks) to quiet title to the house in their favor. The Millers alleged that the Banks improperly subjected them to dual tracking (a process under which banks pursue foreclosure on a home while negotiating a loan modification) in violation of the consent judgment that resulted from the National Mortgage Settlement, which generally prohibits dual tracking. The district court dismissed for failure to state a claim for relief. The court in the Rule 120 action authorized the sale in July 2012, but the Millers kept negotiating a loan modification with BANA. In 2013, BANA and the Millers agreed to a loan modification, the Millers began making payments, and BNY Mellon dismissed the Rule 120 action. In October 2014, the Millers amended their complaint, asserting claims for breach of the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing, intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud, and negligence. The Banks moved to dismiss, and the court granted the motion.

On appeal, the Millers argued that the court erred in determining that the economic loss rule barred their tort claims. The economic loss rule provides that “a party suffering only economic loss from the breach of an express or implied contractual duty may not assert a tort claim for such a breach absent an independent duty of care under tort law.” Here, the consent judgment in a federal case challenging dual tracking did not create a private cause of action for third parties and there was no special relationship between the parties that established an independent duty.

The Millers also argued that the court erred in dismissing their contract claim, because they had a reasonable expectation that the Banks would not engage in dual tracking and would modify their loan. Although there is an implied duty of good faith and fair dealing in every contract, there was no reasonable expectation on the part of the Millers that their loan would be modified or that the Banks would refrain from dual tracking. Neither allegation has any basis in their contractual agreement.

The judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Ethical Prohibition on Paying Witness Contingent Fee Does Not Require Exclusion of Evidence

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Murray v. Just In Case Business Lighthouse, LLC on Monday, June 20, 2016.

Contingent Fees for Witnesses—Summary Witness Testimony—Summary Exhibits.

The Supreme Court held that the violation of an ethical rule does not displace the rules of evidence and that trial courts retain the discretion under CRE 403 to exclude the testimony of improperly compensated witnesses. The Court also held that trial courts may allow summary witness testimony if they determine that the evidence is sufficiently complex and voluminous that a summary witness would assist the trier of fact. It further held that in those circumstances, summary witnesses may satisfy CRE 602’s personal knowledge requirement by examining the underlying documentary evidence on which they based their summary testimony. Finally, the Court held that that under CRE 1006, trial courts abuse their discretion when they admit summary charts that characterize evidence in an argumentative fashion rather than simply organize it in a manner helpful to the trier of fact. The Court reversed the Court of Appeals’ holding remanding the case to the trial court, but affirmed on all other issues.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.