February 25, 2017

HB 17-1159: Adding Remedies in Forcible Entry and Detainer Actions

On February 6, 2017, Rep. Jon Becker and Sen. John Cooke introduced HB 17-1159, “Concerning Actions Related to Forcible Entry and Detainer.”

The bill adds to the current descriptions of forcible detainer the act of a person preventing an owner from access to or possession of property by locking or changing the lock on the property.

The bill creates a procedure for the plaintiff to seek a temporary, mandatory injunction giving the plaintiff possession of the property if a complaint for forcible entry or detainer is filed. The procedure requires the plaintiff to store any personal property found on the property but allows the plaintiff to recover the costs of the storage.

The bill establishes as new crimes related to forcible entry and detainer the crimes of unlawful occupancy and unlawful reentry.

The bill was introduced into the House and assigned to the Judiciary and Appropriations committees.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Lessee of Real Property Lacks Standing to Challenge Property Tax Determination

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Traer Creek-EXWMT LLC v. Eagle County Board of Equalization on Thursday, February 9, 2017.

Traer Creek-EXWMT (Traer) has been a lessee of property in Eagle County since 2002. Traer has reimbursed the property owner for property taxes each year since assuming the lease. On May 1, 2015, the Eagle County Assessor mailed a notice of valuation to the property owner. Traer initiated the statutory protest and adjustment process to challenge the 2015 valuation. The assessor declined to adjust the valuation, and Traer appealed to the Board, which also upheld the valuation. Traer appealed to district court.

The Board moved to dismiss under C.R.C.P. 12(b)(1) on the theory that a mere lessee does not have standing to challenge a property tax valuation of the sort issued by the assessor. The district court agreed and dismissed the case.

On appeal, Traer argued that because it “owns” a leasehold interest in the subject property, it has standing to protest the valuation. The Colorado Court of Appeals disagreed, finding that the relevant statutes convey standing only to the property owner/taxpayer. The court similarly rejected Traer’s argument that C.R.S. §§ 39-1-102(16) and (14) could be read to grant authority to a lessee to challenge a property valuation. The court concluded that the county assessor did not value Traer’s “property” — i.e., its leasehold interest — instead, the assessor valued the fee interest in the property. Therefore, Traer was not a “person” whose “property has been valued too high.”

Traer also argued it had common law standing because it pays taxes on the property and because the owner had granted it agency authority to challenge the valuation. The court noted that Traer’s argument failed at the outset because when a statute limits standing, the court may not disregard the statute by employing common law notions.

The district court judgment was affirmed.

HB 17-1141: Providing Equal Protection from Deprivation of Constitutional Rights by a Federal Employee

On February 1, 2017, Rep. Kimi Lewis introduced HB 17-1141, “Concerning the Malicious Deprivation of Constitutional Rights by a Federal Employee Related to Public Lands.”

The bill makes it illegal for a person who is a federal employee acting under color of law to take any action:

  • That deprives a range allotment owner of any property right appurtenant, inherent, or related to the range allotment, including the right to possess, use, dispose of, exclude other from, or defend the range allotment; and
  • For which the deprivation offends due process or is a physical or regulatory taking without the payment of just compensation.

A violation is an unclassified felony punishable by a fine of up to $500,000 and imprisonment of up to 5 years, or both. An owner who suffers a loss as a result of the person’s actions also has a civil right of action to recover damages.

The bill was introduced in the House and assigned to the State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee. It is scheduled to be heard in committee on February 22, 2017, at 1:30 p.m.

HB 17-1026: Concerning Reverse Mortgage Repayment when Home Uninhabitable

On January 11, 2017, Rep. Jonathan Singer and Sen. Matt Jones introduced HB 17-1026, “Concerning the Suspension of a Borrower’s Obligation to Repay a Reverse Mortgage when a Force Majeure Renders the Subject Property Uninhabitable as a Principal Residence.”

