June 26, 2017

Bills Closing Torrens Title, Allowing Electronic Preservation of Plats by Clerk & Recorder, Adopting Revised Uniform Notorial Acts Law, and More Signed

Although the legislative session is over, the governor continues to sign bills. This week, he signed one bill on Monday, May 15; four bills on Wednesday, May 17; and 13 bills on Thursday, May 18. To date, he has signed 231 bills and vetoed one bill this legislative session. The bills signed this week are summarized here.

Monday, May 15

  • HB 17-1204“Concerning Juvenile Delinquency Record Expungement, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation,” by Rep. Pete Lee and Sen. John Cooke. The bill restricts access to juvenile delinquency records by making certain records public only after a court orders that a child be charged as an adult, consistent with recent changes to the direct file statute, and by eliminating the requirement that the prosecuting attorney notify the school principal of minor offenses.

Wednesday, May 17

  • HB 17-1248“Concerning the Funding of Colorado Water Conservation Board Projects, and, in Connection Therewith, Making Appropriations,” by Rep. Jeni Arndt and Sens. John Cooke & Jerry Sonnenberg. The bill makes certain appropriations from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) construction fund to the CWCB or the Division of Water Resources.
  • HB 17-1301“Concerning Protecting Colorado Citizens who are Engaged in an Act that is Protected by the Colorado Constitution from Outside Agencies,” by Rep. Steve Lebsock and Sen. Tim Neville. The bill prohibits a state agency from aiding or assisting a federal agency or agency of another state in arresting a Colorado citizen for committing an act that is a Colorado constitutional right; or violating a Colorado citizen’s Colorado constitutional right.
  • SB 17-129“Concerning the Electronic Preservation of a Plat Recorded by a County Clerk and Recorder,” by Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg and Reps. Jon Becker & Jeni Arndt. The bill permits a county clerk and recorder to preserve an original plat in an electronic format. If an electronic filing system is established, then the board of county commissioners is authorized to provide additional funding and space suitable for a county surveyor or any other appropriate local government official to store original mylar, paper, or polyester sheets of subdivision plats and land survey plats.
  • SB 17-140“Concerning the Torrens Title Registration System,” by Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg and Reps. Jon Becker & Jeni Arndt. The bill closes the Torrens title registration system to new applications to register land title in this state, effective January 1, 2018.

Thursday, May 18

  • HB 17-1162“Concerning Action that can be Taken Against an Individual Based on the Individual’s Failure to Pay for a Traffic Violation, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation,” by Rep. Matt Gray and Sen. Bob Gardner. The bill decreases the penalty for driving under restraint to a class A traffic infraction if the basis of the restraint is an outstanding judgment.
  • HB 17-1201“Concerning Authorization for Granting a High School Diploma Endorsement in the Combined Disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics,” by Rep. James Coleman and Sens. Kevin Priola & Rachel Zenzinger. The bill authorizes a school district, board of cooperative services, district charter high school, or institute charter high school to grant a high school diploma endorsement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to students who demonstrate mastery in STEM. To obtain the endorsement, a student must complete the high school graduation requirements at a high level of proficiency, successfully complete 4 STEM courses selected by the local education provider in addition to the high school graduation requirements in these subjects, achieve a minimum score specified in the bill on one of several specified mathematics assessments, and successfully complete a final capstone project.
  • HB 17-1211“Concerning Professional Development for Educators Regarding Disciplinary Strategies for Young Students,” by Rep. James Coleman and Sen. Kevin Priola. The bill creates the discipline strategies pilot program to provide money to school districts, boards of cooperative services, and charter schools for professional development for educators in the use of culturally responsive methods of student discipline for students enrolled in preschool through third grade and developmentally appropriate responses to the behavioral issues of students enrolled in preschool through third grade.
  • HB 17-1214“Concerning Efforts to Encourage Employee Ownership of the State’s Existing Small Businesses,” by Rep. James Coleman and Sen. Jack Tate. The bill requires the Colorado Office of Economic Development to engage the services of a local nonprofit organization that supports and promotes the employee-owned business model to educate the staff at the office on the forms and merits of employee ownership in order for the office to promote employee ownership as part of its small business assistance center.
  • HB 17-1227“Concerning an Extension of Demand-Side Management Goals for Investor-Owned Utilities as Set by the Public Utilities Commission,” by Reps. Faith Winter & Polly Lawrence and Sens. Stephen Fenberg & Kevin Priola. The bill extends programs establishing electricity goals for investor-owned utilities until 2028.
  • HB 17-1246“Concerning Implementation of the STEMI Task Force Recommendations Relating to Reporting Confirmed Heart Attack Incidents in the State,” by Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp and Sens. Leroy Garcia & Jack Tate. The bill implements recommendations of the STEMI task force regarding hospital reporting of heart attacks.
  • HB 17-1266“Concerning Allowing Persons who were Convicted of Misdemeanors for Marijuana-Related Behaviors that are No Longer Illegal to Petition for the Sealing of Criminal Records Relating to Such Convictions,” by Reps. Edie Hooten & Jovan Melton and Sens. Vicki Marble & Stephen Fenberg. The bill allows persons who were convicted of misdemeanors for the use or possession of marijuana to petition for the sealing of criminal records relating to such convictions if their behavior would not have been a criminal offense if the behavior had occurred on or after December 10, 2012.
  • HB 17-1354“Concerning the Collection of Delinquent Taxes on Certain Mobile Homes,” by Rep. KC Becker and Sens. Kevin Priola & John Kefalas. The bill makes the process to enforce the collection of delinquent taxes on mobile or manufactured homes that are not affixed to the ground permissive, and therefore gives the county treasurer more flexibility to enter into partial payment agreements with the owners of such mobile or manufactured homes. The bill authorizes the county treasurer to declare tax liens on mobile or manufactured homes that are not affixed to the ground as county-held to address title deficiencies in conjunction with the collection of taxes.
  • SB 17-132“Concerning Enactment of the ‘Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts’ as Amended,” by Sen. Bob Gardner and Reps. Jovan Melton & Cole Wist. The bill enacts the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts, and creates a working group to study and make recommendations by December 1, 2017, regarding electronic remote notarization. The Secretary of State must promulgate rules regarding electronic remote notarization, after which notaries may perform a notarial act by electronic remote notarization in compliance with the rules.
  • SB 17-193“Concerning the Establishment of the ‘Center for Research into Substance Use Disorder Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Support Strategies’ at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation,” by Sens. Kevin Lundberg & Cheri Jahn and Reps. Bob Rankin & Brittany Pettersen. The bill establishes the Center for Research into Substance Use Disorder Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Support Strategies at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.
  • SB 17-207“Concerning Strengthening Colorado’s Statewide Response to Behavioral Health Crises, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation,” by Sens. John Cooke & Daniel Kagan and Reps. Lang Sias & Joseph Salazar. The bill clarifies the intent of the General Assembly for establishing a coordinated behavioral health crisis response system. The crisis system is intended to be a comprehensive, appropriate, and preferred response to behavioral health crises in Colorado. By clarifying the role of the crisis system and making necessary enhancements, the bill puts systems in place to help Colorado end the use of jails and correctional facilities as placement options for individuals placed on emergency mental health holds if they have not also been charged with a crime and enhances the ability of emergency departments to serve individuals who are experiencing a behavioral health crisis.
  • SB 17-297“Concerning Revising Higher Education Performance Requirements,” by Sen. Kent Lambert and Rep. Millie Hamner. The bill repeals a performance-based funding plan for institutions of higher education that was included in the master plan for Colorado postsecondary education. The performance-based funding plan was not implemented.
  • SB 17-305“Concerning Modifications to Select Statutory Provisions Affecting Primary Elections Enacted by Voters at the 2016 Statewide General Election to Facilitate the Effective Implementation of the State’s Election Laws, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation,” by Sens. Stephen Fenberg & Kevin Lundberg and Reps. Patrick Neville & Mike Foote. At the 2016 general election, the voters of the state approved 2 initiated measures affecting primary elections: Proposition 107, which restored a presidential primary election, and Proposition 108, which allows participation by unaffiliated voters in primary elections. The bill makes several modifications to some of the statutory provisions that were affected by Propositions 107 and 108 for the purpose of facilitating the effective implementation of the state’s election laws.

