September 21, 2014

Colorado Court of Appeals: Dismissal Prior to Completion of Bankruptcy Case Re-Vests Claims in Debtors

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Mackall v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. on Thursday, September 11, 2014.

Bankruptcy—Dismissal—Standing—Issue Preclusion—Failure to State a Claim.

Plaintiffs purchased a home and subsequently refinanced it. After the court issued a written order authorizing JPMorgan Chase Bank (Chase), the assigned lender, to sell the house, plaintiffs filed a Chapter 13 petition for bankruptcy. The bankruptcy court dismissed the bankruptcy proceeding before confirmation of a plan or discharge. Plaintiffs thereafter filed a civil complaint against Chase, alleging that Chase’s note was fraudulent and that Chase was not the proper party to enforce it. The district court granted Chase’s motion to dismiss some of plaintiffs’ claims.

On appeal, Chase contended that plaintiffs lacked standing to assert any claims against it because (1) all of the claims were actionable when plaintiffs filed for bankruptcy, and (2) plaintiffs failed to disclose the claims to the bankruptcy court. When a bankruptcy case is dismissed, the debtor is granted standing to assert any claim that it possessed before it filed for bankruptcy, regardless of whether it disclosed the claim to the bankruptcy court during the bankruptcy proceedings. Here, the dismissal of the bankruptcy petition re-vested the claims in plaintiffs, and they had standing to bring those claims against Chase after the dismissal.

Plaintiffs argued that the district court erred in dismissing some of their claims based on issue preclusion. The district court held that both the CRCP 120 order authorizing sale and the bankruptcy court order allowing Chase’s proof of claim precluded some of plaintiffs’ claims. Because the bankruptcy court ruling had preclusive effect on these issues, plaintiffs were barred from re-litigating the issues that were dismissed based on issue preclusion.

Plaintiffs also argued that the district court erred by dismissing several of their claims for failure to state a claim. Because the complaint failed to allege that Chase filed the CRCP 120 actions for any purpose other than to obtain an order authorizing sale, the district court properly dismissed plaintiffs’ abuse of process claim. Plaintiffs’ complaint failed to allege that their property was on the market for sale and, therefore, the district court properly dismissed plaintiffs’ slander of title claim. Additionally, plaintiffs claims for breach of contract, implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and promissory estoppel were properly dismissed because the statute of frauds barred any unwritten modification of the loan agreement. Finally, because Chase had the right to seek enforcement of the promissory note against plaintiffs, plaintiffs’ claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress failed. The judgment was affirmed.

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

Colorado Court of Appeals: Entire Lease Void Where District Exceeded Leasing Authority

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Rocky Mountain Natural Gas, LLC v. The Colorado Mountain Junior College District on Thursday, September 11, 2014.

Lease—Municipality—Void—Reformation—Equitable Estoppel—Compensation.

Rocky Mountain Natural Gas, LLC (RMNG) and Colorado Mountain Junior College District(CMC) entered into a lease allowing RMNG to construct and operate a natural gas compressor station on CMC property. Despite the statutory three-year term limit on CMC’s authority to lease district property, the lease included an initial term of twenty years, with an option for RMNG to extend the lease for an additional twenty-year term. RMNG spent approximately $2.5 million in reliance on the lease, and CMC thereafter took action to set aside the lease as unenforceable, because the term of the lease exceeded CMC’s statutory authority. The court granted summary judgment in favor of CMC.

On appeal, RMNG contended that the district court erred by determining that the lease was entirely void and unenforceable. Because the evidence did not clearly show that CMC desired to lease the property for less than the twenty-year term stated in the agreement with RMNG, it was within the discretion of the district court to reject reformation of the contract as an appropriate equitable remedy. Further, because the entire contract was void, the court could not use the “savings clause” to reform the contract to the maximum three years. Accordingly, the district court did not err in determining that the term of years could not be reformed and that the entire lease was void and unenforceable.

RMNG also contended that the district court erred by refusing to apply equitable estoppel against CMC to prevent manifest injustice. Where a contract is void because it is not within a municipality’s power to make, the municipality cannot be estopped to deny the validity of the contract. Here, because CMC had no power to lease district property for any term exceeding three years, principles of estoppel do not apply against CMC. Accordingly, the district court did not err when it allowed CMC to deny the validity of the lease.

