July 16, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Abuse of Discretion for Trial Court to Deny Correction of Minor Error

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Reisbeck, LLC v. Levis on Thursday, December 4, 2014.

Quiet Title—CRCP 60(a).

Plaintiffs Reisbeck, LLCand Robert Jersin are the record owners of real property in Adams County (property). Reisbeck owns an undivided 85% interest and Jersin owns an undivided 15% interest in the property.

In 1947, defendant Arthur Levis obtained a right-of-way across the property for a “rail spur.” However, no rail spur was ever constructed on the property. To clear the record encumbrance, Reisbeck’s counsel commenced an action under CRCP 105 to quiet title to the property in Reisbeck and Jersin against any claims of Levis and all unknown persons claiming any interest in the property. Jersin was joined as an involuntary party plaintiff.

Defendants were served by publication, and no answers or responsive pleadings were filed. Reisbeck’s counsel moved for entry of default. The judgment form submitted named “Reisbeck, LLC” as plaintiff. However, Reisbeck, LLC does not exist; its proper name is Reisbeck Subdivision, LLC. The district court granted the motion and entered default judgment in plaintiffs’ favor. Following entry of judgment, Reisbeck’s counsel discovered the name error. He filed a motion under CRCP 60(a), seeking relief and asking the court to amend the judgment and correct the name. The court denied the request.

On appeal, plaintiffs argued it was an abuse of discretion to deny the request for relief. The Court of Appeals agreed. CRCP 60(a) is a safety valve allowing the district court to correct, at any time, an honestly mistaken judgment that does not represent the understanding and expectations of the court and the parties. Here, there was nothing in the record indicating that the error by counsel was anything other than an honest mistake. The corrected judgment would represent the parties’ expectation in pursuing the quiet title action and the court’s intention in issuing the judgment. No different or additional liability would be imposed on any existing defendant and no party previously not named would need to be added. The district court’s order was reversed and the case was remanded to amend the judgment.

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

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