March 26, 2015

Colorado Court of Appeals: State Court Retains Jurisdiction Where Removal Attempt Without Slightest Color of Merit

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in McDonald v. Zions First National Bank, N.A. on Thursday, March 12, 2015.

Construction Loan Agreement Dispute—Partial Summary Judgment—Jurisdiction—Motion for New Trial.

In 2007, plaintiff purchased a parcel of land to construct a building on it. He entered into a loan transaction with defendant Zions First National Bank and signed a construction loan agreement (Agreement).

Plaintiff submitted applications for disbursement of loan funds, some of which defendant paid and some which it rejected. Plaintiff alleged defendant’s refusal to disburse all the loan funds required him to pay certain vendors out of his own pocket. Eventually, plaintiff defaulted on the loan and defendant foreclosed on the property.

Plaintiff sued in 2009, alleging defendant breached the Agreement and an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. After discovery, defendant moved for summary judgment. Plaintiff filed an unverified response. The trial court partially granted defendant’s motion, dismissing plaintiff’s two substantive claims, but did not issue judgment on defendant’s counterclaims due to genuine issues of material fact. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss its counterclaims without prejudice. The court granted the motions and vacated the trial date. The court also granted defendant’s request for attorney fees pursuant to the Agreement and entered judgment in favor of defendant in the amount of $102,267.75.

Defendant tried to collect from plaintiff for almost three years, during which time defendant filed a notice of removal of the action in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. There had not been an acceptance of that action or a remand from the federal court. On December 23, 2013, defendant requested the trial court certify its order granting partial summary judgment as final.

The Court of Appeals first analyzed whether the trial court had jurisdiction to certify its order as final under CRCP 54(b) and, if so, whether the Court had jurisdiction to review it. Following analysis of the attempt at removal to the federal court, the Court held in a matter of first impression that where a party’s notice of removal indicates, on its face and as a matter of law, that the attempt to remove the case is without the slightest color of right or merit, jurisdiction in the Colorado courts is not divested. Plaintiff had no ability to remove this case to federal court; therefore, jurisdiction was not divested by the filing of the notice of removal. The Court concluded that because only the grant of partial summary judgment was certified as a final order, only challenges to the propriety of that order were properly before it. This disposed of many of plaintiff’s challenges.

The Court then turned to the breach of contract claim and found that there was no genuine issue of material fact because defendant had submitted evidence showing it did not breach its contractual duties and plaintiff had failed to refute this evidence. Plaintiff’s second claim alleged breach of an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Again, there was no genuine issue of material fact because plaintiff submitted no evidence showing such a breach and defendant’s evidence showed no such breach.

Plaintiff also filed three motions under CRCP 59, one of which was accompanied by an affidavit from his real estate agent. The affidavit was not timely filed. The motion did not attempt to demonstrate any evidence that was newly discovered or could not have previously been discovered by the exercise of reasonable diligence. The Court found no abuse of discretion in denying the motions. The summary judgment and order denying motions for a new trial were affirmed.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Claims Against Developers Could Lie in Tort; CGIA May Apply

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in First National Bank of Durango v. Lyons on Thursday, February 26, 2015.

Securities Fraud—Subject Matter Jurisdiction—Colorado Securities Act Claims Lie in Tort—Scope of “Public Employment.”

Defendants William S. Lyons, Jr., William S. Lyons III, and others comprised the Board of Directors of Lincoln Creek Metropolitan District (District). The District is a special district formed to provide public facilities to Lincoln Creek Village. Defendants’ company, LCV, LLC, owned almost all of the property in the District and was the developer of Lincoln Creek Village.

In March 2006, plaintiffs (collectively, Banks) purchased $4.13 million of General Obligation Tax Bonds issued by the District to partially fund construction of Lincoln Creek Village. In July 2008, the bank that held the deed of trust securing the development loan foreclosed on the encumbered Lincoln Creek Village property. The Banks then filed this action against defendants, LCV, and the bond underwriter.

The Banks alleged that defendants misrepresented and omitted material facts in connection with the offer and sale of the bonds, in violation of CRS § 11-51-501(1) of the Colorado Securities Act (CSA). Defendants asserted the defense of governmental immunity and filed a CRCP 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, arguing that the Banks had failed to provide notice of the claims to the District, a jurisdictional prerequisite under the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act (CGIA). The district court denied the motion to dismiss, concluding that the CSA claims do not sound in tort and therefore the CGIA is inapplicable.