Under current law, the borrower in a reverse mortgage transaction is relieved of the obligation to occupy the subject property as a principal residence if the borrower is temporarily absent for up to 60 days or, if the property is adequately secured, up to one year. The bill adds a third exception to the principal-residence requirement to cover situations in which a natural disaster or other serious incident beyond the borrower’s control renders the property uninhabitable. The maximum time allowable for a temporary absence under these circumstances is 5 years.

The bill was introduced in the House and assigned to the Local Government committee. It is scheduled to be heard in committee on January 25, 2017, at 1:30 p.m.

Top Ten Programs and Homestudies of 2016: Real Estate Law

The year is drawing to a close, which means that the compliance period is ending for a third of Colorado’s attorneys. Still missing some credits? Don’t worry, CBA-CLE has got you covered.

Today, we are featuring the Top Ten Programs and Homestudies for Real Estate Law. There are many great programs offered in the Real Estate area, and CBA-CLE offers several informative books authored by some of Colorado’s preeminent real estate attorneys. Visit cle.cobar.org/Practice-Area/Real-Estate to find the real estate program, homestudy, or book you need.

There are many great programs and homestudies for real estate practitioners, but our top ten are as follows.

10. Landlord Tenant Law: What to Do When Vacancy Rates are Low and Rents are High
While the media focuses on higher rents, the truth is that as inventory in housing grows, more and more Landlords are offering concessions such as free month’s rent and $1000 gift card to offset rent for qualified renters willing to sign a 1 year lease. To stay competitive with amenities in Denver, landlords are adding putting greens, outdoor living areas, composting gardens, dog washes, dog runs, bike maintenance stations, yoga classes, gourmet kitchens, and specialty pools. So landlord and tenant attorneys need to be educated on the current “higher rent” market as well as the coming “overbuilt” market which will again change the dynamics of the housing market tremendously. Order the Video OnDemand here, the CD homestudy here, and the MP3 here. Available for 7 general credits.

9. Mineral Interests: Real Estate Fall Update 2015
Whether you practice in the area of mineral interests or not, if you are a real estate lawyer, you need to know about this area of the law. Although the focus of this program is not fracking, the issue has brought mineral interests to the forefront of the Rocky Mountain legal landscape, and fracking will certainly be a part of the day’s discussion. Order the Video OnDemand here, the CD homestudy here, and the MP3 here. Available for 6 general credits, including 1 ethics credit.

8. Anatomy of a Residential Real Estate Transaction: Know the New CFPB Regulations
Some of the most experienced real estate professionals in Colorado explain residential real estate practice – from offer and acceptance to closing. This is a course not only for the practitioner who is new to the area of real estate, but for anyone who needs to know about the new CFPB regulations. Whether you represent the buyer or seller, you need the right tools. The faculty takes you through common problems that need to be solved, including the appropriate forms, title policy issues, types of conveyance deeds, how to read and land survey … and more. Order the Video OnDemand here, the CD homestudy here, and the MP3 here. Available for 7 general credits, including 1 ethics credit.

7. Anatomy of a Commercial Real Estate Transaction: Real Estate Spring Update 2015
When it comes to a commercial real estate transaction, there is a complex array of materials, forms and buyer/seller due diligence that you need to be aware of to properly and effectively represent the best interests of your clients. The knowledge base of a commercial real estate lawyer comes from many years of training and transaction experience, and involves a general understanding of technical matters. Whether it’s the areas of construction, zoning, environmental issues, leasing or site plan approval, if you’re going to be involved in a commercial real estate transaction, you’ll have to be aware of these many areas, along with the legal ones. The faculty members at the Real Estate Spring Update are the area experts for this myriad of issues in commercial real estate transactions. Order the Video OnDemand here, the CD homestudy here, and the MP3 here. Available for 7 general credits.