RMNG further argued that the district court erred because it refused to hold a hearing or make factual findings that would permit it to craft a remedy that fully compensated RMNG for CMC’s breach. CMC refunded the lease payments it received from RMNG. Accordingly, RMNG was fully compensated for the benefit it conferred on CMC and the district did not err when it denied further relief and granted summary judgment in favor of CMC. The judgment was affirmed.

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.

Tenth Circuit: Subsurface Mineral Rights Lessee May Cross Surface Owner’s Property to Access Leasehold

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Entek GRB, LLC v. Stull Ranches, LLC on Thursday, August 14, 2014.

Stull Ranches is the surface owner of a tract of property in rural Colorado. Entek GRB leases subsurface mineral rights, and, in order to access those subsurface rights, sought to access them by installing oil wells on the surface of Stull’s property. Entek’s subsurface oil leasehold rights extend onto neighboring property owned by the Bureau of Land Management, and Entek sought to traverse Stull’s property in order to reach the subsurface minerals on BLM’s property, since the only way to access the BLM property was on the existing road crossing Stull’s property. Stull objected, arguing that Entek’s drilling would disrupt Stull’s grouse hunting business. The district court granted summary judgment to Entek regarding access to its wells on Stull’s property, but denied Entek’s request to cross Stull’s property in order to access the BLM land. Entek appealed to the Tenth Circuit.

The Tenth Circuit explored the history of the government’s land grants, specifically as to separate grants of surface ownership and rights to subsurface minerals and water. Stull is the successor in interest of land acquired under the Stock-Raising Homestead Act of 1916, which expressly reserved to the government all mineral rights, along with the right to enter and use as much of the surface as is “reasonably incident” to the exploration and removal of mineral deposits, and the right to enact future laws and regulations regarding “disposal” of the mineral estate. The subsequently-enacted Mineral Leasing Act granted the Secretary of the Interior the right to amend mineral leases, which it did for the lease encompassing the subsurface mineral rights on Stull’s property and the adjacent BLM property in the Focus Ranch Unit Agreement. This agreement deems all drilling and producing operations on one part of a leasehold interest will be accepted and performed on all leasehold interests. Because Entek is allowed to drill through Stull’s surface estate to access its subsurface mineral lease, it is deemed access to all leasehold interests, including the leasehold interest on BLM’s surface property. Entek has the right to use the existing road that traverses Stull’s property in order to achieve efficient access to its subsurface leasehold.

Stull also argued that, in a case involving the prior holder of Entek’s current rights, the district court ruled that the lessee of the mineral rights was not permitted to access a different property in order to reach a well on an adjacent tract. However, that case was not appealed because the prior lessee entered into an agreement with Stull allowing it to traverse Stull’s property. The Tenth Circuit ruled that preclusion was precluded by this prior agreement.

The district court’s grant of summary judgment to Stull was vacated and the case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with the Tenth Circuit opinion.

Probate, Domestic, Foreclosure, and Transcript Request Forms Revised

In June and July 2014, the Colorado State Judicial Branch issued several revised JDF forms. The Transcript Request Form, JDF 4, was revised in July and crosses many categories, including appeals, criminal, and miscellaneous. Other categories with revised forms include domestic relations, probate, and foreclosure. The revised forms are available here in PDF format, and are available for download as Word documents from the State Judicial forms pages.

DOMESTIC

  • JDF 1700 – “Instructions to File for Grandparent or Great-Grandparent Visitation” (revised 6/14)
  • JDF 1701 – “Verified Pleading Affidavit for Grandparent/Great-Grandparent Visitation” (revised 6/14)
  • JDF 1702 – “Order re: Pleading Affidavit for Grandparent/Great-Grandparent Visitation” (revised 6/14)
  • JDF 1704 – “Motion to Intervene” (revised 6/14)
  • JDF 1705 – “Order to Intervene” (revised 6/14)

EVICTIONS AND FORECLOSURES

  • JDF 618 – “Notice of Hearing for Expedited Residential Foreclosure Sale” (revised 6/14)

PROBATE

  • JDF 800 – “Acknowledgment of Responsibilities Conservator and/or Guardian” (revised 7/14)
  • JDF 841 – “Petition for Appointment of Guardian for Adult” (revised 6/14)
  • JDF 850 – “Guardian’s Report – Adult” (revised 6/14)

For all of State Judicial’s JDF forms, click here.