For a complete list of the governor’s 2017 legislative actions, click here.

Tenth Circuit: Title Insurance Does Not Cover Loss of Property at Foreclosure Sale

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in BV Jordanelle, LLC v. Old Republic National Title Insurance Co. on Tuesday, July 26, 2016.

In 2008, BV loaned $6.3 million to PWJ Holdings, which owned the Aspens Property in Wasatch, Utah. In exchange for the loan, BV received a mortgage for one parcel in the Aspens Property, and obtained a title insurance policy through Old Republic. PWJ defaulted on the loan, and BV foreclosed on the property in 2009, acquiring title to the property at a trustee’s sale. The property was located in an improvement district, but PWJ did not pay the assessments for the improvement district, and the district initiated foreclosure proceedings in 2010. BV sued the district in state court, seeking to stop the foreclosure and retain title, but the court issued a decree in 2012 allowing the district to complete the foreclosure. Because Utah law holds that improvement district liens are superior to all other liens, the improvement district obtained title to the insured property, extinguishing BV’s interest.

BV did not learn about the improvement district’s lien until 2010, after it had acquired title to the property. When it learned of the lien, BV sought compensation from Old Republic under the title insurance policy, but Old Republic denied coverage. BV sued Old Republic, contending Old Republic had breached the insurance policy by refusing to compensate it for the loss of the property and by failing to defend BV in the state court litigation with the improvement district. The district court granted judgment on the pleadings to Old Republic, concluding that the policy did not entitle BV to recovery for loss of the property or defense in the state court suit. BV appealed.

The Tenth Circuit applied Utah law in affirming the district court. BV contended it was entitled to coverage based on six different covered risks: loss caused by a defect in title, loss by encroachments that affect title, loss caused by unmarketable title, loss caused by enforcement of subdivision regulations, loss caused by a governmental taking, and loss caused by the imposition of a statutory lien for services, labor, or material used in construction. The Tenth Circuit found that none of the covered risks applied.

The Tenth Circuit specifically found that a Utah Supreme Court opinion precluded BV’s claims regarding the defect in title, as that case held the defect must be present at the time of acquisition of the property. BV argued that because the improvement district was contemplated before it acquired the property, the defect was present, but the Tenth Circuit disagreed. The Tenth Circuit also rejected BV’s claims due to loss caused by encroachment, noting those claims were not raised in BV’s complaint. Similarly, the Tenth Circuit refused to consider BV’s claim for loss caused by unmarketable title because it was not raised in district court. The Tenth Circuit disposed of the remaining claims by finding that the improvement district’s notice to enforce a subdivision regulation was not in effect at the time BV acquired title, any governmental taking would have happened after BV acquired title, and the improvement district’s lien was not for any services, labor, or materials used in construction.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court.

Tenth Circuit: Lack of Economic Marketability Does Not Equate to Unmarketable Title

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Fidelity National Title Insurance Co. v. Woody Creek Ventures, LLC on Tuesday, July 26, 2016.

Woody Creek acquired two parcels of land in Pitkin County and purchased two title insurance policies from Fidelity, insuring, among other things, access and marketability of title. The two parcels were separated by a tract of land owned by the Bureau of Land Management, but Woody Creek assumed it could access the more remote parcel via a roadway crossing the BLM’s tract. It subdivided the parcels and sought prospective buyers. When a prospective buyer expressed concern about access to the remote lot, Woody Creek discovered that it had no legal right of access.

Woody Creek submitted a claim to Fidelity under the title insurance policies, and Fidelity retained counsel on Woody Creek’s behalf. Counsel ultimately negotiated the purchase of a 30-year revocable right-of-way grant from the BLM to allow Woody Creek access to the remote parcel. Woody Creek maintained that it suffered a covered loss because the lack of permanent access significantly diminished the value of the remote parcel. Fidelity filed an action for declaratory judgment that Woody Creek was not entitled to coverage for its alleged losses because the right-of-way cured the access issue. Woody Creek counterclaimed for declaratory judgment on the existence of coverage, breach of contract, and bad faith breach of insurance contract. The parties filed cross-motions for partial summary judgment on the coverage issues.

After a hearing, the district court granted Fidelity’s motion and denied Woody Creek’s. The court concluded that the 30-year right-of-way fell within the plain meaning of “access” and left the question of whether Fidelity may be required to pay for future loss of access for another day. The court concluded that the possibility of future litigation did not render the title unmarketable, and rejected Woody Creek’s bad faith claims as a matter of law. Woody Creek appealed.

The Tenth Circuit first addressed Woody Creek’s argument that Fidelity’s purchase of a 30-year right-of-way did not cure the access issue because the right-of-way was revocable and temporary. Fidelity argued that although the title insurance policy guaranteed access, it did not guarantee unrestricted, unregulated, or permanent access. The Tenth Circuit construed the phrase “right of access” and determined that permanent, unrestricted access was not contemplated by the phrase. The Tenth Circuit decided that the Colorado Supreme Court would have construed the phrase “right of access” to include the 30-year right-of-way obtained by Fidelity.

The Tenth Circuit next considered whether the lack of permanent access supported Woody Creek’s claim for unmarketability of title, and concluded it did not. Woody Creek cited a treatise on title insurance law for the proposition that lack of access makes title unmarketable. Fidelity disagreed and suggested that Colorado case law supported its position that even complete lack of access does not render title unmarketable. The Tenth Circuit evaluated the cases and affirmed the district court’s decision, noting the distinction between economic marketability and marketability of title. The Tenth Circuit noted that a parcel of land could be worth no money but have clear title.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court.

Appointments Announced to New Title Insurance Commission

Last legislative session, SB 15-210, “Concerning Creation of the Title Insurance Commission, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation,” was enacted, requiring the development of a nine-member Title Insurance Commission to act as an advisory body to the Insurance Commissioner regarding matters of title insurance. The Title Insurance Commission will propose, advise, and recommend rules, bulletins, and other consumer protection materials for promulgation by the Insurance Commissioner.