6. Foreclosure Law – All the Latest and Greatest
In 2011, Colorado had among the 10 highest foreclosure rates in the nation, according to a report from RealtyTrac Inc. Since then, rising home prices fueled by one of the strongest economies in the nation and low interest rates have caused foreclosures to wane in Colorado and the Denver area. Despite the improvement in Colorado’s economy, and the decrease in foreclosures, real estate lawyers and professionals still need to be aware of Colorado’s foreclosure process, because it is unique compared to other states, and foreclosure is always a consideration when representing clients. Order the Video OnDemand here, the CD homestudy here, and the MP3 here. Available for 7 general credits.

5. HOA Basics: Common Interest Communities
If your clients have purchased a condominium, townhouse or other type of property in a planned development or subdivision, chances are they are obligated to join that community’s homeowners’ association (HOA) and pay monthly or annual HOA fees for the upkeep of common areas and the building. If you represent, or are considering representing, clients who own these types of properties, there are many facets you should be aware of – how do homeowners’ associations work, and what are the rules and regulations if something goes wrong?  This seminar  provides not only an overview of common interest communities, but also the details of collection actions, covenant enforcement, transparency and governance, and much more. Order the Video OnDemand here, the CD homestudy here, and the MP3 here. Available for 7 general credits, including 1 ethics credit.

4. Advanced HOA Issues: Triple Crown, Developer Trifecta, & Changes on the Horizon
Your day will begin with a comprehensive case law and legislative update on the latest in HOA issues. Then you will hear some of the areas of CCIOA that have proven difficult or open to interpretation or are simply messier than some of us might prefer. Next, find out what strategies to use in the case of a stalled development: for example, when a property is foreclosed unfinished or unannexed. Learn what you need to know about Triple Crown, Vallagio and local construction defect ordinances. And that’s not all – learn the latest trends in document drafting in owner-controlled Associations: marijuana, emotional support animals, water/mold Issues, individual assessment, and more. Finally, what changes do the experts see on the horizon? Get the regulatory, developer, and Association perspectives on condominium conversions. Order the Video OnDemand here, the CD homestudy here, and the MP3 here. Available for 7 general credits.

3. 25 Cases Every Real Estate Lawyer Should Know – With Fred Skillern
From the obscure attorney disciplinary case (who would know?) that declares the law on the recording of attorney liens, to the well-publicized Lazy Dog Ranch case that revolutionized how we think about easement disputes (with the assistance of the new Restatement) … from statutory interpretation cases dealing with our common interest communities to cases in equity that at times seem to “rewrite” our statutes … our appellate courts have given us a healthy menu of cases on which real estate lawyers of all stripes can and should feast.  Order the Video OnDemand here, the CD homestudy here, and the MP3 here. Available for 3 general credits.

2. Quiet Title Actions: The Basics Plus Selected Advanced Topics
An action to quiet title is brought to establish a party’s title to real property, thereby “quieting” any challenges to the title. When the cloud on the title is removed, the plaintiff is free of claims against the property. Experienced experts will walk you through the quiet title process. You will learn the mechanics of the quiet title lawsuit, and about the more advanced issues when handling a quiet title case. From service of process and identification of the parties, to the most successful strategies in defending a quiet title action, you will get what you need to best serve your clients. Each homestudy order receives a copy of the CLE book, Colorado Quiet Title Actions, 3rd Edition, as part of the course materials for this program. Please note the book will be provided in PDF. Order the Video OnDemand here, the CD homestudy here, and the MP3 here. Available for 7 general credits.

1. 34th Annual Real Estate Symposium
For the past 33 years, the Real Estate Symposium has been established as an institution not to be missed by any real estate professional in the Rocky Mountain region. Join more than 400 of your friends and colleagues for this once-a-year opportunity to talk about the most important issues you face in your real estate practice today. Order the Video OnDemand here, the CD homestudy here, and the MP3 here. Available for 16 general credits, including 3 ethics credits. SAVE THE DATE! The 35th Annual Real Estate Symposium will be held July 13 through 15, 2017, at the Vail Marriott Resort and Spa.

