May 20, 2019

Colorado Supreme Court: Attorney Fees Awarded for Vindication of Rights Pursuant to C.A.R. 39.5

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in St. Jude’s Co. v. Roaring Fork Club, L.L.C. on Monday, June 29, 2015.

Water Law—Beneficial Use.

St. Jude’s Co. appealed directly to the Supreme Court from a consolidated judgment of the water court in favor of Roaring Fork Club, L.L.C. (Club). With regard to the Club’s two applications for water rights, the water court granted appropriative rights for aesthetic, recreation, and piscatorial uses; approved the Club’s accompanying augmentation plan; and amended the legal description of the Club’s point of diversion for an already-decreed right. With regard to the separate action filed by St. Jude’s Co., the water court denied all but one of its claims for trespass; denied its claims for breach of a prior settlement agreement with the Club; denied its claims for declaratory and injunctive relief concerning its asserted entitlement to the exercise of powers of eminent domain; quieted title to disputed rights implicated in the Club’s application for an augmentation plan; and awarded attorney fees in favor of the Club according to the terms of the settlement agreement of the parties.

The Supreme Court reversed the water court’s order decreeing appropriative rights because the Club failed to demonstrate an intent to apply the amount of water for which it sought a decree to any beneficial use as contemplated by either the Colorado Constitution or statutes. The Court affirmed the remaining rulings of the water court, finding that the water court did not misinterpret the various agreements at issue or other governing law, make any clearly erroneous factual findings, or abuse its discretion concerning discovery matters or the award of attorney fees. Finally, the Court granted the Club’s request for appellate attorney fees and remanded the matter to the water court for a determination of the amount of those fees.

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

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