On Thursday, August 13, 2015, Governor Hickenlooper appointed the first nine members of the Title Insurance Commission. Three of the appointees must be licensed employees of title insurance companies with not less than five years’ experience, three must be licensed employees of title insurance companies meeting certain qualifications regarding geographic diversity, and three must be members of the public at large and not be engaged in the business of title insurance. Governor Hickenlooper’s appointees are:

  • Phillip Michael Schreiber of Littleton, to serve as a licensed employee of a title insurance company with not less than five years of experience in the title insurance business; for a term expiring August 5, 2017;
  • Alexander Pankonin of Denver, to serve as a resident title insurance agent with not less than five years experience in the title insurance business, for a term expiring August 5, 2017;
  • Gary Glenn of Tabernash, to serve as an at-large public member who is not engaged in the business of title insurance and resides outside of a standard metropolitan area, for a term expiring August 5, 2017;
  • Charles Hallack Cowperthwaite of Littleton, to serve as an at-large public member who is not engaged in the business of title insurance, for a term expiring August 5, 2017;
  • Paul David Dickard of Aurora, to serve as a licensed employee of a title insurance company that has netted admitted assets of less than $500 million, with not less than five years of experience in the title insurance business, for a term expiring August 5, 2019;
  • Carl Phillip Laffin of Highlands Ranch, to serve as a licensed employee of a title insurance company that has netted admitted assets of more than $500 million, with not less than five years of experience in the title insurance business, for a term expiring August 5, 2019;
  • Jason Duncan of Alamosa, to serve as a resident title insurance agent with not less than five years experience in the title insurance business, for a term expiring August 5, 2019;
  • Patrick Alan Rice of Superior, to serve as a resident title insurance agent with not less than five years experience in the title insurance business, for a term expiring August 5, 2019;
  • Mary Renee Babkiewich of Denver, to serve as an at-large public member who is not engaged in the business of title insurance, for a term expiring August 5, 2019.

For more information about the role of the Title Insurance Commission, click here.

Final Bills of 2015 Legislative Session Signed; Three Sent to Secretary of State Without Signature

CapitolbuildingOn Friday, June 5, 2015, Governor Hickenlooper signed 60 bills into law and allowed three bills to become law without a signature. To date, Governor Hickenlooper has signed 362 bills into law, vetoed three bills, and allowed three to become law without a signature. The bills signed Friday are summarized here.

