June 18, 2019

Archives for August 21, 2015

Colorado Court of Appeals: Foreign-Country Judgment Improperly Served so No Recognition Required

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Ledroit Law v. Kim on Thursday, August 13, 2015.

Ontario Judgment Enforceability—Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act—Uniform Foreign-Country Money Judgments Recognition Act.

Ledroit Law, a Canadian law firm, filed this action seeking recognition of an Ontario court’s assessment of legal fees against Snell & Wilmer, L.L.P., an Arizona law firm with offices in Colorado, and Eugene Kim, a former associate at Snell & Wilmer. In 2011 and 2012, Snell & Wilmer represented two related Ontario entities in a civil suit they filed against an American corporation in federal court in Colorado. Kim was a first-year associate who worked on the case. Ledroit represented at least one of the Ontario entities in related proceedings in Canada.

Defendants stated that the principals of the Ontario entities instructed Snell & Wilmer to have Ledroit serve subpoenas duces tecumin Ontario related to the federal suit in Colorado. Kim communicated with Ledroit by telephone and e-mail to coordinate service. In March 2012, Ledroit sent Snell & Wilmer a bill for legal services of over $15,000 Canadian for their attempts to serve the subpoenas. There was no retainer agreement, and Snell & Wilmer stated that the Ontario entities were responsible for the bill.

In September 2012, Ledroit filed an action in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to recover the legal fees. A “Notice of Appointment for Assessment of Costs” was sent by regular mail to Kim’s office in Colorado. The Ontario court issued an assessment in the amount of $15,829.99 Canadian against Kim and Snell & Wilmer following their non-appearance.

Ledroit filed this action in district court seeking enforcement of the assessment in Colorado under the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (Enforcement Act). The district court entered an order domesticating the assessment under the Enforcement Act.

Defendants moved to vacate the order on the basis that the Enforcement Act only applies to judgments entered by sister states within the United States and that the Uniform Foreign-Country Money Judgments Recognition Act (Recognition Act) governs the recognition of foreign-country money judgments. The district court vacated its order and ultimately recognized the Ontario assessment under both the Recognition Act and common law principles of comity.

On appeal, defendants argued it was error to recognize the Ontario judgment under the Recognition Act because the Ontario court lacked personal jurisdiction over them. The Court of Appeals agreed. Under the Recognition Act, CRS § 13-62-104(2)(b), a Colorado court “may not recognize a foreign-country judgment if . . . [t]he foreign court did not have personal jurisdiction over the defendant.”

The Court found that defendants were not validly served with process by the attempt at service by regular mail. Service under Ontario law requires either service through the central authority in the contracting state or “in a manner that is permitted by the [Hague] Convention and that would be permitted by these rules if the document were being served in Ontario.” Because service by mail was not proper under the Ontario rules, the Ontario court lacked personal jurisdiction over defendants when it issued the assessment.

The Court also agreed with defendants’ contention that the district court erred in relying on principles of comity. The Recognition Act requires a Colorado court to deny recognition if the foreign court lacked personal jurisdiction. Here, where the Recognition Act applied, the Colorado court was required to deny recognition of the assessment. The order was reversed.

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

Colorado Court of Appeals: Adverse Inference Instruction Allowable where Non-Party Invokes Fifth Amendment

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in McGillis Investment Company, LLP v. First Interstate Financial Utah, LLC on Thursday, August 13, 2015.

Fifth Amendment Privilege Invoked in Front of Jury by Nonparty—Adverse Inference Instruction.

This appeal, as stated by the Court, “follows a long and complicated history, ncluding prior litigation in Utah, an earlier appeal to this court, an eight-day trial, and a series of motions brought before, during, and after the trial and verdict. A voluminous record, spanning thousands of pages, contains an exhaustive rendition of the facts.”

McGillis Investment Company, LLP’s (MIC) principal, McGillis, and First Interstate Financial Utah, LLC’s and First Interstate Financial LLP’s (FIF) principal, Thurston, worked to finance a multitude of commercial real estate loans between 1995 and 2009. This dispute concerns a 2003 loan made by MIC and FIF to Kersey Commercial Park, LLC (Kersey Commercial) for $1.85 million (Kersey Loan) to purchase sixty-three acres of property to develop an industrial park (Kersey Property). When Thurston recommended that MIC finance the Kersey Loan, MIC did not know that the purchasers were involved in a series of transactions of questionable legitimacy surrounding the Kersey Property.

Kersey Commercial never made a payment on the Kersey Loan and was in default by May 2004. Thurston, on behalf of MIC and FIF, executed a Dry-Up Agreement on July 29, 2004, which sold certain Water Rights of the Kersey Property to Lower Latham Reservoir Company in return for a payment of $785,000 to one of the developers. In October 2004, MIC and FIF commenced foreclosure proceedings and on May 12, 2005 purchased the Kersey Property at foreclosure for $1.6 million. On June 6, 2006, FIF sued the appraisers. On November 8, 2006, Thurston had MIC execute an assignment of the Property (Assignment) from McGillis Investments to FIF (though the purpose of the Assignment is disputed). In 2012, FIF settled the appraiser litigation for $438,500 and remitted the proceeds to MIC.

