July 25, 2014

Colorado Court of Appeals: Attorney Fee Award Erroneous when Underlying Claim Was to Recover Judgment

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Castro v. Lintz on Thursday, July 17, 2014.

Workers’ Compensation—Tort—Piercing the Corporate Veil—Enforcement of Judgment—Breach of Duty to Creditor—Dismissal—Attorney Fees—CRS § 13-17-201.

In 2010, Castro was employed by Lintz Construction, Inc. He was injured during the course of his employment when he fell from the roof of a building while shoveling snow. Castro filed a workers’ compensation claim against both Lintz Construction and Jonathan Lintz personally. The administrative law judge (ALJ) ordered Lintz Construction to pay Castro benefits in the amount of $4,536.76. The district court later granted Lintz’s motion to dismiss Castro’s claims to enforce the judgment against Lintz on the ground that the claims were barred by the doctrine of claim preclusion, awarding attorney fees to Lintz. The Colorado Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s order.

On appeal, Castro contended that the district court erred as a matter of law in awarding Lintz attorney fees under CRS § 13-17-201. An award of attorney fees under § 13-17-201 is mandatory when a trial court dismisses a tort action under CRCP 12(b). Castro’s claims for disregarding the corporate form (piercing the corporate veil) to recover the money he had already been awarded in the workers’ compensation claim and enforcement of his judgment against Lintz Construction do not sound in tort. Although Castro’s breach of duty to creditor was a tort, the essence of this claim did not sound in tort because Castro sought to recover only the benefits he was awarded. Therefore, the district court erred in awarding Lintz his attorney fees under CRS § 13-17-201.

Summary and full case available here.

Tenth Circuit: Strong Showing of Scienter Required in Securities Class Action Fraud Case

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Weinstein v. McClendon on Tuesday, July 8, 2014.

Plaintiffs filed a complaint in federal district court on behalf of a class of purchasers of Chesapeake Energy Corporation common stock, alleging that various corporate officers of Chesapeake, including CEO Aubrey McClendon, materially misled the public through false statements and omissions regarding two products, Volumetric Product Payment (VPP) transactions and the Founder Well Participation Program (FWPP). The district court did not decide whether defendants had made false material statements or omissions of fact, holding simply that the allegations in the complaint did not give rise to a strong inference that defendants acted with the intent to defraud as required by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act. The district court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss.

In its analysis, the Tenth Circuit examined the burden faced by plaintiffs in securities class actions, and determined that there must be a strong showing of scienter on the part of defendants in order for plaintiffs’ claim to proceed. The Tenth Circuit noted that there was no cogent or compelling inference that defendants materially misrepresented or withheld facts for the purpose of misleading investors. The district court’s dismissal was affirmed.

Tenth Circuit: Bankruptcy Reorganization Does Not Create Separate Legal Entity

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in ASARCO LLC v. Union Pacific Railroad Co. on Monday, June 23, 2014.

ASARCO, along with Union Pacific Railroad Corp. and Pepsi Co., operated in a four-square-mile area in Denver known as the Vasquez site, which was found to be environmentally contaminated. The EPA brought a CERCLA action against ASARCO. The CERCLA action was still pending when ASARCO filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the Southern District of Texas. The EPA filed proofs of claim in ASARCO’s bankruptcy case to recover its expenses for cleaning the Vasquez site. ASARCO eventually moved for approval of a settlement agreement, in which it would agree to pay over $1.5 million to resolve its CERCLA claims at the Vasquez site and other sites, and the bankruptcy court approved the settlement on June 5, 2009. The bankruptcy plan was also approved, which reorganized ASARCO as ASARCO LLC and noted that all claims, including any pending environmental claims, would be paid in full on the effective date of December 9, 2009.

ASARCO LLC filed a lawsuit against Union Pacific and Pepsi on December 10, 2012, asserting that it paid more than its fair share for environmental remediation at the Vasquez site. ASARCO LLC brought two claims: a direct contribution claim under CERCLA, and a contribution claim as debtor-ASARCO’s subrogee under CERCLA. The magistrate judge recommended dismissal of both claims – as to the first claim, it found that the claim was untimely, as it was brought more than three years after the date the bankruptcy court approved the settlement. As to the second claim, the magistrate judge rejected ASARCO’s argument that it was a separate legal entity from debtor-ASARCO and it could not be subrogated to itself. The magistrate judge also noted that CERCLA provided the exclusive legal remedy to ASARCO’s claims. The district judge accepted the magistrate judge’s recommendations and dismissed the complaint in its entirety. ASARCO appealed to the Tenth Circuit.

ASARCO first argued that its claim was not barred by the statute of limitations. The Tenth Circuit commented that the plain language of the statute did not support ASARCO’s argument, since the statute refers to the date the judicially approved settlement is entered. The Tenth Circuit also noted that all of the case law cited by ASARCO counseled the same result, that the statute of limitations had expired prior to ASARCO’s filing of the complaint. As to the second argument, the Tenth Circuit denied that ASARCO became a separate legal entity after bankruptcy reorganization, and noted that an entity cannot become subrogated to itself. Because the direct contribution claim was time-barred and because ASARCO is not a subrogee, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Online Travel Companies Do Not Actually Furnish Lodging and Therefore Are Not Liable for Lodger’s Tax

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Expedia, Inc. v. City & County of Denver on Thursday, July 3, 2014.

Online Travel Companies’ Collection of Municipal Taxes for Hotel Accommodations.

The City and County of Denver (City) imposes a Lodger’s Tax of 10.75% on the purchase price for lodging. “Lodging” includes overnight accommodations, furnished for consideration, in a hotel or similar establishment. The tax must be collected from travelers and remitted to the City by “vendors.” The City argued that plaintiff online travel companies (OTCs) are vendors that must collect and remit the Lodger’s Tax on the fees they charge their customers, in addition to the tax on the room rate charged by the hotel.