  • SB 15-011 – Concerning the Pilot Program for Persons with Spinal Cord Injuries Relating to the Use of Complimentary and Alternative Medicine, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sen. Nancy Todd and Rep. Dianne Primavera. The bill continues the Medicaid Spinal Cord Injury Alternative Medicine Pilot Program and expands the program so it can serve additional clients.
  • SB 15-090Concerning the Adoption of Standards Governing Temporary Permits on Motor Vehicles for Effective Readability, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sen. Nancy Todd and Rep. Max Tyler. The bill requires that temporary motor vehicle plates meet the same requirements regarding readability as permanent plates.
  • HB 15-1310 – Concerning the Authority of the Division of Parks and Wildlife to Acquire Real Property for their Garfield County Administrative Office and Public Service Center, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Rep. Bob Rankin and Sen. Randy Baumgardner. The bill allows the Division of Parks and Wildlife to purchase a specific property in Garfield County.
  • HB 15-1318 – Concerning the Requirements for Administering a Single Medicaid Waiver for Home- and Community-Based Services for Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Rep. Dave Young and Sen. Kevin Grantham. The bill requires the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to consolidate two waiver programs for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
  • HB 15-1252 – Concerning an Extension of the Number of Years the Individual Income Tax Return Includes a Voluntary Contribution Designation for the Colorado Healthy Rivers Fund, by Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush and Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg. The bill extends the voluntary check-box contribution for the Colorado Healthy Rivers Fund until 2020.
  • HB 15-1166 – Concerning the Creation of a Tributary Groundwater Monitoring Network in the South Platte River Alluvial Aquifer, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Reps. Lori Saine & Jeni James Arndt and Sen. Vicki Marble. The bill creates a basin-wide tributary groundwater monitoring network in the South Platte River alluvial aquifer based on recommendations from a CWCB report.
  • HB 15-1283 – Concerning Marijuana Testing, and, in Connection Therewith, Creating a Reference Lab by December 31, 2015, that will House a Library of Testing Methodologies and Making an Appropriation, by Rep. Steve Lebsock and Sen. Chris Holbert. The bill requires the Department of Public Health and Environment to develop and maintain a marijuana laboratory testing reference library.
  • HB 15-1368 – Concerning the Creation of a Cross-System Response for Behavioral Health Crises Pilot Program to Serve Individuals with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Rep. Dave Young and Sen. Kevin Grantham. The bill creates a pilot program to support collaborative approaches for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities and a mental health or behavioral disorder.
  • HB 15-1247 – Concerning the Implementation of the Legislative Audit Committee’s Recommendations for Review of Dam Safety, by Rep. Lori Saine and Sen. Tim Neville. The bill increases the fees charged by the State Engineer for dam project design review.
  • HB 15-1248 – Concerning Limited Access by Private Child Placement Agencies to Records Relating to Child Abuse or Neglect for Purposes of Ensuring Safe Placements for Foster Children, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Rep. Jonathan Singer and Sen. Owen Hill. The bill permits one representative at each child placement agency to review records of potential foster parents for reports of abuse or neglect.
  • HB 15-1355 – Concerning Access to Personal Records Relating to a Person’s Family History, by Reps. Lori Saine & Jonathan Singer and Sens. Vicki Marble & Linda Newell. The bill allows an adult adoptee to access his or her birth certificate and that of his or her adult sibling in Colorado.
  • HB 15-1357 – Concerning the Establishment of the Ratio of Valuation for Assessment of Residential Real Property, by Reps. Lois Court & Brian DelGrosso and Sens. Tim Neville & Michael Johnston. The bill establishes the residential assessment rate for 2015-2016 and does not change it.
  • SB 15-020 – Concerning Education Regarding the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse and Assault, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sen. Linda Newell and Rep. Beth McCann. The bill expands the duties of the School Safety Resource Center to include providing education and materials regarding awareness and prevention of child sexual assault.
  • SB 15-109 – Concerning the Mandatory Reporting of Mistreatment Against an Adult with a Disability, by Sen. Kevin Grantham and Rep. Dave Young. The bill expands the at-risk adult reporting requirements to include adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
  • SB 15-195 – Concerning Appropriating to the Department of Corrections Moneys Generated as Savings from the Awarding of Achievement Earned Time to Inmates, and, in Connection Therewith, Making and Reducing Appropriations, by Sen. Pat Steadman and Rep. Millie Hamner. The bill limits the amount of earned time savings that may be used toward education and parole programs.
  • SB 15-196 – Concerning Measures to Ensure Industrial Hemp Remains Below a Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol Concentration of No More than Three-Tenths of One Percent on a Dry Weight Basis, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sens. Vicki Marble & Pat Steadman and Reps. Steve Lebsock & Lois Saine. The bill expands the industrial hemp committee and imposes new regulations on industrial hemp.
  • SB 15-220 – Concerning Security for the Colorado General Assembly, by Sens. Morgan Carroll & Bill Cadman and Reps. Crisanta Duran & Brian DelGrosso. The bill requires the Colorado State Patrol to provide protection for the members of the General Assembly.
  • SB 15-256 – Concerning the Operation of the Legislative Committee that Oversees the Colorado Health Benefit Exchange, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sen. Ellen Roberts and Rep. Beth McCann. The bill makes several changes to the Colorado health benefit exchange committee’s duties.
  • SB 15-115 – Concerning the Sunset Review of the Medical Marijuana Programs, by Sen. Owen Hill and Rep. Ellen Roberts. The bill continues the Medical Marijuana Code until 2019 and implements some changes to the program.
  • HB 15-1063 – Concerning Prohibited Communication Concerning Patents, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Rep. Dan Pabon and Sen. David Balmer. The bill establishes a framework for communications between parties regarding patent rights.
  • HB 15-1178 – Concerning the State Engineer’s Authority to Allow Well Users to Lower the Water Table in an Area that the State Engineer Determines is Experiencing Damaging High Groundwater Levels, and, in Connection Therewith, Establishing an Emergency Dewatering Grant Program for the Purpose of Lowering the Water Table in Areas of Gilcrest, Colorado, and Sterling, Colorado and Making an Appropriation, by Reps. Lori Saine & Stephen Humphrey and Sens. Vicki Marble & Jerry Sonnenberg. The bill establishes the Emergency Dewatering Grant Program for the emergency pumping of wells.
  • HB 15-1102 – Concerning the Expansion of the “Colorado Cottage Foods Act”, and, in Connection Therewith, Increasing the Food Products a Producer Can Sell Under the Act, Requiring an Additional Disclaimer, and Making an Appropriation, by Reps. Millie Hamner & Yeulin Willett and Sens. Kerry Donovan & Kevin Grantham. The bill divides the foods that can be produced under the Cottage Foods Act into two tiers.
  • SB 15-012 – Concerning the Treatment of Child Support for Purposes of the Colorado Works Program, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sen. John Kefalas and Rep. Brittany Pettersen. The bill allows the Department of Human Services to disregard child support income when determining eligibility for the TANF program.
  • HB 15-1219 – Concerning the Enterprise Zone Investment Tax Credit for Renewable Energy Products, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Reps. Beth McCann & Jon Becker and Sens. Mary Hodge & Jerry Sonnenberg. The bill allows a taxpayer who places a renewable energy product in an enterprise zone to receive a refund of the tax credit.
  • HB 15-1228 – Concerning the Special Fuel Excise Tax on Liquefied Petroleum Gas, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Reps. Diane Mitsch Bush & Jon Becker and Sen. Ray Scott. The bill makes several changes to the administration and collection of the special fuel excise tax program for liquefied petroleum.
  • HB 15-1350 – Concerning Performance Measures for Accrediting an Alternative Education Campus, by Rep. Brittany Pettersen and Sen. Owen Hill. The bill requires the Department of Education to convene stakeholder meetings to review statutes and rules related to performance indicators for the accreditation of alternative education campuses.
  • HB 15-1392 – Concerning Changes to the State’s Payroll System to Allow All State Employees to be Paid Twice a Month, by Reps. Dave Young & Jack Tate and Sens. Linda Newell & Tim Neville. The bill changes the pay schedule for all state employees to twice a month.
  • HB 15-1352 – Concerning Modifications to the Naturopathic Formulary of Medications that a Registered Naturopathic Doctor is Authorized to Use in the Practice of Naturopathic Medicine, by Reps. Joann Ginal & Kathleen Conti and Sens. Larry Crowder & Linda Newell. The bill expands the authority of naturopathic doctors in several ways.
  • HB 15-1353 – Concerning the Continuation of the Regulation of Conveyances, and, in Connection Therewith, Extending the Certification of Conveyances and Conveyance Mechanics, Contractors, and Inspectors of Elevators and Escalators Until July 1, 2022, by Rep. Alec Garnett and Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik. The bill extends the Elevator and Escalator Certification Act to regulate conveyances.
  • HB 15-1360 – Concerning the Use of Injection Therapy by Acupuncturists Licensed Pursuant to Article 29.5 of Title 12, Colorado Revised Statutes, by Rep. Joann Ginal and Sen. Kevin Lundberg. The bill allows licensed acupuncturists to practice injection therapy.