Privileges and Confidentiality in the Attorney-Client Relationship

EthicsConfidentiality is one of the cornerstones of the attorney-client relationship. It allows clients to feel comfortable discussing sensitive issues with their attorney without fear of disclosure. Colorado Rule of Professional Conduct 1.6 provides, “A lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of a client unless the client gives informed consent, the disclosure is impliedly authorized in order to carry out the representation, or the disclosure is permitted [in certain enumerated circumstances].” The counterpoint to this is the privilege that protects attorney-client communications. The attorney-client privilege in Colorado is governed by C.R.S. § 13-90-107(1)(b), which states, “An attorney shall not be examined without the consent of his client as to any communication made by the client to him or his advice given thereon in the course of professional employment.”

These seemingly straight-forward rules have many nuances, including the scope of confidentiality versus the attorney-client privilege, the lawyer’s responsibility to reveal information to prevent a client’s misconduct, the lawyer as witness, the lawyer’s duty to prevent the disclosure of client information, and the extension of the attorney-client privilege to others in the attorney’s office.

The Colorado Bar Association Ethics Committee has tackled some of these issues in Formal Opinion 108, “Inadvertent Disclosure of Privileged or Confidential Documents,” and Formal Opinion 90, “Preservation of Client Confidences in View of Modern Communications.” As this guidance suggests, attorneys must always be aware of when issues of privileges and confidentiality may arise in their practices.

At 8:30 am on Wednesday, December 14, 2016, attorney John Palmeri will discuss the intricacies of privileges and confidentiality in one-hour CLE program co-sponsored by the CBA Lawyers Professional Liability Committee. Attendees will also receive a copy of Mr. Palmeri’s chapter inLawyers’ Professional Liability in Colorado with further discussion of the topic. Register here or by clicking the links below.

 

CLELogo

CLE Program: Privileges and Confidentiality

This CLE presentation will occur on December 14, 2016, at the CBA-CLE offices (1900 Grant Street, Third Floor), from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Register for the live program here or register for the webcast here. You may also call (303) 860-0608 to register.

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

Colorado Court of Appeals: Preliminary Injunction Appropriate Where HOA Board Amending Bylaws Without Proper Notice

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Anderson v. Applewood Water Association, Inc. on Thursday, November 3, 2016.

Homeowners Association—Open Meetings—Notice—Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act—Colorado Revised Nonprofit Corporations Act.

Plaintiffs filed for a preliminary injunction to enjoin defendant Applewood Water Association, Inc. (Association) from (1) conducting special meetings of the board of directors (board) in violation of its bylaws and (2) submitting an amended declaration of covenants for a full membership vote, based on their belief that the amended declaration illegally conveyed certain property rights. The owners presented evidence to support their contention that the board conducted special meetings without giving required notice set forth in the Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act (CCIOA) and the Colorado Revised Nonprofit Corporations Act (CRNCA). They also presented evidence that those meetings concerned amendments to existing covenants. The trial court denied both requests.

On appeal, the owners contended that the trial court erred as a matter of law when it found that it had no legal authority to enjoin future violations of civil statutes. The CCIOA and CRNCA create a legally protected interest in open meetings. The plain language of both statutes gives a court the authority to enjoin the violation of their provisions where a movant can show noncompliance and harm. Therefore, the trial court has the authority to enjoin the Association from holding special board meetings without providing the notice required under CCIOA and CRNCA. The trial court’s order as to that preliminary injunction request was reversed and the case was remanded for further factual findings.

The Court of Appeals concluded that the second injunction request is moot because a vote on the amended declaration has already occurred. That portion of the appeal was thus dismissed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Treasurer Should Use Diligent Efforts to Notify Occupant of Property Tax Deed

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Red Flower, Inc. v. McKown on Thursday, November 3, 2016.