Tenth Circuit: Insurance Exclusion for Intentional Acts Must Include Intent to Harm

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Mid-Continent Casualty Co. v. Circle S Feed Store, LLC on Tuesday, June 17, 2014.

I&W, Inc. owned a solution mining operation in Carlsbad, NM, and was insured by Mid-Continent Casualty Co, who provided CGL and umbrella policies to I&W. Solution mining is a process where fresh water is injected into underground salt formations, which creates brine water. The brine water is then extracted and sold for use in the oil and gas industries, creating an underground cavern. I&W’s mining operations created a cavern so dangerously large that they infringed upon the subsurface property of neighboring Circle S Feed Store and caused damage to the surface property. Circle S filed suit against I&W in state court, where it prevailed and was awarded $703,000 in compensatory damages and $300,000 in punitive damages. I&W subsequently declared bankruptcy.

During the pendency of the state court action, Mid-Continent sought a declaratory judgment in federal court that it owed I&W no duty of indemnification under the insurance policies. Both Mid-Continent and Circle S filed motions for summary judgment. The district court determined that (1) the damages were caused by an “occurrence” within the meaning of the policy; (2) the policy’s “intentional injury” exclusion did not apply; (3) the state court did not award judgment for diminution in value; and (4) nonetheless, indemnification was precluded by an exclusion in one of the umbrella policies for subsurface mining operations. The district court granted summary judgment for Mid-Continent based on the fourth point.

Circle S filed a motion to alter or amend the final judgment, arguing that the district court erred in holding the exclusion applied to the primary insurance policies and seeking clarification. The district court declined to revise its opinion but declared that it would have found coverage but for the exclusion. Circle S then appealed to the Tenth Circuit.

The Tenth Circuit examined the language of the policies and exclusions and determined that the district court had erroneously broadened the scope of the exclusion. The exclusion unambiguously applied to the umbrella policies but it was error to also apply it to the primary policies, since umbrella policies are separate and distinct from primary policies and serve different purposes. The Tenth Circuit then turned its focus to the district court’s resolution of the remaining issues. The district court had stated that but for the exclusion it would have found coverage based on three criteria: “(1) the subsidence I&W caused was an ‘occurrence’ within the
meaning of the policies; (2) the policies’ ‘intentional injury’ exclusion did not apply to exclude coverage; and (3) the damages awarded to Circle S were for a ‘physical injury to tangible property,’ which is covered, rather than for pure diminution in value, which is not.” The Tenth Circuit examined each prong.

Although Mid-Continent argued that the subsurface mining operations were not an “occurrence” under the policy language because I&W knew that its mining operations would create a cavern, the Tenth Circuit disagreed, noting that I&W did not know that the underground cavern had grown dangerously large or was infringing on the neighboring property. This also disposed of the “intentional injury” question, as I&W did not intend to create a dangerous cavern. Finally, the Tenth Circuit assessed whether the awarded damages were for physical injury to tangible property or pure diminution in value, and determined that the diminution in value suffered by Circle S was caused by the tangible injury of the subsurface cavern.

The district court’s judgment was affirmed regarding the application of the exclusion to the umbrella policies, but reversed as to the primary policies and remanded for further proceedings consistent with the Tenth Circuit’s holding.

Colorado Court of Appeals: No Authority Permits Counterclaims or Cross-Claims in Spurious Lien Action

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Fiscus v. Liberty Mortgage Corp. on Thursday, June 19, 2014.

Spurious Lien—Deed of Trust—Forgery—Statute of Limitations—Counterclaims—Cross-Claims—Ownership Interest.

Raymond L. Fiscus (owner) sued Liberty Mortgage Corporation, BB&T Corporation, and Branch Banking and Trust Company (collectively, the banks) under the spurious lien statute, seeking to have a deed of trust recorded by Branch Banking and Trust in 2009 declared spurious after owner’s wife executed the deed of trust on owner’s behalf based on a forged power of attorney. The banks counterclaimed against owner, asking to judicially foreclose on the property, alleging unjust enrichment and seeking an equitable lien against the property. The banks also filed a third-party complaint against wife, alleging theft. The trial court declared the deed of trust spurious and ordered its release, and dismissed the bank’s counterclaims and third-party claims.

