July 22, 2018

Archives for November 9, 2016

Colorado Court of Appeals: Attorney Fee Award Appropriate Where Claims Lacked Substantial Justification

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in In re Estate of Shimizu on Thursday, November 3, 2016.

Decedent—Deed–Undue Influence—Lack of Capacity—Attorney Fees—Groundless—Vexatious—C.R.S. § 13-17-102.

Decedent died intestate and was survived by his half-sister, Szoke. Szoke challenged the validity of a deed that decedent had executed near the end of his life. In that deed, decedent purported to convey his house to three of his close friends (the recipients). The probate court rejected Szoke’s claims, finding the recipients’ case far more persuasive because it was based on evidence from persons who had direct contact with decedent near or at the time the deed was executed, and not all of whom were interested in the outcome of the case. The court also determined that the recipients were entitled to an award of attorney fees under C.R.S. § 13-17-102 because Szoke’s claims “lacked substantial justification” and were “groundless, in that she presented valid theories of undue influence and lack of capacity, but offered little or nothing to support those claims.” The probate court awarded the recipients attorney fees.

On appeal, Szoke contended that the probate court erroneously awarded attorney fees to the recipients under C.R.S. § 13-17-102. The probate court found that Szoke’s claims were “groundless” because she did not present much evidence to support her claims, and the court did not believe her evidence in light of the recipients’ evidence. Based on the evidence presented by Szoke, a reasonable fact finder could have found undue influence and lack of capacity. Because Szoke presented some credible evidence in support of her claims, her claims were not sanctionable as groundless under C.R.S. § 13-17-102. On the other hand, although the trial court did not explicitly characterize Szoke’s action as “vexatious,” that was the gist of its findings and conclusions. Because the court’s findings are supported by the record, the court did not abuse its discretion in awarding fees for conduct that was “stubbornly litigious, or disrespectful of the truth,” and, thus, “substantially vexatious.”

The award of attorney fees was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Preliminary Injunction Appropriate Where HOA Board Amending Bylaws Without Proper Notice

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Anderson v. Applewood Water Association, Inc. on Thursday, November 3, 2016.

Homeowners Association—Open Meetings—Notice—Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act—Colorado Revised Nonprofit Corporations Act.

Plaintiffs filed for a preliminary injunction to enjoin defendant Applewood Water Association, Inc. (Association) from (1) conducting special meetings of the board of directors (board) in violation of its bylaws and (2) submitting an amended declaration of covenants for a full membership vote, based on their belief that the amended declaration illegally conveyed certain property rights. The owners presented evidence to support their contention that the board conducted special meetings without giving required notice set forth in the Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act (CCIOA) and the Colorado Revised Nonprofit Corporations Act (CRNCA). They also presented evidence that those meetings concerned amendments to existing covenants. The trial court denied both requests.

On appeal, the owners contended that the trial court erred as a matter of law when it found that it had no legal authority to enjoin future violations of civil statutes. The CCIOA and CRNCA create a legally protected interest in open meetings. The plain language of both statutes gives a court the authority to enjoin the violation of their provisions where a movant can show noncompliance and harm. Therefore, the trial court has the authority to enjoin the Association from holding special board meetings without providing the notice required under CCIOA and CRNCA. The trial court’s order as to that preliminary injunction request was reversed and the case was remanded for further factual findings.

The Court of Appeals concluded that the second injunction request is moot because a vote on the amended declaration has already occurred. That portion of the appeal was thus dismissed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 11/8/2016

On Tuesday, November 8, 2016, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued two published opinions and six unpublished opinions.

United States v. Tinajero-Porras

Progressive Northwestern Insurance Co. v. Handshumaker

Lane v. Maye

United States v. Housholder

United States v. Fajardo-Zamora

Dixon v. Heimgartner

Case summaries are not provided for unpublished opinions. However, some published opinions are summarized and provided by Legal Connection.