The OTCs facilitate booking reservations on behalf of its customers. The OTC calculates the Lodger’s Tax based solely on the discounted room rate charged by the hotel, excluding the additional fees collected from the traveler and retained by the OTC. The OTC does not disclose to the customer the discounted rate the OTC pays the hotel, the amount representing the OTC’s fees, or the portion of the final price attributable to the Lodger’s Tax.

The hotel invoices the OTC for the contractual room rate and the Lodger’s Tax on that discounted rate. The hotel assumes responsibility for remitting the collected Lodger’s Tax to the City. The Lodger’s Tax remitted is based on the discounted rate charged the OTC, but the City argued it should be based on the full amount paid by the customer to the OTC.

The City began investigating the OTC’s obligations under the Lodger’s Tax in 2003. The City took no action until 2010, when it issued the assessments at issue in this case. The City’s manager of finance issued Lodger’s Tax assessments to the OTCs from 2001 through April 2010 totaling $40 million.

The parties stipulated that if they were liable for the Lodger’s Tax on their fees since 2001, they owed $4,652.522 in back taxes, not including penalties and interest. A hearing officer found that the OTCs were liable for the tax since 2001, and they owed interest and a 15% nonpayment penalty.

The district court affirmed, but found error in the hearing officer not having applied the ordinance’s three-year limitations period relevant to tax assessments. It therefore vacated the assessments to the extent they pertained to taxes payable more than three years before the date of the assessments. The OTCs appealed the portion of the order holding them liable, and the City cross-appealed the application of the statute of limitations.

The Court of Appeals held that the Lodger’s Tax did not apply to the fees charged by the OTCs for two reasons: (1) the OTCs are not vendors within the meaning of the ordinance because they do not furnish lodging, and (2) their fees are not included within the purchase price for lodging under the ordinance because the fees are not directly connected with the furnishing of lodging. The City argued that making sales of lodging is synonymous with selling lodging. The Court agreed that the OTCs are not vendors under the ordinance because they do not actually furnish lodging. It was an abuse of discretion to find otherwise.

The Court found that OTC fees are not directly connected with furnishing lodging because they are compensated only for providing travel-related information and online facilitation services. Therefore, under a provision of the Lodger’s Tax, their fees are excluded. The matter was remanded to vacate all of the tax assessments against the OTCs.

Summary and full case available here.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Prevailing Employee Presumptively Entitled to Attorney Fees Under Colorado Wage Claim Act

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Lester v. The Career Building Academy on Thursday, July 3, 2014.

Attorney Fees Under the Colorado Wage Claim Act.

Lester appealed a jury verdict awarding him $12,307.69 in unpaid compensation based on breach of an implied contract with defendant, The Career Building Academy (TCBA). TCBA is a Colorado nonprofit corporation that provides vocational training, with an emphasis on residential construction, to high school students.

In 2011, Lester orally agreed to work as TCBA’s chief operating officer. Rick Johnson, TCBA’s founder, promised to pay Lester an annual salary of $150,000, of which $75,000 would be paid by TCBA and $75,000 by Johnson Heating and Plumbing (JHP).

During his first six months, Lester was paid twice, totaling $7,884 in gross pay. Lester resigned and sent a wage demand to TCBA. TCBA rejected the demand, contending that Lester agreed to volunteer as chief operating officer. Lester sued TCBA and JHP, seeking unpaid wages and compensation, as well as penalties and attorney fees.

A jury determined Lester had entered into an implied contract with TCBA and returned a verdict in his favor for $12,307.69. The court dismissed Lester’s claim against JHP. Following the verdict, Lester requested that the court award him statutory penalties and attorney fees under the Colorado Wage Claim Act (CWCA). TCBA argued that the CWCA did not apply to an implied contract. After applying factors in Carruthers v. Carrier Access Corp., 251 P.3d 1199 (Colo.App. 2010), used to determine an award of attorney fees to prevailing employers, the trial court denied the request.

On appeal, Lester argued it was error to apply the Carruthers factors to a prevailing employee who is presumptively entitled to an award of attorney fees. The Court of Appeals agreed. CRS §8-4-110(1) allows a court to award costs and attorney fees to the prevailing party on a CWCA claim. Unlike a prevailing employer, a prevailing employee is presumptively entitled to attorney fees under the CWCA. The attorney fee issue was remanded for reconsideration under the correct standard by the trial court.

Lester also argued it was error for the trial court to have, sua sponte, dismissed his claims against JHP as a matter of law. The Court found no reversible error. It also determined that because JHP was neither a member of TCBA nor an individual, the alter ego doctrine could not be applied to it.

The Court held that if the trial court decides that Lester is entitled to attorney fees in the trial court, Lester also should be awarded appellate attorney fees. The denial of attorney fees under the CWCA was reversed and the case was remanded to the trial court to consider Lester’s request for attorney fees, incurred in the trial court and on appeal.

Summary and full case available here.

Colorado Supreme Court: Electricity is a Service, Not Tangible Personal Property, so No Tax Exemption Available

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Department of Revenue v. Public Service Company of Colorado on Monday, June 30, 2014.

Taxation—Sales Tax—Statutes—Construction.

The Colorado Department of Revenue petitioned for certiorari review of the court of appeals’ decision affirming respondent’s entitlement to a sales and use tax refund. The Supreme Court granted certiorari and now reversed.