  • HB 15-1083 – Concerning Patient Financial Contributions for Physical Rehabilitation Services, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Rep. Dianne Primavera and Sen. Larry Crowder. The bill requires the Colorado Commission on Affordable Health Care to conduct a study of the costs of physical rehabilitation services.
  • HB 15-1261 – Concerning the Maximum Reserve for a Cash Fund with Fee Revenue, by Rep. Dave Young and Sens. Kevin Grantham & Pat Steadman. The bill alters the cash fund reserve requirement.
  • HB 15-1273 – Concerning Additional Comprehensive Reporting Requirements for School Discipline Reports, and, in Connection Therewith, Requiring a Post-Enactment Review of the Implementation of this Act and Making an Appropriation, by Rep. Polly Lawrence and Sen. Linda Newell. The bill adds sexual assaults and marijuana violations to the list of items that must be included in a safe schools report.
  • HB 15-1370 – Concerning Access to Certain Records of a County Department of Human or Social Services Containing Personal Identifying Information by an Auditor Conducting a Financial or Performance Audit of that Department, by Rep. Dianne Primavera and Sens. Lucia Guzman & Tim Neville. The bill permits an auditor access to all files of a county department of human or social services that are needed to conduct the audit.
  • SB 15-029 – Concerning a Study of Volunteer Firefighter Pension Plans in the State, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sen. Jessie Ulibarri and Rep. Jovan Melton. The bill requires the state auditor to conduct a study of firefighter pension plans in Colorado.
  • SB 15-184 – Concerning Enforcement of Compulsory Education Requirements, by Sen. Chris Holbert and Rep. Rhonda Fields. The bill requires the chief judge in each judicial district to convene a meeting of stakeholders to find ways to address truancy other than detention.
  • SB 15-203 – Concerning Continuation of the Regulation of Debt-Management Service Providers by the Attorney General, and, in Connection Therewith, Implementing the Recommendations of the 2014 Sunset Report by the Department of Regulatory Agencies, by Sen. John Cooke and Rep. Dan Pabon. The bill continues the Uniform Debt-Management Services Act.
  • SB 15-228 – Concerning a Process for the Periodic Review of Provider Rates Under the “Colorado Medical Assistance Act”, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sen. Pat Steadman and Rep. Bob Rankin. The bill establishes a process for the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to review Medicare provider rates.
  • SB 15-261 – Concerning a Modification to the Statute that Specifies the Forms of Public Notice that a Public Utility May Provide Regarding a Change in the Public Utility’s Schedule of Charges to Allow a Request for an Alternative Form of Notice within the Same Formal Application that the Public Utility Files with the Public Utilities Commission When Applying for a Change in the Public Utility’s Schedule of Charges, by Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg and Rep. Dave Young. The bill allows public utilities to request rate changes during existing proceedings.
  • HB 15-1282 – Concerning the Creation of Crimes Involving Deception about Material Information in Connection with Birth Certificates, by Rep. Lois Saine and Sen. Linda Newell. The bill creates a class 2 misdemeanor for anyone who intentionally omits material information in the preparation of a birth certificate.
  • HB 15-1309 – Concerning the Placement of Interim Therapeutic Restorations by Dental Hygienists, and, in Connection Therewith, Ensuring Medicaid and Children’s Basic Health Plan Reimbursement for Services Provided Through the Use of Telehealth Related to Interim Therapeutic Restoration Procedures and Making an Appropriation, by Rep. Joann Ginal and Sen. Larry Crowder. The bill allows dental hygienists to perform therapeutic restorations.
  • HB 15-1333 – Concerning the Creation of a Regional Center Depreciation Account in the Capital Construction Fund for Maintenance of the State’s Regional Centers, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Rep. Ed Vigil and Sen. Randy Baumgardner. The bill creates the Regional Center Depreciation Account to hold moneys for depreciation and capital construction.
  • HB 15-1337 – Concerning Placement Stability for Children, by Rep. Angela Williams and Sen. Linda Newell. The bill requires a court to consider all statutory factors when placing a child for foster care.
  • HB 15-1340 – Concerning an Extension of the Period During Which the Voluntary Contribution Designation Benefiting the Colorado Multiple Sclerosis Fund will Appear on the State Individual Income Tax Return Form, by Reps. Faith Winter & Perry Buck and Sens. Beth Martinez Humenik & Linda Newell. The bill extends the Colorado Multiple Sclerosis Fund check-off through 2021.
  • HB 15-1345 – Concerning an Exemption from Certain Traffic Requirements for the Riders of a Three-Wheel Low-Speed Motorcycle, by Rep. Paul Rosenthal and Sen. Tim Neville. The bill exempts motorcyclists who ride low-speed three-wheeled motorcycles from requirements of licensure and eye protection.
  • HB 15-1366 – Concerning the Expansion of the Colorado Job Growth Incentive Tax Credit to Allow Credits for Businesses that Enter Into a Qualified Partnership with a State Institution of Higher Education, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Reps. Dan Pabon & Yeulin Willett and Sen. David Balmer. The bill allows the job growth incentive tax credit to be refundable under certain conditions.
  • HB 15-1387 – Concerning the Elimination of the Authorized Transfer of Medical Marijuana to Retail Marijuana at the Time that a Retail Marijuana Establishment License Becomes Effective, by Reps. Dan Pabon & Bob Rankin and Sens. Pat Steadman & Kent Lambert. The bill prohibits a medical marijuana facility with a retail marijuana license from transferring any of its medical marijuana to the retail establishment.
  • SB 15-192 – Concerning the Provision of a Therapeutic Alternative Drug Selection to Patients Residing in Certain Long-Term Care Facilities, by Sen. Irene Aguilar and Rep. Janak Joshi. The bill allows licensed pharmacists to provide therapeutic alternate drug selections to patients in nursing care facilities and long-term acute care hospitals if certain conditions are met.
  • SB 15-209 – Concerning an Amendment to Specified Statutes Governing the Management of the Financial Affairs of a Unit Owners’ Association Under the “Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act” so as to Exempt Communities in Which a Majority of Units Designated for Residential Use are Time Share Units, by Sen. David Balmer and Rep. Angela Williams. The bill exempts certain timeshare communities from the definitions of “common interest community” and “homeowners’ association.”
  • SB 15-210Concerning Creation of the Title Insurance Commission, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sen. Laura Woods and Rep. Jeni James Arndt. The bill creates the Title Insurance Commission to serve as an advisory body to the Commissioner of Insurance.
  • SB 15-229 – Concerning the Creation of an Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis License Plate for Motor Vehicles, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sen. Laura Woods and Reps. Janak Joshi & Diane Mitsch Bush. The bill creates an ALS license plate, available when the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the ALS Association receives 3,000 signatures of individuals committed to purchase the plate.
  • SB 15-262 – Concerning Updates to the Statutes Regulating Blanket Sickness and Accident Insurance, by Sen. Tim Neville and Rep. Angela Williams. The bill expands and clarifies the groups that may receive blanket accident and sickness insurance.
  • SB 15-267 – Concerning the Financing of Public Schools, and, in Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sen. Owen Hill and Rep. Millie Hamner. The bill increases per-pupil funding for public schools to reflect inflation.
  • SB 15-270 – Concerning the Creation of the Office of the State Architect, and, in Connection Therewith, Adding Statewide Planning Responsibilities and Making and Reducing an Appropriation, by Sen. Kent Lambert and Rep. Bob Rankin. The bill creates the Office of the State Architect in law.
  • SB 15-271 – Concerning the Continuation of the Entities Charged with Representing the Interests of Certain Utility Consumers in Matters Heard by the Public Utilities Commission, by Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg and Rep. Jon Becker. The bill continues the Office of the Consumer Counsel and implements recommendations from the sunset review.
  • SB 15-278 – Concerning an Amendment to the Annual General Appropriation Act for the 2013-2014 Fiscal Year to Allow Unspent Moneys Appropriated for the Colorado State Capitol Dome Restoration Project to be Used for the Next Planned Phase of the Colorado State Capitol Restoration, by Sens. Kent Lambert & Pat Steadman and Rep. Millie Hamner. The bill allows the Department of Personnel and Administration to use moneys from the capitol restoration project on other projects.
  • SB 15-281 – Concerning Parent Engagement in Institute Charter Schools, by Sen. Owen Hill and Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp. The bill requires charter schools, rather than the Charter School Institute, to hold meetings regarding school priority implementation.
  • SB 15-283 – Concerning Debt Collection Proceedings, and, in Connection Therewith, Increasing the Scope and Value of Assets that may be Exempted, Clarifying Definitions of “Earnings”, and Specifying the Procedure for Service of Notice of Exemption and Pending Levy in Certain Garnishment Proceedings, by Sen. Laura Woods and Rep. Pete Lee. The bill modifies exemptions and procedures in certain debt collection actions.
  • SB 15-202 – Concerning the Regulation of Water Conditioning Appliances Pursuant to the Plumbing Code, by Sen. David Balmer and Rep. Dan Pabon. The bill creates three new categories of registered water conditioners.
  • HB 15-1301 – Concerning the Creation of a Credit for Tobacco Products that a Distributor Ships or Transports to an Out-of-State Consumer, and, in Connection Therewith, Creating the “Cigar On-Line Sales Equalization Act” and Making an Appropriation, by Rep. Angela Williams and Sens. Kevin Grantham & Owen Hill. The bill creates a credit against tobacco excise tax equal to Colorado excise taxes paid on tobacco products other than cigarettes sold by a distributor to an out-of-state consumer.