In February 2009, FIF sued Sytech Development (one of the developers) over the Kersey Loan. After McGillis’s son took over MIC in 2008, he concluded that FIF had breached its fiduciary duty to MIC in a variety of transactions, and in April 2009, MIC filed suit in Utah against FIF. In October 2012, the jury returned a verdict in MIC’s favor for $1.25 million. Three days after the Utah verdict, FIF recorded the Assignment with the Weld County Clerk and Recorder. FIF settled the Sytech litigation on November 17, 2012 for $20,000.

On June 1, 2011, MIC filed this lawsuit against FIF, seeking to quiet title to the Kersey Property and damages for breach of fiduciary duty for FIF’s recording the Assignment and settling the Sytech litigation. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the trial court granted partial summary judgment based on claim preclusion in favor of FIF as concerned the validity of the Assignment and quieted title to the Kersey Property in FIF. MIC appealed, and a division of the Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part, vacating the decree quieting title and reversing the summary judgment on claim preclusion. Following trial on remand, the jury returned a verdict for MIC for $1,300,625 and found that MIC owned the Kersey Property.

In this appeal, FIF argued that the trial court did not follow the Court’s mandate on remand by failing to determine whether MIC knew or should have known of the Assignment’s validity when it filed the Utah action and that it was error to allow the Sysum brothers to invoke their Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination in front of the jury and in giving an adverse inference instruction. In civil cases, an adverse inference may be drawn against a party who invokes the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. The Court found no Colorado case addressing whether a nonparty witness’s invocation of the Fifth Amendment privilege constitutes admissible evidence. It adopted the analysis set forth in LiButti v. United States, 107 F.3d 110, 123 (2d Cir. 1997): the admissibility of a nonparty’s invocation of the Fifth Amendment privilege and concomitant drawing of adverse inferences should be considered on a case-by-case basis to ensure any inference is reliable, relevant, and fairly advanced. The overarching concern is whether the adverse inference is trustworthy and will advance the search for the truth.

Based on the record before it, the Court found no error in the trial court’s having decided that one of the brothers could answer a generic question, to which he invoked his Fifth Amendment right, and that there was enough evidence presented to give the adverse inference instruction as to him. The Court found it was error to allow the other brother to invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege because there wasn’t enough evidence to involve him in the alleged fraud. However, the trial court remedied this error when it did not give the adverse inference instruction as to this brother but told the jury to disregard his invocation of the privilege.

FIF also argued that it was error for the trial court not to have determined whether MIC knew or should have known there was a dispute concerning the Assignment’s validity when it filed the Utah action. The jury did consider this issue, but FIF argued it should have been the trial court that made the determination. The Court disagreed. The law of the case established in MIC I was to determine what MIC knew or should have known and there was an interrogatory to the jury that covered this issue. The jury’s answering of the interrogatory resolved the factual dispute dispositive of claim preclusion against FIF and that satisfied the law of the case.

The Court also rejected FIF’s arguments that MIC could not re-litigate anything concerning the Kersey Loan transaction other than the issue concerning the validity of the Assignment and the settlement of the Sytech litigation. The Court determined that this argument was based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the prior ruling in MIC I on the part of FIF. The judgment was affirmed.

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

Colorado Court of Appeals: First in Time Charging Order Issued in Colorado Takes Priority

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in McClure v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, NA on Thursday, August 13, 2015.

Charging Order Priority.

In July 2013, JP Morgan Chase Bank NA (Chase) obtained an Arizona judgment of roughly $20 million against Reginald D. Fowler and Spiral, an Arizona corporation. In November 2013, the Arizona court issued charging orders in favor of Chase, charging Fowler’s membership interests in three Colorado LLCs. In December 2013, the Chase charging orders were served on the LLCs, and the Denver District Court entered an order domesticating Chase’s Arizona judgment. In March 2014, the McClures obtained a $1.5 million judgment in Arizona against Fowler and Spiral. In April 2014, the McClures domesticated their Arizona judgment in Colorado by filing it in the Arapahoe County District Court. During May through June 2014, the Arapahoe Court issued charging orders in favor of the McClures, charging Fowler’s and Spiral’s membership interests in the same Colorado LLCs as those charged in the Chase charging orders, and the McClures served the orders on the LLCs. In August 2014, the Denver District Court entered an order domesticating Chase’s Arizona charging orders.

The LLCs paid Fowler’s distributions into the Arapahoe County District Court registry. The McClures filed a motion for release of the funds and Chase intervened in opposition. The district court ruled that because the McClures’ charging orders were issued by a Colorado court, they “were the first enforceable charging orders served on the [LLCs] and, hence, they have priority over [Chase’s] Arizona charging orders.”

On appeal, Chase argued it was error to rule that its Arizona charging orders were unenforceable in Colorado until they had been domesticated. The Court disagreed, holding that until it had domesticated the charging orders, they were unenforceable in Colorado.

Chase also argued that its first-in-time but (not yet) domesticated charging orders took priority over the McClure’s later-in-time but Colorado-issued charging orders. The Court held the priority of charging orders issued against Colorado LLCs is determined by first-in-time service of charging orders enforceable in Colorado. The order was affirmed.

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

Colorado Court of Appeals: Announcement Sheet, 8/20/2015

On Thursday, August 20, 2015, the Colorado Court of Appeals issued no published opinion and 46 unpublished opinions.

Neither State Judicial nor the Colorado Bar Association provides case summaries for unpublished appellate opinions. The case announcement sheet is available here.