Respondent Public Service Co. claimed that it is entitled to a sales and use tax refund for sales and use taxes paid on machinery purchased for the generation of electricity. CRS §§ 39-26-709 and 39-30-106 provide a sales and use tax exemption for machinery used for the production of tangible personal property. Public Service Co. argued that electricity constitutes tangible personal property and that it therefore is entitled to the sales and use tax exemption for its machinery used in the production of electricity.

The Court held that electricity is treated as a service, not as tangible personal property, under the sales and use tax statutes. Therefore, Public Service Co. is not entitled to the machinery tax exemption.

Summary and full case available here.

Bills Regarding Great-Grandparent Visitation, Workers’ Comp Treating Physicians, Marijuana Revenue, Segregation of Mentally Ill Inmates, and More Signed

The 2014 Legislative Session has now ended, and Governor Hickenlooper signed many bills into law this session. Over the past week, he signed 79 bills, allowed one to become law without a signature, and vetoed two bills. In total, the governor signed 396 bills, allowed one to become law without a signature, and vetoed four bills.

On Wednesday, June 4, 2014, the governor signed two bills. They are summarized here. The governor also vetoed one bill, SB 14-023Concerning an Authorization of the Voluntary Transfer of Water Efficiency Savings to the Colorado Water Conservation Board for Instream Use Purposes in Water Divisions that Include Lands West of the Continental Divide. The governor’s statement regarding SB 14-023 is available here.

  • SB 14-041Concerning the Creation of a USS Colorado License Plate for Motor Vehicles and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sen. Bernie Herpin and Reps. Bob Gardner & Spencer Swalm. The bill creates a special license plate to commemorate the USS Colorado.
  • SB 14-214Concerning the Studies Requested in the Department of Personnel’s Response to the Request for Information in the Fiscal Year 2013-14 Annual General Appropriation Act, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sens. Kent Lambert & Pat Steadman and Reps. Cheri Gerou & Jenise May. The bill requires the state personnel director and the state auditor to conduct a compensation study to compare with similar workforce structures. The bill also requires PERA to provide member information and data to any third-party compensation consulting firm.

On Thursday, June 5, 2014, the governor signed 24 bills into law. Some of these are summarized here.

  • SB 14-125Concerning the Regulation of Transportation Network Companies, and, in Connection Therewith, Requiring Transportation Network Companies to Carry Liability Insurance, Conduct Background Checks on Transportation Network Company Drivers, Inspect Transportation Network Company Vehicles, and Obtain a Permit from the Public Utilities Commission; and Making an Appropriation, by Sens. Cheri Jahn & Ted Harvey and Reps. Dan Pabon & Libby Szabo. The bill creates a limited structure for transportation network companies, which use digital networks to connect riders to drivers who provide transportation in their area.
  • SB 14-172Concerning Employer-Paid Benefits to a Firefighter for Cardiac Illnesses Resulting from a Strenuous Work Event, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sens. Lois Tochtrop & Linda Newell and Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp. The bill requires any municipality, special district, fire authority, or county improvement district employing firefighters to provide benefits for heart and circulatory malfunctions.
  • SB 14-213Concerning Increasing the Statutes of Limitations for Commencing Procedures Against a Person who, After Committing a Vehicular Homicide, Leaves the Scene of the Accident, and, in Connection Therewith, Requiring a Post-Enactment Review of the Implementation of this Act. The bill increases the statute of limitations for persons who leave the scene of a vehicular homicide from five years to ten years.
  • HB 14-1214Concerning an Increase in the Penalties for Certain Offenses Committed Against an Emergency Medical Services Provider, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Rep. Cheri Gerou and Sen. David Balmer. The bill adds working emergency medical service providers to the list of victims that trigger enhanced sentencing for first degree murder, first degree assault, and second degree assault.
  • HB 14-1228Concerning the Repeal of Certain Requirements for Defensive Driving Schools Attended in Accordance with a Court Order Resulting from a Violation of a Law Regulating the Operation of a Motor Vehicle and, in Connection Therewith, Reducing an Appropriation, by Reps. Cherylin Peniston & Libby Szabo and Sens. Lois Tochtrop & Steve King. The bill removes the requirement that the Department of Revenue monitor, evaluate, and report on the effectiveness of court-ordered driving programs, and eliminates the penalty surcharge on people who attend the courses.
  • HB 14-1260Concerning the Creation of Three Mandatory Minimum Presumptive Ranges for Defendants Convicted of a Felony Sex Offense Involving Intrusion Against a Child who is Under Twelve Years of Age when the Adult Defendant is At Least Ten Years Older that has One of the Ranges Starting at Ten Years as the Minimum in the Range, and, in Connection Therewith, Creating an Indeterminate Lifetime Sentence with a Mandatory Minimum Presumptive Range of Ten to Sixteen Years for a Class 4 Felony; a Mandatory Minimum Presumptive Range of Eighteen to Thirty-Two Years for a Class 3 Felony; and a Mandatory Minimum Presumptive Range of Twenty-Four to Forty-Eight Years for a Class 2 Felony, by Rep. Mike Foote  and Sen. Mike Johnston. The bill changes the sentencing parameters for adults who commit felony sex offenses on children under age 12.
  • HB 14-1279Concerning the Creation of a State Income Tax Credit to Reimburse a Business for Personal Property Taxes Paid in the State, by Reps. Dianne Primavera & Dave Young and Sens. Rollie Heath & Mark Scheffel. The bill creates a state income property tax credit to reimburse businesses for the amount of business personal property tax paid in Colorado.
  • HB 14-1383Concerning the Required Number of Physicians that Must Be Provided to an Injured Employee for Selection of a Treating Physician in Workers’ Compensation Cases, by Rep. Angela Williams and Sens. Lois Tochtrop & Jessie Ulibarri. The bill requires employers to provide injured workers a choice of at least four physicians at two or more distinct locations, with exceptions for rural areas.