In addition to the bills signed Friday, the governor allowed three bills to become law without a signature. These bills are also summarized here.

  • HB 15-1316 – Concerning a Simplification of the Process by which the Public Utilities Commission may Issue a Certificate to Provide Taxicab Service in Certain Metropolitan Counties, by Reps. Steve Lebsock & Dan Thurlow and Sens. Owen Hill & Jessie Ulibarri. The bill changes the prerequisites for an applicant seeking authorization to provide taxicab service within certain counties.
  • SB 15-067 – Concerning an Increase in the Class of Offense for Certain Acts of Assault Against Persons Engaged in Performing their Duties as Emergency Responders, by Sen. John Cooke and Rep. Janak Joshi. The bill raises the classification for assault of a first responder to assault in the second degree.
  • SB 15-290 – Concerning Creation of the Colorado Student Leaders Institute, And, In Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation, by Sen. Nancy Todd and Rep. Jim Wilson. The bill creates the Colorado Student Leaders Institute, a competitive summer residential education program for high school students.

For a complete list of Governor Hickenlooper’s 2015 legislative decisions, click here.

Frederick Skillern: Real Estate Case Law — Titles and Title Insurance (5)

Editor’s note: This is Part 20 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.

By Frederick B. Skillernfrederick-b-skillern

US Bank, N.A. v. Stewart Title Guaranty Company
Civil Action No. 13-cv-00117-PAB-KLM
United States District Court For the District Of Colorado
2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36876 (March 20, 2014)

Because Colorado’s appellate courts tend to not “select for publication” any number of interesting cases involving title insurance, I make a note here of a summary judgment order of Judge Brimmer in the federal district court in Denver. There is an allegation in a case brought by homeowner X that a deed of trust recorded by Wells Fargo securing a loan to Y was not a valid lien, as a recorded quit claim deed from X to Y was forged. X first sues Wells Fargo – by this time the loan has been assigned to U.S, Bank. The court discusses whether there is a duty to defend U.S. Bank’s insured title in a lawsuit before U.S. Bank is added to the litigation – the original title claim was made by Wells Fargo. The court reasons “no,” based on a thorough review of the policy language. Paragraph 4(a) of the Conditions and Stipulations states that Stewart Title’s obligation extends only to “the defense of an insured.”

It also reviews a claim that the insurer had a duty to initiate action to clear title to U.S. Bank’s lien prior to the date that U.S. Bank was served in the underlying litigation. The court surveys the cases on whether the insurer “may” or “must” take an affirmative action when it is notified that an insured may have a title issue. The court agrees that under these facts, no such duty was triggered until U.S. Bank – the real party in interest – was named in the suit. Although a title insurer may take action to clear an insured’s title, any duty is subject to the Conditions and Stipulations in the policy. “These policy provisions do not support U.S. Bank’s assertion that the policy creates a duty to defend the title independent of the insurer’s duty to defend the insured. If anything, these provisions reinforce the interpretation of the policy that Stewart Title’s duties are defined in relationship to the insured. The policy’s stated purpose is “a contract of indemnity against actual monetary loss or damage sustained or incurred by the insured” and Paragraph 7(c) states that Stewart Title will only pay “those costs, attorneys’ fees and expenses incurred in accordance with Section 4 of these Conditions and Stipulations.” (Emphasis added).

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 — Titles and Title Insurance (4)

Editor’s note: This is Part 19 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.

By Frederick B. Skillernfrederick-b-skillern

Whiting v. Atlantic Richfield
Colorado Supreme Court, March 3, 2014
2014 CO 16

Rule against perpetuities; options; reformation of option agreement under the USRAP, C.R.S. 15-11-106; common law rule does not void commercial option contract.

This is an important case that addresses much of the change in the law of the rule against perpetuities over the last 25 years. As the case came to Colorado Supreme Court the issue was twofold. First, the court accepted certiorari to examine whether the statutory right to reform a commercial contract under the Colorado version of the statutory rule against perpetuities is unconstitutional because it requires a court to reform a vested contract – in this case the right to declare one’s contract void under the common law rule against perpetuities. Second, the court sought to address as a matter of statutory interpretation whether the right of reformation only applied to what the statute refers to as “donative” transfers of property, as opposed to a commercial contract such as an option to purchase mineral rights.

The supreme court changed to focus of the case and addresses in its decision a different question, thereby avoiding the questions upon which certiorari was granted. It holds instead that the interest in question – a twenty-five year option to purchase mineral rights – does not violate the common law rule against perpetuities. As such, there is no need to resort to the reformation procedure provided in the statute.

ARCO entered into a deal in 1968 with a small oil company (Equity, now owned by Whiting) to explore Colorado shale oil development in Garfield County. It gave development money to Equity, and received a partial ownership interest in the mineral rights. Equity was given an option to repurchase ARCO’s interest within the 25-year term of the deal. In 1983, the agreement (including the option) was extended for another 25 years. The terms are summarized succinctly by the court:

Pursuant to the 1983 amendment, Equity’s right to exercise the option would not expire until 11:59 p.m. on February 1, 2008. Importantly, the parties agreed that “ARCO shall retain the sole and exclusive right to cancel this Option at any time during its term,” with the exception that Equity was granted a right of first refusal if ARCO received an offer from another party to buy its interest in the Boies Block.

Equity exercised the option shortly before the deadline. ARCO claimed that the option was void under the common law rule against perpetuities. The trial court, in a decision affirmed by the court of appeals, agreed but applied the reformation provision in CRS § 15-11-1106(2) to add a “savings clause” in the manner outlined in the statute.

The result here is to put off for another day the constitutional validity of the reformation provision of the USRAP. The court instead finds that the common law has changed sufficiently to determine, consistent with past cases of the Colorado Supreme Court, that the purpose of the common law rule is not served by applying the “21 years after the death of lives in being test” to an arms-length transaction between sophisticated oil companies. More particularly, the court holds, in a well developed decision that explores the recent development of case law in considerable depth, the fact that the option right was revocable at will by ARCO demonstrates that the option was not preventing development of the land. For that reason, the underlying the policy of the common law rule would not be served by voiding the option simply because its term extended longer than 21 years.

The Real Estate Section of the CBA submitted an amicus brief in support of the lower court’s ruling and in support of the right to reform real estate contracts found to violate the rule. This is motivated in part by the obvious liability risks confronting lawyers who may unwittingly accompany their clients into the “RAP trap.” The risk areas center around long term options, rights of first refusal, and other rights or interests contained in deeds or leases that may “walk or talk” like an executory interest or a right of reversion. As a practice point, it is important in dealing with such interests to keep the USRAP in mind, as it treats “donative transactions” differently than commercial transactions.

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 — Titles and Title Insurance (3)

Editor’s note: This is Part 18 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.

By Frederick B. Skillernfrederick-b-skillern

First Citizens Bank & Trust Co. v. Stewart Title Guaranty Co.
Colorado Court of Appeals, January 2, 2014
2014 COA 1

Title Insurance; Exclusion 3(a) matters “created, suffered, assumed or agreed to by the insured claimant”; closing handled by insured lender; ambiguous; no need to “foreclose first” if deed of trust defective; subrogation to rights of insured lender to sue on note; attorney fees and the American Rule.

Bank commits to make a loan, and gets a commitment for a loan policy of title insurance. The commitment reflects that title is not in borrower, and contains a requirement that a deed be recorded vesting title in borrower before issuance of a new policy. Bank closes the loan in house and does not get a vesting deed. According to the trial court’s findings, the bank assumed the title company issuing the commitment (but not handling the closing) would get and record the deed. The title company assumed the bank would do that. It is not apparent from the decision whether title was searched prior to closing or issuance of a policy.

