June 16, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Participation in Mandatory Arbitration Affirmed Existence of Disputed Contract

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Harper Hofer & Associates, LLC v. Northwest Direct Marketing, Inc. on Thursday, November 6, 2014.

Contract—Arbitration—Waiver—Colorado Uniform Arbitration Act.

Defendants engaged plaintiff to provide expert reports and possible testimony in an unrelated legal matter. The parties exchanged various engagement letters, each containing an arbitration clause. Plaintiff later initiated arbitration proceedings against defendants for the fees and costs associated with the work it performed. Defendants, via e-mail to the arbitrator, requested that a court determine whether the parties had executed a valid contract (and, thereby, had agreed to arbitration). However, defendants also requested that the arbitrator make a determination that no contract between the parties existed and, after receiving an unfavorable ruling on that issue, participated in the arbitration proceedings. Ultimately, the arbitrator found in favor of plaintiff and against defendants, and ordered defendants to pay plaintiff $27,982.24. The district court granted plaintiff’s motion to convert the arbitration award to a civil judgment and denied defendants’ motion to vacate.

On appeal, defendants argued that the trial court erred when it converted the arbitration award to a civil judgment over defendants’ objections at both the arbitration and district court stages based on the nonexistence of a valid contract. Under the Colorado Uniform Arbitration Act, the court, not the arbiter, decides whether a controversy is subject to an agreement to arbitrate. However, defendants waived their objection to the validity of the agreement containing the arbitration clause by actively participating in the arbitration proceeding and not timely seeking judicial review. The judgment was affirmed and the case was remanded to the district court for determination of reasonable attorney fees.

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

Colorado Court of Appeals: Arbitration Action Mischaracterized by Trial Court as Action to Recover Illiquid Debt

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Estate of Guido v. Exempla, Inc. on March 15, 2012.

Arbitration Award—Confirmation Proceedings—Statute of Limitations.

Plaintiff, the Estate of Salvadore Guido (estate), appealed the district court’s order denying its motion to confirm an arbitration award as time-barred. The order was reversed and the case was remanded.

Salvadore Guido brought a medical malpractice action against Lutheran Medical Center, which was a predecessor entity to defendant Exempla, Inc. (Exempla). The parties agreed to submit the claims to arbitration and, in June 1998, the arbitrator awarded Guido $20,000, plus interest and costs. Guido died in September 2009. In December 2010, the estate filed a motion to confirm the arbitrator’s award, alleging that the amounts awarded to Guido in the arbitration were never paid or satisfied.

The estate contended that the district court erred in denying its confirmation motion as time-barred under the six-year statute of limitations applicable to actions to recover a liquidated debt set forth in CRS § 13-80-103.5(1)(a). An application for confirmation is not a complaint that initiates a civil action in the district court. There is a clear statutory framework for the confirmation process under the Colorado Uniform Arbitration Act of 1975, which does not impose a deadline to file an application to confirm the award. Therefore, the district court mischaracterized the confirmation proceeding as an action to recover a liquidated debt pursuant to CRS § 13-80-103.5(1)(a). Accordingly, the order was reversed and the case was remanded to the district court with directions to reconsider the estate’s motion to confirm the arbitration award.

This summary is published here courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer. Other summaries for the Colorado Court of Appeals on March 15, 2012, can be found here.