On Friday, June 6, 2014, the governor signed 53 bills, allowed one to become law without a signature, and vetoed one bill. The bill he allowed to become law without a signature was HB 14-1371 Concerning Property Taxation of Oil and Gas Leaseholds and Lands and, in Connection Therewith, Specifying that the Wellhead is the Point of Valuation and Taxation for Such Leaseholds and Lands, which changed the point of taxation for oil and gas wells from the production point to the wellhead. The governor issued a statement about the bill (available here).

The bill the governor vetoed Friday was HB 14-1375Concerning Modifications to Statutory Provisions Governing Urban Redevelopment to Promote the Equitable Financial Contribution Among Affected Public Bodies in Connection with the Tax Increment Financing of Urban Redevelopment Projects. The governor’s statement regarding this bill is available here.

Summaries of some of the bills the governor signed on Friday are available here.

  • HB 14-1269Concerning the Circumstances Under Which a Person who Sells Items Subject to Sales Tax Must Collect Such Sales Tax on Behalf of the State, by Reps. Lois Court & Angela Williams and Sen. Mike Johnston. The bill expands the definition of “nexus” for sales tax purposes, broadening the types of business activity that create taxable sales.
  • HB 14-1280Concerning Limits on Liability for Agritourism, by Rep. Timothy Dore and Sen. Gail Schwartz. The bill renames “agricultural recreation activities” as “agritourism” and excludes marijuana-related activities from its definition.
  • HB 14-1321Concerning the Membership of the Colorado Task Force on Drunk and Impaired Driving, by Rep. Dave Young and Sen. Steve King. The bill changes the name of the Interagency Task Force on Drunk Driving to the Colorado Task Force on Drunk and Impaired Driving and makes several changes to membership requirements.
  • HB 14-1333Concerning the Funding of Colorado Water Conservation Board Projects and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Reps. Randy Fischer & Don Coram and Sens. Gail Schwartz & Ted Harvey. The bill appropriates funds from the Colorado Water Conservation Board Construction Fund for specific projects and authorizes certain other transactions.
  • HB 14-1343Concerning Workers’ Compensation Coverage for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for Peace Officers, by Reps. Jonathan Singer & Jared Wright and Sen. Lois Tochtrop. The bill allows firefighters and peace officers to file workers’ compensation claims for post-traumatic stress disorder and specifies parameters for filing such claims.
  • HB 14-1356Concerning an Increase in the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission’s Penalty Authority and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Rep. Mike Foote and Sen. Matt Jones. The bill increases the penalties for violations of the Oil and Gas Conservation Act.
  • HB 14-1362Concerning Great-Grandparent Visitation with Great-Grandchildren, by Rep. Dominick Moreno and Sen. Jessie Ulibarri. The bill allows great-grandparents to seek visitation rights with their great-grandchildren under the same circumstances as grandparent visitation rights are allowed.
  • HB 14-1387Concerning Revisions of Capital Related Statutes in the Colorado Revised Statutes and, in Connection Therewith, Amending or Repealing Obsolete, Inconsistent, and Conflicting Provisions of Law and Clarifying the Language to Reflect Legislative Intent and Current Application of the Law, by Reps. Libby Szabo & Randy Fischer and Sen. Gail Schwartz. The bill updates statutes related to capital construction projects and makes additional changes.
  • HB 14-1390Concerning the Legal Standing of a Member of the Public in Challenging a Violation of the Open Meeting Requirements, by Reps. Crisanta Duran & Bob Gardner and Sens. Greg Brophy & Rachel Zenzinger. The bill clarifies that anyone denied rights provided by the Open Meetings Law has standing to challenge the denial.
  • HB 14-1398Concerning the Provision of Financial Services to Licensed Marijuana Businesses, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Rep. Jonathan Singer and Sens. Pat Steadman & David Balmer. The bill allows for the creation and regulation of marijuana financial services cooperatives referred to as “cannabis credit co-ops” or CCCs, a new type of financial services entity with membership restricted to licensed marijuana businesses.
  • SB 14-021Concerning the Treatment of Persons with Mental Illness who are Involved in the Criminal Justice Systems, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sens. Lois Tochtrop & Steve King and Rep. Jared Wright. The bill extends the repeal date of the Legislative Oversight Committee for the Continuing Examination of the Treatment of Persons with Mental Illness who are Involved with the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Systems. The bill also specifies areas of examination for the committee.
  • SB 14-064Concerning Restricting the Use of Long-Term Isolated Confinement for Inmates with Serious Mental Illness, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sen. Jessie Ulibarri and Rep. Joseph Salazar. The bill requires the DOC to review the mental health status of offenders in segregation every 90 days, and requires that prior to placing an inmate in segregation, a review of the inmate’s mental health status should occur to determine if such placement is allowed.
  • SB 14-117Concerning the Reauthorization of the Regulation of Real Estate Appraisers by the Board of Real Estate Appraisers through a Recreation and Reenactment of the Relevant Statutes Incorporating no Substantive Amendments other than those Approved During the First Regular Session of the 69th General Assembly, by Sen. Cheri Jahn and Rep. Randy Fischer. The bill corrects an oversight from Senate Bill 13-155 and extends the repeal date of the Board of Real Estate Appraisers (board) in the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) through September 1, 2022.
  • SB 14-129Concerning Changes to Criminal Provisions Related to Marijuana and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sen. Pat Steadman and Rep. Jenise May. The bill affects a number of criminal provisions related to marijuana, including adding penalties for underage consumption and possession.
  • SB 14-193Concerning Conforming Colorado Law on Location Information with the Fourth Amendment as Interpreted by the United States Supreme Court in United States v. Jones, by Sens. Morgan Carroll & Kevin Lundberg and Rep. Jonathan Singer. The bill prohibits a state agency from obtaining location information from an electronic device without first obtaining a search warrant, with some exceptions.
  • SB 14-215Concerning the Disposition of Moneys Collected by the State in Connection with the Legal Marijuana Industry, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sen. Pat Steadman and Reps. Crisanta Duran & Cheri Gerou. The bill creates the Marijuana Cash Tax Fund for tax revenue collected by the legal marijuana industry, and identifies the purposes for which funds may be appropriated from the Marijuana Cash Tax Fund.

