August 20, 2018

Archives for August 6, 2018

Colorado Court of Appeals: District Court May Not Consider Documents Outside Bare Allegations of Complaint when Ruling on C.R.C.P. 12(b)(5) Motion

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Prospect Development Co., Inc. v. Holland & Knight, LLP on Thursday, July 26, 2018.

C.R.C.P. 12(b)(5)—Matters Outside the Bare Allegations of the Complaint—C.R.C.P. 12(b)(5)—Statute of Limitations—Affirmative Defense.

Prospect Development Company, Inc. (Prospect) owned and sold undeveloped lots near Crested Butte. It relied on Holland & Knight, LLP (H&K) to prepare federally mandated property reports for prospective buyers. These reports stated that Prospect was responsible for the costs of constructing roads, sewage systems, and other infrastructure. They also stated that individual lot purchasers would not be responsible for these costs. The reports neglected to disclose that the special district in which the lots were located would purchase the infrastructure from Prospect using property tax revenue from the lots, effectively passing the cost of the infrastructure on to the lot owners.

In 2010, several lot owners complained they were not notified before they purchased that they would ultimately pay for the cost of infrastructure through property taxes. H&K assured Prospect that the reports complied with applicable law. Nevertheless, Prospect entered into a tolling agreement with the lot owners in 2010, agreeing to stay the running of any limitations period applicable to claims the lots owners might have against Prospect. In 2011, H&K withdrew from representing Prospect. In 2013, the lot owners sued Prospect based on its failure to make the required disclosures, and Prospect settled with them in 2015. Also in 2015, Prospect entered into a tolling agreement with H&K to toll claims that Prospect might have against H&K. Prospect sued H&K in 2016, alleging professional negligence. H&K did not answer the complaint but moved to dismiss under C.R.C.P. 12(b)(5), arguing that the statute of limitations barred the claims. H&K attached several exhibits from the underlying litigation between the lot owners and Prospect to support its assertion that the claims had accrued in 2011. Prospect opposed the motion and argued the trial court should disregard the exhibits, or, alternatively, if it did consider the exhibits, it should convert the motion to one for summary judgment and allow Prospect to present its own evidence. The district court granted the motion to dismiss, ruling the claims were time barred.

On appeal, Prospect argued that the district court erred by considering matters outside of the complaint in granting the C.R.C.P. 12(b)(5) motion. A defense based on a statute of limitations is an affirmative defense. H&K’s motion was based on a statutes of limitations defense. Thus, in ruling on H&K’s motion, the district court was not allowed to consider matters outside the bare allegations of the complaint. Here, the district court erred in considering two documents from the underlying litigation that were not part of the bare allegations of the complaint. If the district court wished to consider these documents, it was required to convert H&K’s motion to one for summary judgment. This error was not harmless because when viewed in the light most favorable to Prospect, the complaint’s allegations, and those in two documents that the complaint referred to, established that Prospect’s claims were timely.

The order was reversed and the case was remanded.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Board Correctly Ruled that Contiguous Vacant Parcel Not “Used As a Unit” Within Residential Parcel

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Twilight Ridge, LLC v. Board of County Commissioners on Thursday, July 27, 2018.

Property Tax—C.R.S. § 39-1-102(14.4)(a)Used as a UnitVacant Land.

The Robinsons are the sole members of Twilight Ridge, LLC (Twilight), a Colorado limited liability company. In 2013 Twilight purchased two contiguous platted parcels of land in La Plata County. The first parcel has a home on it (the Residential Parcel). The second parcel is a 0.763 acre buildable but undeveloped lot (the Subject Parcel).

The La Plata County Assessor classified the Subject Parcel as vacant land. Twilight appealed the decision for the 2014 to 2015 tax years to the Board of County Commissioners of La Plata County and it appealed the decision for the 2016 tax year to the Board of Equalization for La Plata County, arguing to both bodies (collectively, the County) that the Subject Parcel should be reclassified as residential land. The County upheld the County Assessor’s classification.