On interlocutory appeal, defendants argued that the Banks’ CSA claims lie in tort or could lie in tort. The Court of Appeals noted that defendants are public employees for purposes of the CGIA and that the CGIA requires that written notice of claims against a public employee must first be provided within the statutory period to the public entity where the employee is employed. Failure to comply with the notice requirement forever bars the action against the employee. It was undisputed that the Banks did not provide notice to the District of their claims against defendants. The question then became whether the claims against defendants lie in tort or could lie in tort.

The Court found that the complaint demonstrated that the injury underlying the Banks’ CSA claims was tortious in nature. Essentially, the Banks alleged that they relied on a misrepresentation of material fact by defendants. This is injury arising out of tortious conduct.

The Banks also argued that the misrepresentations were made by defendants in their capacity as private developers and not within the scope of any “public employment” with the District; therefore, the CGIA notice requirement does not apply. Defendants countered that this issue was not decided by the district court. The Court agreed with defendants and remanded the case to the district court to decide whether the claims against them are based on acts or omissions that occurred within the scope of their public employment. If it finds the misrepresentations alleged were made by defendants within the scope of their employment with the District, then it must dismiss the Banks’ claims. However, if the claims were premised on misrepresentations made by defendants as private developers and outside the scope of their employment with the District, the CGIA does not apply and statutory notice was not required.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Entity that was Non-Existent when Contractual Duty Created Still May Be Subject to Interrelated Contracts Doctrine

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in S K Peightal Engineers, Ltd. v. Mid Valley Real Estate Solutions V, LLC on Monday, February 9, 2015.

Economic Loss Rule—Interrelated Contracts Doctrine.

In this civil case, the Supreme Court considered: (1) whether entities that did not exist at the time the relevant contracts were completed can still be subject to the economic loss rule through the interrelated contracts doctrine; and (2) whether commercial entities situated similarly to respondent, which was a third-party beneficiary to a contract that interrelated to the contract by which the home at issue was built, are among the class of plaintiffs entitled to the protections of the independent tort duty to act without negligence owed by construction professionals to subsequent homeowners when constructing residential homes. The Court held that (1) the fact that an entity was nonexistent at the time the relevant contracts were completed does not alter the analysis under the interrelated contracts doctrine; and (2) the independent duty at issue does not apply here because, as a third-party beneficiary of a commercially negotiated contract that interrelates to the contract under which the home was built, respondent cannot properly be considered a subsequent homeowner. The judgment was reversed and the case was remanded to the court of appeals to return to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Frederick Skillern: Real Estate Case Law — Construction Defects

Editor’s note: This is Part 9 of a series of posts in which Denver-area real estate attorney Frederick Skillern provides summaries of case law pertinent to real estate practitioners (click here for previous posts). These updates originally appeared as materials for the 32nd Annual Real Estate Symposium in July 2014.

frederick-b-skillernBy Frederick B. Skillern

Mid Valley Real Estate Solutions V, LLC v. Hepworth-Pawlak Geotechnical, Inc.
Colorado Court of Appeals, August 1, 2013.
2013 COA 119

Construction defects; economic loss rule; duties of builder-vendor run to commercial entity that purchases house built for residential purpose.

Alpine Bank was lender on a construction project. The builder-developer defaulted. The bank threatened foreclosure, and ultimately took a deed in lieu of foreclosure. Consistent with its usual practice, the property was conveyed to the bank’s REO subsidiary, which then sued for construction defects on the property.

The soils and structural engineers appeal an order denying their motion for summary judgment on the plaintiff’s negligence claim. Does a commercial entity — a wholly owned subsidiary of a construction lender — have the rights of a residential consumer to sue design professionals for negligence, under the claims set out in Cosmopolitan Homes v. Weller, or are such claims barred by the economic loss rule? The court of appeals affirms the district court’s ruling that the “independent duties” outlined in Cosmopolitan Homes and its progeny inure to the benefit of a commercial entity that buys a residential property, so that the claim is not barred by the economic loss rule.

The court reviews the economic loss rule and holds that there is an independent duty of care on the part of a builder in residential construction that renders the economic loss rule inapplicable in that context. Of course, the independent duty, which arises from the holding of our supreme court in Cosmopolitan Homes, would not apply to the typical commercial construction project.