Kevin McKown owned 320 acres of farmland in rural Baca County. From 2004 to 2011, he had an oral sharecrop agreement with Don Lohrey to farm the property. Lohrey visited the property every week or two to check on his crops, but he lived about ten miles away. McKown failed to pay his county property taxes, and the county treasurer sold tax liens for the real property and the mineral rights. Red Flower bought the liens in November 2007. In August 2010, Red Flower applied for treasurer’s deeds. The treasurer unsuccessfully attempted to notify McKown and published notice in the local paper in September 2010. In December 2010, she issued the deeds to Red Flower.

The following year, Red Flower filed a C.R.C.P. 105 action to quiet title to the property. McKown appeared and defended on the grounds that the tax liens were defective due to insufficient notice to himself and Lohrey. The district court determined the treasurer had made a diligent inquiry to find McKown, and a division of the Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed that ruling, but remanded for determination of whether the treasurer had complied with the separate requirement to notify the property’s occupant, Lohrey. On remand, the district court struggled with the statutory language, and ultimately concluded that the treasurer’s notice to Lohrey was deficient and the tax deeds were void.

Red Flower appealed, arguing that the district court’s construction cannot be squared with the language or intent of the statutory scheme. The court of appeals agreed with Red Flower that the district court’s reasoning was incorrect as to the mineral deed. After analyzing C.R.S. § 39-11-128, the court concluded that it was illogical to require the treasurer to put forth more effort to locate the occupant of the property than the property owner. The court, however, noted that it was presumed that the occupant of the property could be found on the property. The court found that the district court correctly concluded that treasurer need not conduct “diligent inquiry” to determine the location of the occupant, but it erred in determining that the treasurer had some limitless duty to locate the occupant. The court instead may simply serve notice to occupants at the property. Because Lohrey was not an actual occupant of the property, but the parties stipulated to his occupancy, the court of appeals remanded for a determination of whether the treasurer made a “diligent inquiry” as to his whereabouts before conveying the mineral deed.

As to the real property deeds, the court of appeals found an error in publication. The court noted that the statute requires publication once a week for three weeks, and publication must take place not more than five months nor less than three months before the tax deeds may issue. Because the tax deeds issued less than three months after publication, the notice was deficient. The court declined to say the deeds were void, since the taxing authority had jurisdiction to issue them, but instead determined the deeds were voidable. The court affirmed summary judgment to McKown as to the real property deed.

The court of appeals affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Donor and Transferee Are One Entity for Conservation Easement Tax Credit Purposes

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Medved v. Colorado Department of Revenue on Thursday, October 20, 2016.

Conservation Easement Tax Credit—Statute of Limitations—Notice of Disallowance.

The Medveds purchased a conservation easement (CE) tax credit from Whites Corporation (Whites). The appraised value of the tax credit was $130,000. Whites was the CE donor and the Medveds were the CE transferees. On October 23, 2006, the Medveds filed their 2005 Colorado tax returns and claimed a $130,000 credit based on the CE. On October 30, 2007, Whites filed a Colorado State C Corporation income tax return and claimed a $260,000 credit based on the same CE.

On March 4, 2011, the Colorado Department of Revenue (Department) issued a notice of disallowance to Whites and the Medveds, disallowing the credit in its entirety. The Medveds appealed to the district court and argued the notice of disallowance was barred by the four-year statute of limitation in C.R.S. § 39-21-107(2). The Department argued that the Medveds and Whites were subject to the same statute of limitations that was triggered when the donor filed its tax return under C.R.S. § 39-22-522(7)(i). The district court found that the donor and the transferee were a single entity and were bound as to all issues concerning the tax credit to the four-year statute of limitations, which was triggered by the donor’s tax claim. Because Whites filed its return on October 30, 2007, the Department’s notice of disallowance was within the statute of limitations.

On appeal, the Medveds claimed they were not bound by the same statute of limitations as Whites. The court of appeals agreed with the Department that a donor and transferee are considered a single entity under the statute and are bound by the same statute of limitations. The Medveds also argued that the first claim filed triggers the four-year statute of limitations. Finding the statutory language ambiguous, the court considered its legislative intent and purposes and concluded that the General Assembly intended that the first claim filed, either by the donor or transferee, begins the four-year statute of limitations period. Because the Department’s notice of disallowance was beyond the four-year limitations period, the Department’s disallowance was untimely and statutorily barred.