For a list of Governor Hickenlooper’s legislative decisions, click here.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Bank Could Waive Obligations Under C.R.S. § 38-38-106(6) Without Violating Public Policy

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Armed Forces Bank, N.A. v. Hicks on Thursday, June 5, 2014.

CRS § 38-38-306(6)—Waiver—Motion to Amend Answer—Counterclaim—Discovery.

In December 2006, Glenwood Commercial, LLC borrowed $6 million from Bank Midwest to build a condominium complex in Glenwood Springs. The loan was secured by a deed of trust on the property where the complex was to be built. The Hickses, who were principals of Glenwood Commercial, provided separate but identical personal guaranties for the loan. Bank Midwest assigned the loan and guaranties to Armed Forces Bank, which later filed suit against Glenwood Commercial and the Hickses for defaulting under the loan agreement. The district court thereafter granted the bank’s motion for summary judgment against the Hickses.

On appeal, the Hickses contended that the district court erred as a matter of law because the bank’s statutory obligations under CRS § 38-38-106(6) could not be waived, and that, in any event, the Hickses’ guaranty documents do not contain a waiver of the bank’s statutory obligations under CRS § 38-38-106(6). CRS § 38-38-106(6) does not contain a prohibition against waiver, and the ability to waive the provisions of CRS § 38-38-106(6) would not violate public policy. Here, the plain language in the guaranty agreements unambiguously waived all of the Hickses’ defenses against the bank other than actual payment of the debt. Therefore, the Hickses waived their defenses based on CRS § 38-38-106(6) in their guaranty agreements and the district court properly granted summary judgment in the bank’s favor.

The Hickses also contended that the district court erred by denying their motion to amend their answer to assert a counterclaim against the bank. The bank was presented the proposed final plat after the January 1, 2010 deadline had passed and after it had filed suit for breach of the note. Therefore, it had the right to repudiate the modification and forbearance agreements and proceed with its contractual remedies. The district court’s denial of the motion to amend on the basis that the counterclaim as alleged was futile and would not survive a motion to dismiss was not an abuse of discretion.

The Hickses further argued that the district court abused its discretion by denying their motion to compel production of documents requiring the bank to produce documents pursuant to its obligations under CRCP 26(a)(1). However, production of the documents was not required under CRCP 26(a)(1) and the Hickses had not requested such documents under CRCP 34 or by any other discovery mechanism. Thus, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion to compel. The judgment was affirmed.

Summary and full case available here.

Bankruptcy Plan Modification by Debtor’s Counsel – Part of Bankruptcy Update 2014

In any three- to five-year period, many of us face unanticipated financial obstacles – medical expenses, educational expenses, dependent expenses. For a bankruptcy debtor, these unexpected financial burdens can derail a payment plan. Thankfully, the Bankruptcy Code at 11 U.S.C. § 1329 allows post-confirmation plan modifications so that debtors can adapt to changing life circumstances.

Section 1329 permits a debtor, trustee, or holder of an unsecured loan to request modification to increase or reduce payments to a particular class; prolong or shorten the time for those payments; alter the amount of distribution to a creditor in order to account for another payment not covered by the plan; or reduce payments in order to cover health insurance expenses for the debtor.

Experienced bankruptcy attorney Andrew S. Trexler offers some of the common scenarios in which his clients have requested post-confirmation plan modification:

  • To remove unpaid mortgage arrears following a mortgage loan modification and reduce plan length;
  • To bring payments current and reduce payments to account for change in projected disposable income, such as from retirement;
  • To allow for debtor to transition from one job or business to another through temporary reduction in monthly payment and provide for post-petition mortgage and HOA arrears;
  • To provide for pre-petition priority support arrears and cram down secured debt;
  • To surrender property securing Class 2 or 3 debts (Note: this is explicitly allowed by Judge Tallman so long as in good faith but disallowed by Judge Campbell);
  • Generally, to accommodate any significant decrease in disposable income caused by reduction in hours, job loss, increase in taxes due to end of payroll tax holiday in 2013 or increased medical bills, insurance costs, lawsuit defense, etc.; or
  • To allow for the purchase of health insurance (now generally required by the Affordable Care Act), so long as the debtor complies with § 1329(a)(4).

Trexler also provides the sample modification request motions and projected plans for several of these scenarios. He will present on this topic at Friday’s CLE program – Bankruptcy Update 2014 – along with several bankruptcy court judges and other area bankruptcy attorneys. Click the links below to register or call (303) 860-0608.

CLE Program: Bankruptcy Update 2014

This CLE presentation will take place on June 6, 2014. Click here to register for the live program and click here to register for the webcast. You can also register by phone at (303) 860-0608.

