Murray v. Just In Case Bus. Lighthouse, LLC

This case started out of a business dispute between respondent-cross-petitioner Just In Case Business Lighthouse, LLC (JIC) and petitioner-cross-respondent Patrick Murray. To prepare for the litigation, JIC hired Preston Sumner, a businessman with knowledge of business sales and valuation, as an advisor. Sumner agreed to help with the case in exchange for a ten-percent interest in the case's outcome. Murray objected to Sumner's involvement in the case, arguing: (1) Sumner's interest in the case outcome was an improper payment violating Colorado Rule of Professional Conduce (RPC) 3.4(b); (2) Sumner lacked the requisite personal knowledge of the case's underlying events as required by Colorado Rule of Evidence (CRE) 602; and (3) the summary charts Sumner prepared were inadmissible under CRE 1006. The trial court ruled that Sumner could testify as a summary witness, but not as an expert or fact witness. Sumner testified and laid foundation for two of the summary exhibits, which the trial court admitted into evidence. The jury returned a verdict in favor of JIC. Murray renewed his arguments on appeal, and the Court of Appeals rejected them in part, and remanded for the trial court to determine whether Sumner's testimony should have been excluded as a sanction for JIC's violation of RPC 3.4(b). After review, the Colorado Supreme Court held that violation of the ethical rule did not displace the rules of evidence, and that trial courts retained discretion under CRE 403 to exclude testimony of improperly compensated witnesses. The trial court here did not abuse its discretion in declining to exclude Sumner's testimony. Further, the Court held that trial courts could allow summary witness testimony if they determine that the evidence was sufficiently complex and voluminous that the witness would assist the trier of fact. The Court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion with respect to the summaries. Finding no reversible errors with the trial court's judgment, the Supreme Court reversed the appellate court's judgment remanding the case for consideration of whether Sumner's testimony should have been excluded. View "Murray v. Just In Case Bus. Lighthouse, LLC" on Justia Law