The court then looks to whether Mid Valley — whose sole function is to hold foreclosure property for resale by the bank — falls within the class of plaintiffs who may enforce this independent duty of care. It concludes that the duty arises from the residential nature of a project, not from the characteristics of the owner of that property. While Mid Valley is not a traditional homeowner, the court reasons that allowing defendants to avoid liability for this reason would afford them a “windfall” resulting from the fortuity that the latent defect caused damage before Mid Valley sold the house. Accordingly, the denial of summary judgment was affirmed and the case was remanded for further proceedings. The Supreme Court has accepted the case for review:

Petition for Writ of Certiorari GRANTED, March 3, 2014, S K Peightal Engineers v. Mid Valley Real Estate Solutions V, LLC

Summary of the Issues:

  • Whether the economic loss rule bars a homeowner’s negligence claim against a construction professional when the owner is a commercial entity rather than a natural homebuyer.
  • Whether the interrelated contract doctrine as defined in BRW, Inc. v. Dufficy & Sons, Inc., 99 P.3d 66 (Colo. 2004), can apply to a wholly-owned subsidiary that did not exist when the initial contracts were drafted but instead was created after work on the relevant contracts had been completed.

Frederick B. Skillern, Esq., is a director and shareholder with Montgomery Little & Soran, P.C., practicing in real estate and related litigation and appeals. He serves as an expert witness in cases dealing with real estate, professional responsibility and attorney fees, and acts as a mediator and arbitrator in real estate cases. Before joining Montgomery Little in 2003, Fred was in private practice in Denver for 6 years with Carpenter & Klatskin and for 10 years with Isaacson Rosenbaum. He served as a district judge for Colorado’s Eighteenth Judicial District from 2000 through 2002. Fred is a graduate of Dartmouth College, and received his law degree at the University of Colorado in 1976, in another day and time in which the legal job market was simply awful.

Frederick Skillern: Real Estate Case Law — Contracts, Purchase and Sale, Transactions (4)

Editor’s note: This is Part 7 of a series of posts in which Denver-area real estate attorney Frederick Skillern provides summaries of case law pertinent to real estate practitioners (click here for previous posts). These updates originally appeared as materials for the 32nd Annual Real Estate Symposium in July 2014.

frederick-b-skillernBy Frederick B. Skillern

Taylor Morrison of Colorado, Inc. v. Bemas Construction
Colorado Court Appeals, January 30, 2013
2014 COA 10

Construction defects statute; willful and wanton breach of contract required to overcome liability limitation provisions in contract.

Taylor Morrison of Colorado, Inc. was the developer of a residential subdivision known as Homestead Hills. Pursuant to written contracts with Taylor, Terracon Consultants, Inc. performed geotechnical engineering and construction material testing services at the construction site. Bemas Construction performed site grading.

After many of the homes were constructed, Taylor began receiving complaints about cracks in the drywall of homes. Taylor remedied the defective conditions, and then sued Terracon and Bemas for breach of contract and negligence and other claims.

Taylor also moved for determination as to whether the Homeowner Protection Act of 2007 (HPA) invalidated the limitation of liability clauses in the contracts with Terracon. The trial court denied the motion on the ground that the HPA applies to residential property owners but not to commercial entities.

Terracon moved for leave to deposit into the court’s registry $550,000, representing the maximum amount that Taylor could recover from Terracon under the contractual limitation of liability clauses and the court order. It also requested that upon acceptance of such deposit, the court should declare Taylor’s claims against Terracon moot and dismiss them with prejudice. The trial court ruled in favor of Terracon. The money was deposited and the claims were dismissed with prejudice.

Taylor then went to trial against Bemas. The jury returned a verdict in Bemas’ favor on all of Taylor’s claims. Taylor appeals.

Taylor argued that it was error to rule that the HPA did not invalidate the limitation of liability clauses in Taylor’s contracts with Terracon. The court of appeals panel affirms the trial court’s judgment, but for different reasons. The court holds that regardless of whether the HPA applies to commercial entities, retroactive application of the HPA to these facts would be unconstitutionally retrospective. The Court concludes, however, that further proceedings are necessary to determine whether Taylor should have been permitted to introduce evidence of Terracon’s willful and wanton conduct to attempt to overcome Terracon’s assertion of the limitation of liability clauses.

The judgment is affirmed and the case is remanded to the trial court to determine whether Taylor should have been permitted to introduce evidence of Terracon’s willful and wanton conduct for the sole purpose of attempting to overcome Terracon’s assertion of the limitation of liability clauses at issue.