Can’t make the live program? Order the homestudy here — CD homestudy • MP3 audio downloadVideo OnDemand

Probate, Domestic Relations, Juvenile Law, Workers’ Comp Bills, and More Signed by Governor

Governor Hickenlooper continues to sign legislation, and has signed 54 bills in the last week. To date, he has signed 317 bills and vetoed two bills. Some of these are summarized here.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

  • SB 14-005Concerning Alternative Administrative Remedies for the Processing of Certain Wage Claims, and, in Connection Therewith, Amending the Provisions for Written Notices of a Wage Claim, and, in Connection Therewith, Making and Reducing Appropriations, by Sen. Jessie Ulibarri and Rep. Jonathan Singer. The bill authorizes the Division of Labor to develop an administrative process to handle wage claim cases.
  • SB 14-190Concerning Criminal Discovery, and, in Connection Therewith, Creating a Statewide Discovery Sharing System, a Criminal Discovery Surcharge, Civil Immunity for District Attorneys that Make a Good-Faith Effort to Redact Information from Discovery Documents, and Making an Appropriation, by Sen. Kent Lambert and Rep. Cheri Gerou. The bill implements the recommendations of the Discovery Task Force regarding creating and maintaining a statewide eDiscovery system.
  • SB 14-201Concerning Reestablishing a Child Protection Ombudsman Advisory Work Group to Develop a Plan for Accountable Autonomy for the Child Protection Ombudsman Program, by Sen. Linda Newell and Rep. Jonathan Singer. The bill creates a new advisory work group to evaluate the Office of Child Protection Ombudsman Program and recommend ways to improve efficiency.
  • SB 14-203Concerning the Office of the Respondent Parents’ Counsel in Cases of Alleged Child Abuse or Neglect, by Sens. Kent Lambert & Linda Newell and Reps. Jenise May & Bob Gardner. The bill creates the Office of Respondent Parents’ Counsel in the Judicial Department in order to provide legal representation to low income respondent parents in dependency and neglect cases.
  • HB 14-1273Concerning Human Trafficking, and, In Connection Therewith, Making and Reducing Appropriations, by Reps. Beth McCann & Jared Wright and Sens. Linda Newell & Gail Schwartz. The bill amends several statutory provisions concerning human trafficking.

Friday, May 30, 2014

  • HB 14-1080Concerning a Sales and Use Tax Exemption for the Colorado Ute Indians, by Reps. Mike McLachlan & Don Coram and Sen. Ellen Roberts. The bill clarifies that sales tax doesn’t apply to purchases made on reservations.
  • HB 14-1119Concerning an Income Tax Credit for the Donation of Food to a Hunger-Relief Charitable Organization, by Rep. Mike McLachlan and Sens. Mary Hodge & Ellen Roberts. The bill creates an income tax credit for individual and corporate taxpayers who donate food to hunger-relief charitable organizations.
  • HB 14-1222Concerning Modification of the Terms Under Which a County May Issue Tax-Exempt Private Activity Bonds on Behalf of an Eligible Applicant for the Purpose of Financing a Geothermal Energy Project on the Applicant’s Property, by Rep. Mike McLachlan and Sens. Gail Schwartz & Ellen Roberts. The bill changes several provisions regarding private activity bonds issued by counties.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

  • HB 14-1030Concerning the Establishment of Incentives for the Development of Hydroelectric Energy Systems, by Reps. Don Coram & Diane Mitsch-Bush and Sens. Gail Schwartz & Ellen Roberts. The bill facilitates the development of hydroelectric energy systems by the State Electrical Board and the Department of Regulatory Agencies.
  • HB 14-1275Concerning Authorization for the Parks and Wildlife Commission to Purchase Real Property to Build a Multi-Use Shooting Facility, by Reps. Crisanta Duran & Don Coram and Sens. Cheri Jahn & Ellen Roberts. The bill allows the Parks and Wildlife Commission to purchase certain real estate in Mesa County to build a multi-use shooting facility.
  • HB 14-1303Concerning the Receipt of Public Testimony from Remote Locations Around the State by Legislative Committees, and, in Connection Therewith, Making and Reducing Appropriations, by Reps. Ray Scott & Mark Ferrandino and Sen. Gail Schwartz. The bill allows the Executive Committee of the Legislative Council to establish policies to allow remote testimony from more than one location in Colorado.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

  • HB 14-1278Concerning Continuation of the Workers’ Compensation Accreditation Program Administered by the Division of Workers’ Compensation, and, in Connection Therewith, Implementing the Recommendations of the 2013 Sunset Report by the Department of Regulatory Agencies, by Rep. Paul Rosenthal and Sen. Lois Tochtrop. The bill continues the Workers’ Comp Accreditation Program and requires the DWC to conduct a study on the potential impact on the state of adopting the current version of the AMA Guides to Evaluation of Permanent Impairment.
  • HB 14-1323Concerning Restrictions on the Ability of a Government Entity to Access an Individual’s Personal Medical Information, by Rep. Dianne Primavera and Sens. Kevin Lundberg & John Kefalas. The bill places restrictions on the Department of Revenue’s use of personal medical information, and requires the DOR to receive an individual’s permission before accessing personal medical information.
  • HB 14-1322Concerning the Colorado Probate Code, by Rep. Mike McLachlan and Sen. Ellen Roberts. The bill makes several changes to the Colorado Probate Code provisions concerning control and distribution of estate assets.
  • HB 14-1363Concerning the Nonsubstantive Revision of Statutes in the Colorado Revised Statutes, as Amended, and, in Connection Therewith, Amending or Repealing Obsolete, Imperfect, and Inoperative Law to Preserve the Legislative Intent, Effect, and Meaning of the Law, by Rep. Bob Gardner and Sen. Ellen Roberts. This bill, the Revisor’s Bill, makes several nonsubstantive changes to the Colorado Revised Statutes in order to repeal or amend obsolete or unclear provisions of the law.
  • HB 14-1379Concerning Clarifying the Application of the Spousal Maintenance Statutes, by Rep. Beth McCann and Sen. Andy Kerr. The bill clarifies the applicability of prior spousal maintenance statutes in cases filed prior to January 1, 2014.
  • SB 14-184Concerning Oversight of the Industrial Hemp Program, by Sen. Gail Schwartz and Rep. Don Coram. The bill modifies existing statutes related to the industrial hemp program and creates an industrial hemp research grant program.
  • SB 14-191Concerning the Procedures for Resolution of Workers’ Compensation Claims, by Sen. Lois Tochtrop and Rep. Dan Pabon. The bill makes several changes to provisions regarding the resolution of workers’ compensation claims.
  • SB 14-206Concerning Criminal Record Sealing Provisions, and, in Connection Therewith, Relocating the Record Sealing Provisions in a New Part, Clarifying when an Arrest Record can be Sealed, and Making Other Clarifying Changes, by Sen. Pat Steadman and Rep. Jonathan Singer. The bill reorganizes statutes regarding sealing of criminal records and relocates them to another section of statute.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