On appeal, the banks contended that the trial court erred when it held that owner’s spurious lien petition was not barred by the statute of limitations. Spurious lien actions must be brought within two years of accrual. A cause of action accrues on the date “both the injury and its cause are known or should have been known by the exercise of reasonable diligence.” Here, the trial court concluded that, had owner exercised reasonable diligence, April 2010 was the earliest date he could or should have discovered the existence of the deed of trust. Therefore, owner timely filed the spurious lien petition on March 29, 2012.

The banks contend that the trial court erred when it granted owner’s motion to strike their counterclaims for judicial foreclosure, unjust enrichment, and an equitable lien, as well as their third-party claim against wife. However, there is no authority permitting counterclaims or cross-claims to be brought in a spurious lien action. Therefore, the trial court did not err when it dismissed these claims without prejudice. Because these claims were dismissed without prejudice and the banks were not prohibited from bringing a separate action regarding their claims, the banks were not deprived of any due process rights to pursue them.

The banks also argued that the trial court erred when it concluded wife did not have an ownership interest in the property sufficient to allow her to encumber the property. However, wife was not the record owner of the property. Therefore, she had an inchoate interest only and did not have the authority to encumber the property.

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 14-023 – Concerning 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 14-041 – Concerning 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 14-214 – Concerning 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 14-172 – Concerning 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 14-213 – Concerning 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 14-1214 – Concerning 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 14-1228 – Concerning 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 14-1260 – Concerning 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 14-1279 – Concerning 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 14-1383 – Concerning 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 14-1375 – Concerning 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 14-1269 – Concerning 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 14-1280 – Concerning 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 14-1321 – Concerning 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 14-1333 – Concerning 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 14-1343 – Concerning 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 14-1356 – Concerning 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 14-1362 – Concerning 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 14-1387 – Concerning 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 14-1390 – Concerning 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 14-1398 – Concerning 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 14-021 – Concerning 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 14-064 – Concerning 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 14-117 – Concerning 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 14-129 – Concerning 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 14-193 – Concerning 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 14-215 – Concerning 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: Condemnors Have Absolute Right to Abandon Proceedings at Any Time Before Title Vests

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Sinclair Transformation Co. v. Sandberg on Thursday, June 5, 2014.

Condemnation—Interest on Attorney Fees—Surface Damage Bond—Dismissal by Petitioner.

Sinclair Pipeline Company (Sinclair) owns a pipeline system that transports petroleum products from Wyoming to Denver. Sinclair uses an easement that passes through respondents’ (landowners) property. Sinclair initiated this condemnation proceeding to secure the rights to lay a second pipeline on landowners’ property and use some of their property that, though underlying the original pipeline, was not within the easement. The district court found that Sinclair had condemnation authority to build the new pipeline and entered an order allowing it to take immediate possession of the properties to install it while continuing to use the original pipeline. In 2007, while the case was on appeal, Sinclair installed the new pipeline but did not put it to use.

Five years later, the Supreme Court concluded that Sinclair did not have statutory condemnation authority under CRS § 38-5-105. On remand, landowners sought $192,573.95 in attorney fees and costs, plus interest. Before the court ruled, Sinclair paid all the fees and costs without interest, which the district court determined landowners were not entitled to.

Sinclair filed a notice of abandonment of condemnation proceedings and a declaratory judgment action seeking to enjoin the landowners from removing the new pipeline and seeking recognition of its rights under the easement to operate the new pipeline. Landowners objected and filed counterclaims. The district court dismissed the condemnation action.

On appeal, landowners argued it was error to deny them interest on their attorney fees and costs. The Court disagreed. The fees were awarded under CRS § 38-1-122. There is no provision in any sections pointed to by landowners for a right to interest. Therefore, the district court correctly denied the request.

Landowners also argued it was error to dismiss the condemnation action instead of consolidating it with the declaratory judgment action. The Court disagreed. Condemnors have an absolute right to abandon condemnation proceedings at any point before title has vested.