The judgment was reversed and the case was remanded for dismissal.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: CCIOA Requires Substantial, not Strict, Compliance when Subdividing Units

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Perfect Place v. Semler on Thursday, October 20, 2016.

Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act—Strict or Substantial Compliance—Quiet Title—Unclean Hands—Fraudulent Conveyance—Attorney Fees.

This action concerns title to three parking spaces. In 2000, Blake Street Condominium (Blake Street) bought a mixed use residential and commercial building and recorded a written declaration subjecting the property to the provisions of the Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act (CCIOA). A majority interest in the building was sold to Quail Street Company, LLC (Quail Street). Quail Street’s sole shareholder was Watson. Watson made multiple changes to the building, including subdividing the garage into three individual parking spaces (C, D, and E) by painting yellow dividing lines on the garage wall. Spaces C and D were normal sized, and E was able to accommodate only a motorcycle or very small car.

Watson sold the individual parking spaces, as part of condominium units, to different buyers who subsequently sold or mortgaged them. The City and County of Denver taxed each space individually, the Blake Street homeowners association (association) separately assessed dues for each space, and title insurance separately insured the spaces.

Semler claimed title to space C from a 2007 foreclosure proceeding and space D through a different foreclosure proceeding. In 2010, the association’s attorney notified Semler and Perfect Place, LLC (Perfect Place) of clouded title concerning spaces D and E. Semler paid for a quitclaim deed from the former record owner of space D and recorded that in 2012. He claimed title to space E from a different deed in lieu of foreclosure.

Perfect Place is a member of the association. Perfect Place claimed title to all three spaces from a 2011 quitclaim deed it received and recorded from Watson. Watson issued a correction deed in 2013 (correction deed). It also claimed title to spaces D and E from a series of conveyances originating from a wild deed.

Perfect Place sued to quiet title to the three parking spaces in the Blake Street property. The trial court found that Watson subdivided the garage into three parking spaces and that Perfect Place procured the 2011 deed by fraud, concealment, and unclean hands. The court concluded that Semler owned spaces C and D. Title to space E was resolved in favor of Perfect Place by agreement of the parties. The court ordered Semler to draft a proposed amendment to the Blake Street declaration memorializing the decision.

Semler submitted a proposed map allotting space C 132 square feet, space D 132 square feet, and space E 90 feet. Semler relied on the historical boundaries of spaces C and D and the dimensions of space E set forth in a recorded parking space agreement. Perfect Place objected, a hearing was held, and the court allotted space C 129 square feet, space D 114 square feet, and space E 122 square feet. Perfect Place appealed the trial court’s finding that Semler owned parking spaces C and D. Perfect Place argued that the absence of a formal application to the association’s board describing reapportionment of the common elements, as well as the absence of an amended declaration or condominium map that strictly complies with CCIOA, violates C.R.S. § 38-33.3-213. Semler argued that Watson substantially complied with CCIOA when he subdivided the garage into three spaces.

The Colorado Court of Appeals looked at the plain language of C.R.S. § 38-33.3-213 and the purposes of CCIOA as a whole to find that substantial rather than strict compliance with the provision was required. In particular, it noted that statutory interpretation of CCIOA should give way to flexibility where strict adherence to provisions that create uniformity would render title unmarketable. Here, because Watson was the majority owner and board member of the homeowners association, any application that he would have submitted would have been submitted to himself. The declaration also gave him the authority, as the first purchaser from the grantor, to subdivide the garage. Moreover, a map identifying the spaces (though not their dimensions) was recorded. All of this amounted to substantial compliance.