The borrower defaults on the loan, and files a title claim in the amount of the debt. A separate action is filed by the bank against the borrower, which had not gone to judgment by the time of trial in this action. The trial court enters judgment against the title insurer for the full amount of the balance due on the loan, together with attorney fees incurred by the lender in bringing the action. On appeal, the court affirms the judgment for the full amount of the debt but reverses the award of attorney fees.

The court follows the holding in Sims v. Sperry, 835 P.2d 565 (Colo. App. 1992), that Exclusion 3(a), which excludes coverage for matters “created, suffered, assumed or agreed to” is ambiguous, and that the title insurer must prove that the lender “made a conscious and deliberate act intended to bring about the conflicting claim” in order to successfully resort to this exclusion from coverage. Id. at 570. Like many legal rules stated by courts, this rule itself may overstate the meaning of the court’s ruling in Sims, since if a title company relies on the “agreed to” portion of 3(a), which would seem to mean that the encumbrance, if you will, was “intended.” In any event, the court here held that each party thought the other would satisfy the “requirement,” and the court held that the lender was only negligent in not complying with the requirement. The trial court’s refusal to apply this defense was supported by the record, and the judgment is upheld on liability.

As to damages, the court held that the insurance company could be held liable for the full amount of the indebtedness owed to the insured, as the deed of trust is invalid. The court held that the trial court correctly did not require the lender to attempt foreclosure of the deed of trust under Policy Condition and Limitation 8(b), holding that the limitation does not apply where “it is conceded that the insured’s title is defective. It did not require that this action be stayed pending the outcome of the banks suit on the note – any recovery would reduce the damage claim of the insured lender – because upon payment of judgment in this action, the insurer would be subrogated to the bank’s right to proceed against its borrower.

Perhaps the most significant ruling in this case is the court’s reversal of the insured bank’s claim for its attorney fees incurred in suing the title insurer. It explicitly disapproves of the holding in an earlier case, Hedgecock v. Stewart Title Guaranty Company, 676 P.2d 1208, 1210-11 (Colo. App. 1983), relying to a large extent on the holding of our supreme court in Allstate v. Huizar, 52 P.3d 816, 820-21 (Colo. 2002) (the creation of a new exception to the American Rule is best left to the legislature). In the absence of a contractual or other statutory provision for recovery of attorney fees, no recovery.

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 — Titles and Title Insurance (2)

Editor’s note: This is Part 17 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

Egelhoff v. Taylor
Colorado Court of Appeals, August 15, 2013
2013 COA 137,
312 P.3d 270

Spurious lien statute; phony lien against judge.

Lest anyone be confused about why the legislature passed the spurious lien statute in 1998, we give you the case of Denver District Judge Egelhoff. In 2008, the judge sentenced Taylor to prison on a felony conviction. After he was sentenced, Taylor began mailing the judge various documents, claiming that Judge Egelhoff was indebted to him. The judge understandably did not respond. Taylor filed suit, claiming that the judge’s failure to respond created liability to Taylor under a terrific doctrine called the “commercial affidavit process.” Robin Hood could not have done better.

Taylor contends that the “commercial affidavit process” permits an individual to send an affidavit to a purported debtor, claiming the recipient owes the sender a debt, and if the recipient does not specifically rebut the alleged debt, he is deemed to have agreed to the debt and its collection by any means. At our social gathering tonight, perhaps someone can advise us from whence this legal doctrine derives. According to Taylor, a recipient’s silence results in a “self-executing contract,” binding the recipient to pay the amount of the alleged debt. Thus, Taylor argues that, because the judge did not respond to his affidavit, his honor “agreed” that the five hundred million dollar debt was valid.

The panel of the court of appeals, seemingly lacking any sense of humor, goes on for several pages as to why this procedure does not form a contract between judge and convict. An opportunity was missed. It is interesting that this case was selected for publication, when many other real estate cases of considerable substance are passed over.

Ute Mesa Lot 1, LLC v. First-Citizens Bank & Trust Co. (In re Ute Mesa Lot 1, LLC)
United States District Court, District of Colorado, November 25, 2013
No. 12-1134

Bankruptcy; lis pendens; preferential transfer.

Ute Mesa Lot 1, LLC (Ute Mesa) borrowed $12 million from United Western Bank to finance the construction of a home in Aspen. The deed of trust incorrectly named the property’s owner, so the deed of trust was ineffective in giving the Bank a lien on the property. Later, the Bank filed suit to reform the deed of trust and give it a first priority lien on the property. The Bank then recorded a notice of lis pendens with the county real property records. Two months later, Ute Mesa filed for bankruptcy and sought to avoid the lis pendens as a preferential transfer. The bankruptcy court and district court dismissed Ute Mesa’s claim. Ute Mesa appealed, arguing that the lis pendens would prevent a bona fide purchaser from acquiring an interest in the property superior to the Bank’s. Therefore, it was a “transfer of an interest in property” and an avoidable preferential transfer.

The Tenth Circuit holds that a lis pendens is merely a notice and does not constitute a lien, despite the fact that under Colorado law, a lis pendens renders title unmarketable. The lis pendens is not a transfer, so it was not subject to the bankruptcy provision allowing a debtor-in-possession to avoid a transfer of an interest in property that occurs within ninety days before the filing of the bankruptcy petition. The judgment is affirmed.

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.

e-Legislative Report: March 24, 2015

legislationCBA 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 following bill was discussed as the only action item taken up at the meeting on Friday, March 20. Other bills of interest from that agenda are tracked and updated below.

HB 15-1272—Timely Filed Claims Not Barred By Laches
Sponsors: Rep. Daneya Esgar (D) & Sen. Chris Holbert (R)
The LPC voted to oppose this bill because Laches is an important equitable defense. Colorado has a long history with the Doctrine of Laches and this bill upsets that balance. We understand the specific nature of the concern addressed in the bill, but the approach to a solution was overbroad. Therefore we voted to oppose HB 1272.

SB 15-069—Repeal Job Protection Civil Rights Enforcement Act
Sponsors: Sen. Laura Woods (R) & Rep. Kevin Priola (R)
The Legislative Policy Committee voted to oppose this bill to maintain a consistent position with the CBA’s position on previous legislation (HB13-1136 which the CBA supported). SB 69 would have reversed the effect of that bill.

HB 15-1292—Resentence Juveniles Life Sentence No Parole
Sponsors: Rep. Daniel Kagan (D)
The LPC voted to support the Juvenile Law Section’s recommendation to support this bill. There was a great deal of discussion. The bill allows for Juveniles who were previously convicted to petition for resentencing. The bill takes into consideration many factors for both victims and offenders.

Bills that the LPC is monitoring, watching or working on can be found at this link on Priority Bill Track.

At the Capitol—Week of March 16

This past week was a slower week for Bar priority bills. A number of bills we are watching and working on have not been scheduled for hearings or debate. We are constantly watching to ensure we are represented and up to date on bills the LPC has taken action on, and expect that this section will be more full after the “Long bill” (the state budget) is passed over the next two weeks.

HB 15-1142—Public Trustee Conduct Electronic Foreclosure Sale
We successfully amended this bill per the Real Estate Sections requirements, working in conjunction with the Denver Public Trustee and Representative McCann.

SB 15-077—Parents Bill of Rights
This bill was Postponed Indefinitely by the House Committee on Public Health Care and Human Services.