Landowners further argued it was error for the district court not to determine their surface damages and apply Sinclair’s surface damage bond to reimburse them before dismissing the condemnation action. The district court based its decision on agreement by the parties that there were issues of material fact concerning the surface damages that could be resolved in the declaratory judgment action. Moreover, the surface damage bond and additional money deposited by Sinclair as security for its taking immediate possession of the property was transferred to the court registry for the declaratory judgment action. The Court perceived no error in proceeding in this manner. The judgment of dismissal and the orders were affirmed.

Summary and full case available here.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Meaningful Remedy May Be Available to Landowners so Summary Judgment Inappropriate

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Sinclair Transportation Co. v. Sandberg on Thursday, June 5, 2014.

Easement — Partial Summary Judgment.

Sinclair Pipeline Company (Sinclair) operates a pipeline system that transports petroleum products from Wyoming to Denver and uses an easement that passes through defendants’ (landowners) properties. The easement was created by agreement in 1963 and provided its owner and “its successors and assigns” the right to “construct, maintain, inspect, operate, protect, repair, replace, change the size of, and remove” a six-inch pipeline across landowners’ property (original pipeline).

In 2006, Sinclair approached landowners to propose amending the easement to allow it to build a ten-inch pipeline on the property (new pipeline). Landowners declined, and Sinclair sought the right through a condemnation proceeding. The district court determined Sinclair had condemnation authority. In 2007, while the case was on appeal, Sinclair installed the new pipeline but did not put it to use. Ultimately, the Supreme Court determined Sinclair did not have statutory condemnation authority.

Sinclair then abandoned the condemnation proceeding and instituted this declaratory judgment action under CRCP 57 and CRS § 13-51-106 to determine its rights under the easement and prevent landowners from removing the new pipeline. The district court dismissed the condemnation action and addressed all other claims in this case.

Sinclair moved for partial summary judgment and the district court ruled, as a matter of law, that Sinclair had the right to treat the new pipeline as a replacement of the original one, as long as it removed the original one. The partial summary judgment was certified as a final judgment under CRCP 54(b) for purposes of appeal.

Sinclair removed the original pipeline and began using the new one. Four months after the summary judgment order was issued and Sinclair had begun using the new pipeline, landowners moved to stay the order, which the district court denied because Sinclair had “already fully executed” it and there “was nothing left . . . to stay.”

On appeal, landowners argued Sinclair lacked standing because factual disputes existed as to whether Sinclair was a successor in interest to the original owner of the easement, and an easement of the type involved in this case could not be assigned. The Court of Appeals disagreed, finding that the evidence presented by Sinclair was sufficient to prove its successorship interest in the easement.

The Court rejected landowners’ argument that Sinclair lacked standing, because ownership interests in this type of easement cannot be assigned. The language of the easement itself was a conveyance to Old Sinclair and its “successors and assigns.”

Landowners argued that partial summary judgment was inappropriate because any right to replace the pipeline was subject to numerous conditions as to which factual disputes exist and was defeated by Sinclair’s non-compliance with other parts of the agreement. The Court disagreed, finding that the reasonable expectation of the parties to such an agreement would be that the new pipeline could be put in before the old one being removed so as not to disrupt service.

Landowners further contended that Sinclair abandoned the contract right to the easement because it acted as though that right had expired when it sought to use condemnation authority to install the new pipeline. The Court disagreed. Sinclair’s condemnation action was an attempt to install the new pipeline and not remove the old pipeline after landowners had denied them the permission to do so. The order was affirmed.

Summary and full case available 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.

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 14-005 – Concerning 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 14-190 – Concerning 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 14-201 – Concerning 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 14-203 – Concerning 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 14-1273 – Concerning 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 14-1080 – Concerning 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 14-1119 – Concerning 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 14-1222 – Concerning 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 14-1030 – Concerning 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 14-1275 – Concerning 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 14-1303 – Concerning 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 14-1278 – Concerning 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 14-1323 – Concerning 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 14-1322 – Concerning 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 14-1363 – Concerning 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 14-1379 – Concerning 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 14-184 – Concerning 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 14-191 – Concerning 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 14-206 – Concerning 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 14-1156 – Concerning 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 14-1301 – Concerning 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.