  • HB 14-1156Concerning Extending the Age of Eligibility for the Child Nutrition School Lunch Protection Program, and, in Connection Therewith, Making and Reducing Appropriations, by Rep. Kevin Priola and Sen. Lois Tochtrop. The bill expands eligibility for the Child Nutrition School Lunch Protection Program from kindergarten through 2nd Grade to kindergarten through 12th Grade.
  • HB 14-1301Concerning the Safe Routes to School Program, and, in Connection Therewith, Making and Reducing Appropriations, by Rep. Dianne Mitsch Bush and Sen. Andy Kerr. The bill appropriates funds to the CDOT in order to continue the Safe Routes to School program, which distributes funds to projects to improve the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists in school areas.

For a list of Governor Hickenlooper’s legislative decisions, click here.

Tenth Circuit: Prejudgment Interest Only Appropriate Under Nebraska Law if No Dispute as to Amount Due or Right to Recover

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Digital Ally, Inc. v. Z3 Technology, LLC on Friday, May 16, 2014.

Digital Ally, Inc. contracted with Z3 Technology regarding the manufacture of circuit board modules. Digital and Z3 entered into two contracts, the 2008 contract and the 2009 contract. Both contracts were signed by Robert Haler, then-Executive Vice President of Engineering and Production for Digital, and both provided that they would be governed by Nebraska law. The 2008 contract contained provisions that Z3 would design, manufacture, and deliver to Digital 1,000 modules containing the Texas Instruments DM355 computer chip in exchange for payment of $155,000 from Digital. After receiving the modules, Digital determined that they were defective and paid Z3 only $140,000. Ultimately, a jury concluded that both parties breached the contract – Digital by withholding payment and Z3 by producing defective modules. The jury awarded $15,000 to Z3 for breach of payment obligations and $30,000 to Digital for the defective products.

The 2009 contract was more complex and set forth various payment and production schedules. Both parties began by complying with the terms of the contract, but in April 2009, three months after the contract was signed, Digital sent Z3 a letter purporting to terminate the contract. The termination letter did not comply with contractual termination provisions, but Z3 nonetheless stopped design work. Digital filed a lawsuit in the Kansas district court, seeking a declaration that the contract was void because Executive Vice President Haler did not have authority to sign the contract based on Digital’s internal policy changes in December 2008. Z3 filed a counterclaim, alleging breach of contract by Digital for failing to fulfill its purchase obligations and also alleging breach of the 2008 contract for failure to pay the $15,000. The district court concluded that (1) Haler had at least apparent authority to sign the contract; (2) Z3‘s failure to perform on the contract was excused by Digital’s revocation; and (3) Digital breached the contract by its anticipatory repudiation. The district court concluded as a matter of law that Z3 was entitled to the remaining $175,000 in design fees and $270,000 in royalties. Z3 filed a motion requesting prejudgment interest on the three awards for breach of contract, which the district court denied. Digital appealed the district court’s ruling and Z3 cross-appealed.

Digital argued that (1) the 2009 contract was totally or partially unenforceable based on several unfulfilled conditions precedent; (2) the contract was not binding because Haler lacked authority to sign it; and (3) Z3 failed to substantially perform its own obligations under the contract. The Tenth Circuit evaluated each claim. As to the first claim, the Tenth Circuit noted that the nonoccurrence of any conditions precedent resulted from Digital’s revocation of the contract. As to the second claim, the Tenth Circuit found that Haler had at least apparent authority to complete the contract, and there was nothing to show that Z3 had knowledge of Digital’s internal policy changes, which were contrary to language in Digital’s bylaws allowing any vice president to execute contracts. For the final claim, the Tenth Circuit noted that it was Digital’s revocation that halted Z3‘s performance on the contract, and therefore there was no actionable breach by Z3.

In its cross-appeal, Z3 raised two main issues: (1) the district court erred by reading a contractual provision as an alternative contract in which Digital could either order 36,000 units or pay a royalty, and if the alternative contract theory was upheld, the district court erred by ordering payment of the lesser royalty provision instead of the cost of the units; and (2) the district court erred by denying Z3‘s request for prejudgment interest on the $15,000, $175,000, and $270,000 awards. The Tenth Circuit examined the contract provision in question and determined it was a “take-or-pay” provision, and case law supported awarding the lesser amount. As to Z3‘s second claim, the Tenth Circuit evaluated Nebraska contract law and determined that prejudgment interest is only appropriate where there is no dispute as to the amount due, the plaintiff’s right to recover, or both. Since there were disputes about the amount of payment due regarding the $15,000 and $270,000 awards, prejudgment interest was only appropriate on the $175,000 award.

The judgment of the district court was reversed and remanded for calculation of prejudgment interest on the $175,000 award, and affirmed as to all other disputes.