Twilight appealed to the Board of Assessment Appeals (BAA). At a consolidated hearing, Mr. Robinson testified that he and his wife bought the two parcels together so that the Subject Parcel would give them privacy, serve as a buffer to prevent any potential house built on the subject property from impeding their views, and provide a place for their grandchildren to play when they visited. Further, although he was currently offering only the Residential Parcel for sale, Robinson intended to sell both parcels together.

Twilight also offered testimony by the Colorado Division of Property Taxation’s deputy director, who was designated by the Property Tax Administrator (PTA) to testify regarding the Division’s policies as embodied in the PTA’s Assessors’ Reference Library (ARL). The County provided the testimony of its appraisers, who had visited the parcels and seen no activity or evidence of use on the Subject Parcel when she visited. The La Plata County Assessor also testified that using the Subject Parcel as a place for children to play and protect a view were “incidental” uses and not the “integral” use of the Subject Parcel in conjunction with the residential improvements that would warrant classifying it as residential. The BAA upheld the County’s classification.

On appeal, Twilight argued that the BAA misconstrued the “used as a unit” element of C.R.S. § 39-1-102(14.4)(a) and made clearly erroneous findings of fact. The BAA’s conclusion that Twilight did not satisfy its burden of proving that the Subject Parcel was used as a unit with the residential parcel is consistent with the ARL and the testimony at the hearing that “used as a unit” contemplates integral, not merely incidental, use.

The orders were affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Defendant’s Refusal to Leave Ex-Girlfriend’s Residence Could Leave him Subject to Prosecution for Trespass and Burglary

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Murray on Thursday, July 27, 2018.

Criminal Law—Trespass—Burglary—Assault—Landlord–Tenant Agreement—Evidence—Doctrine of Completeness—Credibility.

Defendant’s ex-girlfriend (the victim) asked him to come to her house to help with an errand. The couple had dated “on and off” for about two years, and defendant had stayed frequently at the house, but the two had broken up about two-and-a-half weeks earlier. Defendant entered the victim’s house, and the two got into an argument. The victim told defendant to leave. Defendant threatened the victim, ripped off her clothes, and tried to sexually assault her. At that moment, a friend of the victim showed up. Defendant chased him into the street. The victim locked the door behind defendant and called 911. Defendant yelled at the victim to let him back in the house, but she refused. He then broke a window on the front door trying to get back inside. Defendant was found guilty of first degree burglary, trespass, third degree assault, false imprisonment, attempted sexual assault, attempted second degree burglary, and criminal mischief.

On appeal, defendant contended that the court provided an inaccurate jury instruction defining “enters unlawfully” and “remains unlawfully,” and that it abused its discretion by refusing his tendered instruction explaining those concepts. The basis for defense counsel’s objection to the prosecutor’s added instruction and for his requested instruction was his argument that defendant wasn’t on the premises unlawfully because he lived there. However, defendant failed to present any evidence of a landlord–tenant agreement between him and the victim, and he didn’t pay rent. Therefore, defendant was not a tenant and didn’t have a possessory interest in the premises other than that the victim allowed. The district court did not need to provide the type of instruction that defense counsel tendered.

Defendant further contended that the district court erred by denying his motions for a judgment of acquittal based on insufficiency of the evidence. The record contains sufficient evidence to support the jury’s finding that defendant knowingly entered or remained in the victim’s house unlawfully with the intent to assault and sexually assault the victim, and that he attempted to sexually assault the victim.

Defendant also contended that the district court erred by ruling that if he introduced certain of his recorded statements pursuant to the doctrine of completeness, his credibility would be implicated, and the prosecution could use his Montana deferred judgment to impeach his credibility. He argued that as a result of these rulings, the district court infringed on his right to a fair trial and to confront witnesses, because he was dissuaded from introducing his statements and cross-examining the prosecution’s investigator. Defendant’s statements were self-serving and were inadmissible under the doctrine of completeness. Further, defendant waived his contention that his testimony couldn’t be impeached by the Montana judgment. Alternatively, had defendant not waived this issue, the Montana judgment constituted an admissible felony conviction, and any error wasn’t plain.

The judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.