 

Jehly v. Brown
Colorado Court of Appeals, March 27, 2014
2014 COA 39

Fraudulent Concealment; Imputed Knowledge.

“Actual knowledge,” in the context of a fraudulent concealment claim, cannot be imputed to a principal through knowledge of its agent. Defendant Brown owned real property in Teller County and hired a general contractor to build a house on it. Before commencing, the contractor discovered that part of the property was located in a floodplain. Brown was not told of this fact.

Plaintiffs David and Peggy Jehly entered into a contact to purchase the house from Brown. Brown filled out a Seller’s Property Disclosure form by writing “New Construction” diagonally across every page and not checking any of the boxes. Before buying the house, the Jehlys were never informed that part of the property was located in a floodplain.

Approximately five years after the home purchase, heavy rains caused severe flooding and damage to the basement of the house. The Jehlys sued Brown, alleging he fraudulently concealed knowledge of the floodplain to induce plaintiffs to buy the house. During a bench trial, defendant denied having any personal knowledge of the floodplain at the time of the sale and denied that his general contractor or any subcontractors had so informed him. The trial court found as a matter of fact that he had no knowledge, and found in favor of defendant.

On appeal, plaintiffs asserts that it was error not to impute the general contractor’s knowledge that part of the property was in a floodplain to Brown. The court of appeals disagrees, and affirms. To prevail on a claim of fraudulent concealment, a plaintiff must show that a defendant actually knew of a material fact that was not disclosed. It is not enough that defendant should have or might have known the fact, and knowledge of his agent cannot be imputed for the purpose of this particular tort claim. Plaintiffs did not contest on appeal the trial court’s factual finding that defendant had no active or conscious belief or awareness of the existence of the floodplain. The trial court did not apply the wrong legal standard, because defendant did not have the requisite actual knowledge of the information allegedly concealed.

Frederick B. Skillern, Esq., is a director and shareholder with Montgomery Little & Soran, P.C., practicing in real estate and related litigation and appeals. He serves as an expert witness in cases dealing with real estate, professional responsibility and attorney fees, and acts as a mediator and arbitrator in real estate cases. Before joining Montgomery Little in 2003, Fred was in private practice in Denver for 6 years with Carpenter & Klatskin and for 10 years with Isaacson Rosenbaum. He served as a district judge for Colorado’s Eighteenth Judicial District from 2000 through 2002. Fred is a graduate of Dartmouth College, and received his law degree at the University of Colorado in 1976, in another day and time in which the legal job market was simply awful.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Statutory Employer Has Standing to Contest Lapse in Insurance Coverage

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Hoff v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office on Thursday, October 9, 2014.

Workers’ Compensation—Standing—Notice of Cancellation Provision—Estoppel.

Hoff owns a house that she uses as a rental property. After the house sustained hail damage to the roof, Hoff and her husband engaged Alliance Construction (Alliance) to negotiate with their insurance company to resolve their damage claim. A successful resolution was reached, and Hoff contracted with Alliance to repair the roof. Without Hoff’s knowledge, Alliance verbally subcontracted the roofing job to MDR Roofing, Inc. (MDR). Claimant was employed by MDR as a roofer.

While working on the roof in March 2011, claimant fell twenty-five feet to the ground and sustained serious injuries. Claimant sought medical and temporary total disability (TTD) benefits for his work-related injuries. Pinnacol, MDR’s insurer, denied the claim because MDR’s policy had lapsed for failure to pay premiums. Neither Alliance nor Hoff carried workers’ compensation insurance.

In October 2010, before starting the roofing job, Alliance obtained a certificate of insurance (certificate) from Pinnacol’s agent, Bradley Insurance Agency (Bradley), that verified that MDR had workers’ compensation insurance through Pinnacol.

On February 10, 2011, Pinnacol sent a certified letter to MDR advising the policy would be cancelled if payment of a past due premium was not received. The policy was canceled effective March 3, 2011 and letters to that effect were sent to MDR and Bradley.

Claimant was injured on March 10, 2011. On March 11, MDR’s owner went to Bradley’s office seeking to reinstate the policy. He was informed it could be reinstated if he paid the past due premium, paid a reinstatement fee, and signed a no-loss letter. The owner knew claimant had been injured, but he submitted the no-loss letter and did not inform Bradley of the accident.

Pinnacol reinstated the policy on March 11. MDR’s owner returned to Bradley’s office to report claimant’s injuries. Pinnacol contested the claim and cancelled the policy.