Both parties asserted that the trial court abused its discretion in crafting equitable relief. Perfect Place contended that the court abused its discretion in (1) reforming the deeds of Watson and Quail Street to validly convey property and (2) voiding the 2011 quitclaim deed from Watson to Perfect Place by declaring it a fraudulent conveyance. Semler argued that it was an abuse of discretion for the trial court to increase the size of space E at the expense of space D, thereby benefitting Perfect Place, a party it had found to have unclean hands. The trial court’s reformation of deeds from Quail Street to grantees (that should originally have been from Watson to grantees) was not an abuse of discretion based on the finding that any conveyance errors by the grantors was inadvertent. The trial court also did not abuse its discretion in finding the 2011 quitclaim deed from Watson to Perfect Place was a fraudulent conveyance. Watson believed he was merely correcting a technical defect in title and Perfect Place’s attorney fostered that belief (which was false). Thus the record supported the finding that the quitclaim deed was obtained by “fraud in the factum” and was therefore void. But the court of appeals held that the award of additional area to space E and Perfect Place was an abuse of discretion because this equitable remedy benefitted a party with unclean hands.

Semler also sought attorney fees under the CCIOA. The court found the trial court erred in denying Semler’s request for attorney fees because he was required to defend his title under the provisions of CCIOA.

The judgment quieting title to spaces C and D in Semler was affirmed. The judgment adjusting the boundaries of spaces D and E was reversed. The case was remanded for the trial court to return the boundaries of spaces D and E to their historical dimensions and to determine and award Semler attorney fees.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Trial Court Lacked Subject Matter Jurisdiction Over Plaintiff’s Claims

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Golden Run Estates, LLC v. Town of Erie on Thursday, October 6, 2016.

Annexation—Subject Matter Jurisdiction—Contract Claims—Annexation Act.

Defendant Town of Erie entered into a pre-annexation agreement with Harber for his property located in unincorporated Boulder County. Harber intended his company, Golden Run Estates, to develop a mixed-use community over approximately 50 years. An annexation agreement and a detailed development plan were supposed to follow the pre-annexation agreement. Golden Run Estates and Harber sued Erie after an annexation agreement was not reached following annexation of the property. They brought two contract claims, a claim for declaratory relief, and a claim for a judicial disconnection decree. The trial court found it had subject matter jurisdiction over the contract claims and entered a judgment for damages. It also ordered judicial disconnection, but concluded it did not have subject matter jurisdiction over the declaratory relief claim.

The sole issue on appeal was the jury award on the two contract claims. Erie argued that the trial court erred in concluding that it had subject matter jurisdiction over the contract claims and in upholding the breach of contract verdict because plaintiffs did not bring their claims within the 60-day limitation period under C.R.S. § 31-12-116(2)(a)(I). The court of appeals determined that the C.R.S. § 31-12-116(2)(a)(I) limitation period is jurisdictional and its time limits cannot be tolled or waived.

Erie also raised arguments relating to the sufficiency of the evidence concerning lost opportunity costs and the property manager’s testimony. Because the court determined that the trial court did not have subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiffs’ contract claims, it did not address these contentions.

Plaintiffs argued that their contract claims did not challenge the annexation of the property but were to enforce the terms of the pre-annexation agreement, so C.R.S. 31-12-116 was inapplicable. The court found plaintiffs’ claims were actually impermissible collateral attacks on the annexation and there was no separate breach of contract claim that wasn’t an argument regarding the annexation itself. The court held that the trial court did not have subject matter jurisdiction over the contract claims and vacated that part of the judgment and the damages award. The case was remanded with directions to grant Erie’s motion for directed verdict and for a determination of the amount of attorney fees incurred by Erie in the appeal.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Notice of Appeal Timely Filed 49 Days After Denial of Motion for Reconsideration

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Semler v. Hellerstein on Thursday, October 6, 2016.

Notice of Appeal—Timeliness—Amended Complaint—Jurisdiction—Motion to Dismiss—Fraud—Concealment—Misrepresentation—Civil Conspiracy—Breach of Fiduciary Duty—Breach of Contract—Third Party Beneficiary—Attorney Fees.