New Bills of Interest

The pace of new bill introductions is now slowing down, but there are a few new bills introduced still introduced through the remainder of the session. We will highlight some of the bills we have identified for tracking or monitoring here:

SB 15-200—Private Student Loan Disclosure Requirements
Sponsors: Sen. Andrew Kerr (D) & Sen. Nancy Todd (D)

The bill prohibits a private educational lender, as defined in the bill, from offering gifts to a covered educational institution, as defined in the bill, including public and private institutions of higher education, in exchange for any advantage or consideration related to loan activities or from engaging in revenue sharing. Further, the bill prohibits persons employed at covered educational institutions from receiving anything of value from private educational lenders. The bill makes it unlawful for a private educational lender to impose a fee or penalty on a borrower for early repayment or prepayment of a private education loan and requires a lender to disclose any agreements made with a card issuer or creditor for purposes of marketing a credit card. The bill requires private educational lenders to disclose information to a potential borrower or borrower both at the time of application for a private education loan and at the time of consummation of the loan.

The required disclosures are described in the bill and include, among other disclosures, the interest rate for the loan and adjustments to the rate, potential finance charges and penalties, payment options, an estimate of the total amount for repayment at the interest rate, the possibility of qualifying for federal loans, the terms and conditions of the loan, and that the borrower may cancel the loan, without penalty, within three business days after the date on which the loan is consummated.

SB 15-210—Title Insurance Commission
Sponsors: Sen. Laura Woods (R) & Rep. Jennifer Arndt (D)

The bill creates the title insurance commission (commission). The bill establishes the powers, duties, and functions of the commission and provides for the appointment of the members of the commission. With the exception of rate regulation and licensing, which will continue to be done by the insurance commissioner, the commission participates in the regulation of the title insurance business in Colorado by concurring in rules of the insurance commissioner, proposing rules for approval by the insurance commissioner, and reviewing and concurring in disciplinary actions related to the regulation of the title insurance business. The commission is scheduled to sunset Sept. 1, 2025, subject to continuation after a sunset review as provided by law.

Frederick Skillern: Real Estate Case Law — Titles and Title Insurance (1)

Editor’s note: This is Part 16 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

Grosboll v. Grosboll (In re Estate of Grossboll)
Colorado Court of Appeals, October 24, 2013
2013 COA 141

Partnership property; statute of frauds.

Jo Ann Grosboll, decedents’ daughter, appeals the district court’s order finding that the sales proceeds of an apartment building are an asset of the parents’ estates rather than an asset of Grosboll Manor, L.L.L.P., a limited partnership formed by Jo Ann and her parents. Jo Ann’s brother, understandably, argues that the apartments are property of the estate. The key issue revolves around the fact that there is no deed of conveyance to the partnership.

As a matter of first impression, the court considers whether real property owned individually by one who enters into a partnership with others may become a partnership asset without a written conveyance sufficient to satisfy the statute of frauds. The court holds that a written conveyance (such as a deed) from a partner to the partnership is not necessarily required.

The court reviews the historical development of the entity theory of partnerships and the Uniform Partnership Act. The current version of the partnership act allows real property titled in an individual partner’s name to be deemed an asset of the partnership. The trust relationship between partners provides adequate protection against fraud in oral agreements making a partner’s real property a partnership asset. As a result, by statute, the intention of the partners determines whether such real property is a partnership asset. The existence of a written conveyance is a factor for a court to consider in evaluating that intent.

Jo Ann contended that, according to the terms of the written partnership agreement and the intention of the partners, Loma Vista was a partnership asset. The partnership agreement provided that (1) title to all assets of the partnership shall be deemed to be owned by the partnership”; (2) record title to any or all assets of the partnership may be held in the name of . . . one or more nominees”; and (3) all assets of the partnership shall be recorded as the property of the partnership in the books and records of the partnership, irrespective of the name in which record title to such assets is held.” Jo Ann testified that when the partnership was established, she and her parents had agreed to make Loma Vista a partnership asset. Additionally, the accountant for the partnership testified that he treated Loma Vista as a partnership asset on the partnership books. Therefore, Jo Ann asserted she was entitled to the sale proceeds because decedents’ wills devised their interests in the partnership to her.

The partnership act provides a rebuttable presumption that a partner’s property is separate if it is not acquired with partnership assets:

Property acquired in the name of one or more of the partners, without an indication in the instrument transferring title to the property of the person’s capacity as a partner or of the existence of a partnership and without use of partnership assets is presumed to be separate property, even if used for partnership purposes.

C.R.S. § 7-64-204(4).

Because the UPL and UPA specifically contemplate that real property titled in an individual partner’s name may be deemed an asset of the partnership, the appeals court holds here that a written conveyance from a partner who originally brings real estate into the partnership, although a factor to consider, is not required to convert real property into partnership property.

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: Coverage Under Title Insurance Policy Affirmed in Loan Default Case

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in First Citizens Bank & Trust Co. v. Stewart Title Guaranty Co. on Thursday, January 2, 2014.

Construction Loan—Title Insurance—Deed of Trust—Attorney Fees—Costs.

United Western Bank (UWB), predecessor to First Citizens Bank & Trust Company (FCB),issued a construction loan to Leathem S. Stearn to build a private residence on his property. UWB requested a title insurance policy from Stewart Title Guaranty Company (Stewart). Stewart discovered that record title to the property was vested in a company (Ute) associated with Stearn. As a result, Stewart issued a title commitment containing a requirement that Ute convey title to Stearn. This requirement was never satisfied. Stearn defaulted on the loan, and UWB contacted Stewart seeking coverage for losses under the policy. Stewart issued a letter denying coverage based on an exclusion in the policy. The trial court found that Stewart had breached its title insurance contract with FCB, and awarded FCB attorney fees and costs. The Court of Appeals consolidated defendant’s appeals.

In this appeal, Stewart contended that UWB’s claim was barred by Exclusion 3(a) of the policy because UWB closed the loan in-house and was required to obtain a deed from Ute conveying title to Stearn but did not do so. However, the language of Exclusion 3(a) is ambiguous. The Court ruled that because Stewart failed to show that UWB made a conscious and deliberate act intended to bring about the conflicting claim, the trial court did not err by holding that Exclusion 3(a) of the policy did not bar coverage.

Stewart also contended that the trial court erred in holding that it waived its additional asserted defenses. However, Limitation 8(b), which is an embodiment of the foreclosure first doctrine, is inapplicable because Stewart conceded that the deed of trust was defective. Furthermore, because the deed of trust was invalid at its inception, plaintiff FCB could not, as a practical matter, foreclose on the property. Consequently, the trial court did not err when it awarded the full amount owed under the promissory note.

Stewart also contended that the trial court erred in awarding attorney fees to FCB for its suit against Stewart. FCB’s complaint did not identify attorney fees as special damages incurred as a result of Stewart’s conduct. Thus, FCB is precluded from recovering those fees as damages. Because there was no other contractual or statutory provision authorizing the award of attorney fees, the trial court’s award to FCB for the attorney fees associated with its lawsuit against Stewart was reversed. Because FCB was the prevailing party, however, the trial court did not err in awarding FCB its costs.

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