The administrative law judge (ALJ) determined that the owner’s failure to disclose claimant’s injuries when he signed the no-loss letter was a material misrepresentation, thus voiding the policy. The ALJ held MDR, Alliance, and Hoff jointly liable for claimant’s medical and TTD benefits. The Industrial Claim Appeals Office (Panel) agreed and affirmed.

Hoff appealed, arguing that Pinnacol was stopped from denying benefits to claimant. Pinnacol argued Hoff had no standing to challenge the cancellation of MDR’s policy.

The Court of Appeals held that Hoff had standing and agreed in part with her argument. Standing is established by Hoff demonstrating (1) she has sustained an injury in fact, and (2) the injury is to a legally protected interest. The first prong was clearly met. The liability imposed on Hoff by the ALJ and the Panel exceeded $300,000. The second prong was met because Hoff argued she was a beneficiary of specific promises that there was a workers’ compensation policy issued to MDR that was in force on the dates stated in the certificate. Her claim is independent of the Pinnacol policy and the Workers’ Compensation Act; it is one for promissory estoppel.

The Court found there were factual findings that need to be addressed by the ALJ regarding the estoppel argument. The case was remanded for a hearing, specifically to determine whether (1) Alliance or Hoff relied on the promises contained in the certificate, and (2) whether circumstances exist such that injustice can be avoided only by enforcement of the promises contained in the certificate.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Notice of Mechanics’ Lien Sufficient when Amended Lien Filed Same Day as Original Lien

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Sure-Shock Electric, Inc. v. Diamond Lofts Venture, LLC on Thursday, August 28, 2014.

Property—Mechanics’ Lien—Contract—Foreclosure—Notice—Equitable Apportionment—Prevailing Party—Costs.

Diamond Lofts Venture, LLC (DLV) was the developer and owner of a building project at 2210 Blake Street in Denver (Blake Street property). Sure-Shock Electric, Inc. (Sure-Shock), as the primary electrical contractor on the project, installed the electrical work throughout the building. Thereafter, Sure-Shock filed a mechanics’ lien for the unpaid contract price. Pursuant to their contract, DLV and Sure-Shock participated in arbitration. The arbitrator determined that Sure-Shock had proved its claims, and awarded it the principal amount claimed in the amended lien statement. The trial court affirmed the arbitrator’s award and entered a decree of foreclosure authorizing the sale of the DLV units to satisfy Sure-Shock’s lien.

On appeal, DLV contended that the trial court erred in allowing Sure-Shock to foreclose on its lien because Sure-Shock failed to comply with the statutory requirements necessary to perfect the lien. The Court of Appeals disagreed. Sure-Shock provided DLV proper notice more than ten days before filing the original lien statement. Sure-Shock was not required to provide an additional notice before it filed its amended lien statement the same day as the original lien to correct the amount claimed. Additionally, although DLV only owned seven of the twenty-nine units in the Blake Street property at that time, Sure-Shock’s lien statement sufficiently identified the property by listing the entire Blake Street property and naming only DLV as the property owner. Finally, Sure-Shock was not required to apportion the unpaid contract price according to the amount due for work on the DLV units, rather than claiming the full amount due.

In its cross-appeal, Sure-Shock contended that the trial court abused its discretion in apportioning the lien. A court may equitably apportion a blanket lien. Here, the trial court determined that an equitable apportionment should be based on the actual benefit enjoyed by each unit. Therefore, Sure-Shock was awarded 33.1% of the lien amount, which corresponded to the total square footage of the DLV units relative to the square footage of the entire Blake Street property. Because Sure-Shock’s electrical work benefited the entire Blake Street property, and Sure-Shock chose to encumber only the DLV units, Sure-Shock may not recover the entire unpaid amount of the contract. Therefore, the trial court’s apportionment was not an abuse of its discretion.

In addition, because Sure-Shock’s lien was determined to be valid, Sure-Shock succeeded on a “significant issue in the litigation.” Therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that Sure-Shock was the prevailing party and awarding it costs. The judgment was affirmed.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

SB 14-220: Requiring Mediation or Arbitration of Construction Defect Claims Where Required by Owners’ Association Governing Documents

On April 30, 2014, Sen. Jessie Ulibarri introduced SB 14-220 – Concerning Prerequisites to the Authority of a Unit Owners’ Association to Pursue Resolution of Disputes Involving Construction Defects. This summary is published here courtesy of the Colorado Bar Association’s e-Legislative Report.