Plaintiff Semler and defendant Perfect Place, LLC are both members of the 1940 Blake Street Condominium Association (Association). Defendant Hellerstein owns and controls both Perfect Place, LLC and Bruce S. Hellerstein, CPA P.C. (collectively, Perfect Place defendants). Hellerstein also served as treasurer of the Association. Defendant Bewley is an attorney employed by defendant law firm Berenbaum Weinshienk, P.C. At all relevant times, Bewley represented Hellerstein and his two corporate entities.

The current litigation stems from a related quiet title action in which Perfect Place asked the court to determine that it was the rightful owner of parking spaces C, D, and E. The court presiding over the quiet title action determined that Semler owned parking spaces C and D, while Perfect Place owned parking space E. Semler then brought the current suit, claiming that Bewley and Hellerstein devised a scheme to gain title to Semler’s parking spaces C and D. Semler’s first amended complaint alleged claims only for breach of fiduciary duty against Hellerstein, aiding and abetting that breach against Bewley, and civil conspiracy against all defendants. The court granted defendants’ motions to dismiss. Semler then moved to amend his complaint a second time, proposing to add claims for fraud, nondisclosure and concealment, negligent misrepresentation, negligent supervision, vicarious liability, and breach of contract. He also more clearly explained that he was seeking damages for lost income opportunities he suffered as a result of having to defend against the quiet title action. The court denied Semler’s second motion to amend based on lack of standing to pursue alleged fraud or misrepresentation against the prior owner of the parking spaces and awarded attorney fees in favor of defendants.

On appeal, defendants asserted that Semler’s notice of appeal was untimely and, therefore, the Colorado Court of Appeals lacked jurisdiction to consider the appeal. The court determined that Semler timely filed his notice of appeal 49 days after the court denied his C.R.C.P. 59 motion for reconsideration.

Semler contended that the trial court erred by denying his motion for leave to amend his complaint a second time. The court’s dismissal of the action was specifically premised on Semler’s fraud claims, which were new to the second amended complaint. It was therefore apparent to the court that although the trial court denied the motion to amend, it considered the claims in the second amended complaint when ruling on the motion to dismiss.

Semler argued that the trial court erred in granting defendants’ motions to dismiss. Semler’s fraud, concealment, and misrepresentation claims were all premised on conversations and transactions between the prior owner of the parking spaces and defendants in which Semler was not involved. Semler lacked standing to bring those claims. Semler’s claims for lost opportunity damages are too remote and unforeseeable to be recoverable under these claims. Therefore, these claims failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted and should have been dismissed under C.R.C.P. 12(b)(5).

Semler also contended that defendants conspired with each other to obtain his parking spaces. He is not entitled to relief on a civil conspiracy claim against Bewley because a director cannot conspire with the corporation that he serves, which is the premise of Semler’s argument. Additionally, because Hellerstein was not acting in his role as treasurer when he engaged in the allegedly fraudulent conduct, Semler’s breach of fiduciary duty claim against Hellerstein fails. Because these claims fail, Semler’s aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty claim against Bewley and negligent supervision and vicarious liability claims against Bewley’s law firm, Berenbaum Weinshienk, fail as well.

As to his breach of contract claim, although Semler was not a party to the contract between Berenbaum Weinshienk and the Association in which Berenbaum Weinshienk agreed that it would not represent one Association member against another, Semler sufficiently pleaded a third-party beneficiary breach of contract claim pursuant to this agreement. Therefore, the case was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings on this claim.

Semler also contended that if the dismissal order is reversed, the attorney fees award in favor of defendants must also be reversed. Only Semler’s breach of contract claim survives C.R.C.P. 12(b) dismissal. Thus, because that claim was not pleaded against the Perfect Place defendants, the attorney fees award to them remains undisturbed. The order awarding fees award under this statute to Bewley and Berenbaum Weinshienk was reversed.

The orders were affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case was remanded with directions.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.