Bills Regarding Provision of Social Workers for Juveniles, Annual Reports for Public Benefit Corporations, and More Signed

Governor Hickenlooper continues to sign legislation that cleared both houses this 2014 Legislative Session. He signed bills on Wednesday, May 14, 2014; Thursday, May 15; Friday, May 16; and Saturday, May 17. To date, he has signed 248 bills and vetoed two. Some of the bills signed each day last week are summarized here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

  • SB 14-164Concerning Aerial Firefighting Efforts Through the Division of Fire Prevention and Control in the Department of Public Safety, and, in Connection Therewith, Implementing Recommendations Made by the Division Regarding the Colorado Firefighting Air Corps, by Sens. Morgan Carroll & Steve King and Reps. Bob Gardner & Mike McLachlan. The bill directs the Division of Fire Prevention to maximize its aerial firefighting capabilities.
  • HB 14-1010Concerning Corrections to Statutory Provisions Relating to the Prescribed Burning Program Administered by the Division of Fire Prevention and Control in the Department of Public Safety, by Rep. Millie Hamner and Sen. George Rivera. The bill renames “prescribed burn manager” as “certified burner” and removes persons with this credential from the list of persons who may attend a prescribed burn in a supervisory role.
  • HB 14-1023Concerning the Provision of Social Workers to Juveniles, and, in Connection Therewith, Making and Reducing Appropriations, by Rep. Pete Lee and Sen. Jessie Ulibarri. The bill allows
    the Office of the State Public Defender to hire social workers to assist in juvenile defense cases, and specifies that any reports generated are to be considered evidence in the case.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

  • SB 14-073Concerning the State Income Tax Credit for the Environmental Remediation of Contaminated Land in the State, and, in Connection Therewith, Making and Reducing Appropriations, by Sen. Cheri Jahn and Rep. Cheri Gerou. The bill creates an income tax credit for individuals, organizations, and “qualified entities” that perform any approved environmental remediation of contaminated property.
  • SB 14-092Concerning the Creation of the Crime of Insurance Fraud, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sen. George Rivera and Rep. Angela Williams. The bill classifies insurance fraud as a crime and identifies fraudulent actions for insurance claimants, agents, and brokers.
  • SB 14-156Concerning a Requirement that a Public Benefit Corporation file an Annual Report, by Sens. John Kefalas & Rollie Heath and Rep. Pete Lee. The bill requires Public Benefit Corporations to file annual reports that discuss the ways in which the corporation has promoted its specified public benefits and that assess its overall social and environmental performance against a third-party standard.
  • HB 14-1044Concerning Consequences for a Parolee who Tampers with an Electronic Monitoring Device that the Parolee is Required to Wear as a Condition of Parole, by Rep. Timothy Dore and Sen. Lois Tochtrop. The bill provides that if a parolee tampers with an electronic monitoring device, he or she is subject to immediate warrantless arrest.
  • HB 14-1144Concerning Measures to Improve the Performance of District Attorneys, and, in Connection Therewith, Making and Reducing Appropriations, by Rep. Bob Gardner and Sen. Mike Johnston. The bill provides for cost-sharing of salaries for entry-level deputy district attorneys.
  • HB 14-1347Concerning Statutorily Established Time Periods that are Multiples of Seven Days, by Rep. Lois Court and Sen. Linda Newell. The bill continues to revise statutes so that statutorily established time periods conform to the “rule of seven.”
  • HB 14-1353Concerning Powers of Appointment, by Rep. Bob Gardner and Sen. Mike Johnston. The bill creates the Uniform Powers of Appointment Act (act), as recommended by the Colorado Commission on Uniform State Laws.

Friday, May 16, 2014

  • SB 14-011Concerning the Colorado Energy Research Authority, by Sen. Rollie Heath and Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst. The bill changes the name of the Colorado Renewable Research Authority to the Colorado
    Energy Research Authority and creates a cash fund.
  • HB 14-1005Concerning Clarification of the Requirements Applicable to a Change of Point of Water Diversion, by Reps. Jerry Sonnenberg & Dave Young and Sens. Kevin Lundberg & John Kefalas. The bill clarifies that if a ditch owner relocates a headgate to a new surface point of diversion, as long as the relocation does not physically interfere with the complete use of or enjoyment of other water rights, the owner does not need to file a change of water right application.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

  • HB 14-1001Concerning the Creation of a Property Tax Reimbursement for a Taxpayer that Owes Property Tax on Property that has been Destroyed by a Natural Cause, and, in Connection Therewith, Making and Reducing Appropriations, by Rep. Jonathan Singer and Sen. Jeanne Nicholson. The bill creates a reimbursement program for property taxes paid on a property that has been destroyed by a natural disaster.
  • HB 14-1159Concerning a State Sales and Use Tax Exemption for Components used in Biogas Production Systems, by Reps. Angela Young & Timothy Dore and Sens. Gail Schwartz & Larry Crowder. The bill creates a sales and use tax exemption for equipment used to capture biogas to be used as a renewable natural gas or the equipment used to turn biogas into electricity.
  • HB 14-1281Concerning the Allowance for Terminally Ill Patients to have Access to Investigational Products that have not been Approved by the Federal Food and Drug Administration that Other Patients have Access to when they Participate in Clinical Trials, by Reps. Joann Ginal & Janak Joshi and Sens. George Rivera & Irene Aguilar. The bill allows terminally ill patients to have access to experimental drugs without participating in a clinical trial.
  • HB 14-1349Concerning the Creation of an Exemption from Property Taxes for Qualifying Business Entities Controlled by Nonprofit Organizations that are Formed for the Purpose of Qualifying for Federal Tax Credits, by Reps. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst & Brian DelGrosso and Sen. Rollie Heath. The bill broadens eligibility for nonprofits for federal tax credits to LLCs and limited partnerships.

For a list of Governor Hickenlooper’s 2014 legislative decisions, click here.