The bill states that when the declaration, bylaws, or rules of a common interest community require mediation or arbitration of construction defect claims and the requirement is later removed, mediation or arbitration is still required for a construction defect claim based on an alleged act or omission that occurred when the mediation or arbitration requirement was in place. Section 1 also specifies that the arbitration must take place in the judicial district in which the community is located and that the arbitrator must:

  • Be a neutral third party;
  • Make certain disclosures before being selected; and
  • Be selected as specified in the community’s governing documents if possible or, if that is not possible, in accordance with the uniform arbitration act.

The bill adds to the disclosures required prior to the purchase and sale of property in a common interest community a notice that the community’s governing documents may require binding arbitration of certain disputes.

The bill requires that before a construction defect lawsuit is filed on behalf of the association, the executive board of the association must give advance notice to all unit owners, together with a disclosure of the projected costs, duration, and financial impact of the litigation, and must obtain the written consent of a majority of the unit owners.

The bill is assigned to the State, Veterans & Military Affairs and the Judiciary Committees; the State Affairs Committee will take up the bill first at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, May 5.

Since this summary, State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee referred the bill, unamended, to the Judiciary Committee, which voted to postpone the bill indefinitely.

Tenth Circuit: Fraudulent Concealment of Profits Supported Convictions for Mail Fraud

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in United States v. Sharp on Monday, April 28, 2014.

Co-defendants Sharp and Griggs were convicted of mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud. They appealed from their convictions. Griggs also challenged a $500,000 fine imposed by the district court. The judgments were affirmed.

Griggs founded Disaster Restoration, Inc. (DRI) in 1986 and became its owner and CEO. DRI was a Colorado corporation that restored and repaired commercial and residential properties in Colorado. In 2003, Griggs hired Sharp to be the CEO and operating manager of DRI. Both Griggs and Sharp established company policies and trained and supervised DRI project managers and estimators. In approximately 2004, Griggs and Sharp began instructing DRI employees who prepared DRI’s estimates to add 20-30% to the price that DRI’s subcontractors were charging DRI. As a result, the estimate sent by DRI to an insurance company would, in the case of a line item relating to subcontractor work, list an amount 20-30% higher than the subcontractor’s bid for the work. Griggs and Sharp also instructed their employees to obtain two invoices from their subcontractors: one showing the 20-30% increase and one reflecting the actual amount paid to the subcontractor. Subsequently, Griggs, Sharp, and several other employees of DRI were charged with mail fraud related to these inflated invoices. Griggs and Sharp were convicted and this appeal followed.

Sharp appealed on five issues: two sufficiency-of-the-evidence issues, two instruction-related issues, and a challenge based on the Tenth Circuit decision in United States v. Cochran, 109 F.3d 660 (10th Cir. 1997). Sharp’s arguments challenging his convictions were based on the fact that the evidentiary standard referenced invoiced amounts, and he had invoices for the amounts billed. Because of the fraudulent nature of the inflated invoices, however, these arguments do not stand.

Griggs raised the same issues as Sharp on appeal and also appealed the $500,000 fine imposed on him.  Like Sharp, Griggs relied on Cochran to reverse his convictions. However, the Tenth Circuit distinguished Cochran because in the DRI case, the fraudulent invoices were prepared as an affirmative act to conceal DRI’s profits from the subcontractor line item invoices submitted to the insurance companies. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the lower court’s judgment because of the fraud perpetrated by Griggs and Sharp. Griggs’ appeal of the fine was unsuccessful because his counsel failed to properly preserve the issue for appeal and there was no plain error.

e-Legislative Report: April 7, 2014

CBA Legislative Policy Committee

For readers who are new to CBA legislative activity, the Legislative Policy Committee (LPC) is the CBA’s legislative policy-making arm during the legislative session. The LPC meets weekly during the legislative session to determine CBA positions on requests from the various sections and committees of the Bar Association.

The LPC did not meet on Friday, April 4.

At the Capitol—Week of March 31

A scorecard of the committee and floor work follows.

In the House

Monday, March 31

No bills were heard on 3rd reading.

Tuesday, April 1

Passed 3rd Reading:

  • HB 14-1315. Concerning the enactment of certain model acts adopted by the national association of insurance commissioners, and, in connection therewith, enacting the credit for reinsurance model act and the portion of the insurer receivership model act that governs netting agreements. Vote: 65 yes and 0 no.
  • HB 14-1313. Concerning a requirement that the owner of a pet animal provide a valid rabies vaccination certificate prior to registering the animal with a county. Vote: 40 yes and 25 no.
  • HB 14-1045. Concerning the continuation of the breast and cervical cancer prevention and treatment program, and, in connection therewith, making an appropriation. Vote: 50 yes and 15 no.
  • HB 14-1281. Concerning 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. Vote: 65 yes and 0 no.
  • HB 14-1302. Concerning the addition of a judgment against a debtor or transferee who acts with actual intent as an available remedy for a creditor in a fraudulent transfer action. Vote: 65 yes and 0 no.

Wednesday, April 2

No bills were heard on 3rd reading.

Thursday, April 3

Passed 3rd Reading:

  • SB 14-135. Concerning the repeal of certain provisions concerning the purchasing of firearms in states that are contiguous to Colorado. Vote: 61 yes, 1 no, and 3 excused.

Friday, April 4

Passed on 3rd Reading:

  • SB 14-103. Concerning the phase-out of the sale of certain low efficiency plumbing fixtures. Vote: 35 yes, 28 no, and 2 excused.
  • HB 14-1001. Concerning 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. Vote: 46 yes, 17 no, and 2 excused.

In the Senate

Monday, March 31

Passed on 3rd Reading:

  • HB 14-1195. Concerning the diversion of revenue collected by the division of insurance to cash funds. Vote: 35 yes and 0 no.

Tuesday, April 1

Passed on 3rd Reading:

  • SB 14-163. Concerning clarifying changes to provisions related to the sentencing of persons convicted of drug crimes. Vote: 33 yes, 0 no, and 2 excused.
  • SB 14-160. Concerning removing limitations on a transitional living program for a person with a brain injury. Vote: 33 yes, 0 no, and 2 excused.
  • HB 14-1141. Concerning the confidentiality of social security numbers under statutes protecting the privacy of individuals. Vote: 33 yes, 0 no, and 2 excused.

Wednesday, April 2

No bills were heard on 3rd Reading.

Thursday, April 3

Passed on 3rd Reading:

  • The Senate spent numerous hours debating various 2nd Reading amendments to HB 14-1336. Concerning the provision for payment of the expenses of the executive, legislative, and judicial departments of the state of Colorado, and of its agencies and institutions, for and during the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2014, except as otherwise noted—“the Budget bill.”

Friday, April 4

Passed on 3rd Reading:

  • HB 14-1282. Concerning the specification of what materials may be provided in a language other than English by an insurer to a customer. Vote: 34 yes, 0 no, and 1 excused.
  • HB 14-1336. Concerning the provision for payment of the expenses of the executive, legislative, and judicial departments of the state of Colorado, and of its agencies and institutions, for and during the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2014, except as otherwise noted—“the Budget bill.” Vote: 26 yes, 8 no, and 1 excused.

Stay tuned for 10 Bills of Interest.

 

Colorado Court of Appeals: Actual Knowledge Cannot Be Imputed in Fraudulent Concealment Claim

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Jehly v. Brown on Thursday, March 27, 2014.

Fraudulent Concealment—Imputed Knowledge.

Defendant owned real property and hired a general contractor to build a house on it. Before commencing, the contractor discovered that part of the property was located in a floodplain, but did not inform defendant of that fact.

Plaintiffs David and Peggy Jehly entered into a contact to purchase the house. Defendant filled out a Seller’s Property Disclosure form by writing “New Construction” diagonally across every page and not checking any of the boxes. Before buying the house, plaintiffs were never informed that part of the property was located in a floodplain.

Approximately five years after the home purchase, heavy rains caused severe flooding and damage to the basement of the house. Plaintiffs sued defendant, alleging he fraudulently concealed knowledge of the floodplain to induce plaintiffs to buy the house. During a bench trial, defendant denied having any personal knowledge of the floodplain at the time of the sale and denied that his general contractor or any subcontractors had so informed him. The trial court found in favor of defendant.

On appeal, plaintiffs asserted that it was error not to impute to defendant the general contractor’s knowledge that part of the property was in a floodplain. The Court of Appeals disagreed. To prevail on a claim of fraudulent concealment, a plaintiff must show that a defendant actually knew of a material fact that was not disclosed. It is not enough that defendant should have or might have known the fact.

Plaintiffs did not contest on appeal the trial court’s factual finding that defendant had no active or conscious belief or awareness of the existence of the floodplain. The trial court, therefore, did not apply the wrong legal standard, because defendant did not have the requisite actual knowledge of the information allegedly concealed.

The Court further concluded that the knowledge of the general contractor could not be imputed to defendant. Knowledge of an agent is generally imputed to the principal. However, “actual knowledge” in the context of a fraudulent concealment claim cannot be imputed to a principal through knowledge of its agent. The judgment was affirmed.

Summary and full case available here.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Funds Received in Arbitration Award Determined to be “General Intangibles”; Prevailing Party Entitled to Attorney Fees

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Millenium Bank v. UPS Capital Business Credit on Thursday, March 13, 2014.

Summary Judgment—Creditors’ Rights— Uniform Commercial Code.

UPS Capital Business Credit (UPS) loaned Superior Plaster and Drywall, Inc. (Superior) $1,027,000, secured by Superior’s assets. Millennium Bank (Millennium) loaned Superior $1.5 million, also secured by Superior’s assets. Millennium and UPS entered into an Intercreditor Agreement to establish the respective priority of their secured interests in Superior’s assets. Under the Intercreditor Agreement, (1) Millennium had first priority, and UPS second priority, in Superior’s accounts receivable; and (2) UPS had first priority, and Millennium second priority, in Superior’s general intangibles.

This case arose when Millennium and UPS disputed their rights to funds awarded to Superior in an arbitration proceeding. Superior had subcontracted with Beck Development, LLC (Beck) to perform drywall and paint work as part of the construction of two condominium towers. Superior claimed Akzo Nobel Paints, LLC (Akzo) had supplied defective paint; Akzo countered that Superior’s application techniques were to blame. Superior repainted the project four times at Beck’s insistence. The problem was not fixed, and Beck terminated Superior, without paying Superior for the costs incurred in repainting.

Superior sued Beck and Akzo, claiming (1) breach of contract by Beck and Akzo; (2) breach of warranty by Akzo; and (3) the right to receive payment on a mechanic’s lien it had filed on the condominium towers for work performed on the subcontract. The three entities agreed to arbitrate the claims against Akzo.

The arbitration panel determined that Akzo’s paint was the cause of the paint problems. The panel awarded consequential damages to Beck and Superior. To Superior, the damages encompassed (1) the amount due on Superior’s lien for work performed under the subcontract on the towers; (2) Superior’s costs for excess labor and excess materials in repainting the towers; and (3) punitive damages. Two weeks later, Superior filed for bankruptcy. Approximately one year later, Beck successfully moved, without objection, for dismissal of Superior’s claims against it.

The funds awarded in the arbitration became part of Superior’s bankruptcy estate. Millennium and UPS asserted their rights in those funds as secured creditors under Colorado’s version of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC). They disputed only the priority rights with respect to the part of the funds representing the excess costs in labor and materials ($638,226.83) incurred by Superior in repainting the towers (challenged funds).

Millennium asserted the challenged funds were the proceeds of an account, on which it had first priority; UPS asserted they were the proceeds of an intangible right, on which it had first priority. The bankruptcy court determined it lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate the priority dispute and ordered the trustee to deliver the challenged funds to Millennium and UPS jointly for state law determination of their interests in the funds.

After the parties filed a statement of undisputed facts and cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court entered summary judgment for UPS, concluding that the challenged funds were general intangibles, rather than accounts. Millennium appealed and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

The parties agreed the resolution of the case depended on whether, as a matter of law, the challenged funds were, under the UCC, proceeds of an “account” or the proceeds of a “general intangible.” The “general intangible” category of assets traditionally encompassed proceeds from the right to pursue many types of lawsuits between a debtor and a party other than the interested creditor. However, this category, under the UCC, does not include “accounts.”

Here, the challenged funds were from an arbitration award Superior recovered from Akzo on a breach of warranty claim, not the right to payment of a monetary obligation for services rendered or to be rendered. Thus, the funds recovered from Akzo were not proceeds from an “account,” but rather proceeds of a “general intangible.” The district court’s classification of the funds was affirmed.

UPS requested its attorney fees incurred on appeal pursuant to a prevailing party fee provision in the Intercreditor Agreement. The Court agreed that UPS was entitled to those fees and remanded the case to the district court to award a reasonable amount of attorney fees incurred on appeal.

Summary and full case available here.