Justia Colorado Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation

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A condominium association, Dakota Station II Condominium, filed two claims with its insurer, Owners Insurance Company, for weather damage. The parties couldn’t agree on the money owed, so Dakota invoked the appraisal provision of its insurance policy. The parties each selected an appraiser, putting the rest of the provision’s terms into motion. Ultimately, the appraisers submitted conflicting value estimates to an umpire, and the umpire issued a final award, accepting some estimates from each appraiser. Dakota’s appraiser signed onto the award, and Owners paid Dakota. Owners later moved to vacate the award, arguing that Dakota’s appraiser was not “impartial” as required by the insurance policy’s appraisal provision and that she failed to disclose material facts. The trial court disagreed and “dismissed” the motion to vacate. A division of the court of appeals affirmed. In its review, the Colorado Supreme Court interpreted the policy’s impartiality requirement and determined whether a contingent-cap fee agreement between Dakota and its appraiser rendered the appraiser partial as a matter of law. The Court concluded the plain language of the policy required appraisers to be unbiased, disinterested, and unswayed by personal interest, and the contingent-cap fee agreement didn’t render Dakota’s appraiser partial as a matter of law. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals with respect to the contingent-cap fee agreement, reversed with respect to the impartiality requirement, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Owners Ins. v. Dakota Station II Condo. Ass'n" on Justia Law

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Douglas Schoninger was interested in launching a professional rugby league in the United States. Toward that end, he formed PRO Rugby and approached the United States of America Rugby Football Union (“USAR”), the national governing body for rugby in the United States. PRO Rugby and USAR entered into the Sanction Agreement, which authorized PRO Rugby to establish a professional rugby league in the United States. At issue before the Colorado Supreme Court in this appeal was whether a nonsignatory to an arbitration agreement could be required to arbitrate under that agreement by virtue of the fact that it was a purported agent of a signatory to the agreement. Specifically, the Court was asked to decide whether the district court erred when it entered an order requiring petitioner Rugby International Marketing (“RIM”), a nonsignatory to a Professional Rugby Sanction Agreement (the “Sanction Agreement”), to arbitrate pursuant to an arbitration provision in that Agreement that covered the parties and their agents. The court found that because RIM was an agent for USAR, a signatory of the Sanction Agreement, RIM fell “squarely within the broad language of the arbitration provision.” The Supreme Court found that the weight of authority nationally established that, subject to a number of recognized exceptions, only parties to an agreement containing an arbitration provision could compel or be subject to arbitration. Here, because RIM was not a party to the Sanction Agreement and because respondents PRO Rugby and Schoninger had not established any of the recognized exceptions applied, the Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in determining that RIM was subject to arbitration under the Sanction Agreement. View "In re N.A. Rugby Union v. U.S. Rugby Football Union" on Justia Law

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When Charlotte Fischer moved into a nursing home, she received an admissions packet full of forms. Among them was an agreement that compelled arbitration of certain legal disputes. The Health Care Availability Act (“HCAA” or “Act”) required such agreements contain a four-paragraph notice in a certain font size and in bold-faced type. Charlotte’s agreement included the required language in a statutorily permissible font size, but it was not printed in bold. Charlotte’s daughter signed the agreement on Charlotte’s behalf. After Charlotte died, her family initiated a wrongful death action against the health care facility in court. Citing the agreement, the health care facility moved to compel arbitration out of court. The trial court denied the motion, and the court of appeals affirmed, determining the arbitration agreement was void because it did not strictly comply with the HCAA. At issue was whether the Act required strict or substantial compliance. The Colorado Supreme Court held "substantial:" the agreement at issue her substantially complied with the formatting requirements of the law, notwithstanding the lack of bold type. View "Colorow Health Care, LLC v. Fischer" on Justia Law

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Charlotte Fischer was moved into a nursing home; after she died, her family initiated a wrongful death action against the health care facility in court. Citing a clause in the admissions agreement, the health care facility moved to compel arbitration out of court. The trial court denied the motion, and the court of appeals affirmed, determining the arbitration agreement was void because it did not strictly comply with the Health Care Availability Act ("HCAA"). In this case, the Colorado Supreme Court considered whether section 13-64-403, C.R.S. (2017) of the HCAA, the provision governing arbitration agreements, required strict or substantial compliance. The HCAA required that such agreements contain a four-paragraph notice in a certain font size and in bold-faced type. Charlotte’s agreement included the required language in a statutorily permissible font size, but it was not printed in bold. Charlotte’s daughter signed the agreement on Charlotte’s behalf. The Supreme Court held the Act demanded only substantial compliance. Furthermore, the Court concluded the agreement here substantially complied with the formatting requirements of section 13-64-403, notwithstanding its lack of bold-faced type. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and remanded for further proceedings. View "Colorow Health Care, LLC v. Fischer" on Justia Law

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This case centered on whether the Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act (“CCIOA”) permitted a developer–declarant to retain a right of consent to certain proposed amendments to a common interest community’s declaration. Petitioner Vallagio at Inverness Residential Condominium Association, Inc. (the “Association”), sought damages for alleged construction defects in the Vallagio at Inverness residential development project (the “Project”), a community organized under CCIOA. The Project’s developer and declarant, respondent Metro Inverness, LLC (the “Declarant”), drafted and recorded the Project’s original declaration, which set forth specific dispute resolution procedures for construction defect claims. As pertinent here, certain provisions of the original declaration: (1) required that all construction defect claims be resolved through binding arbitration; and (2) provided that the provisions governing such claims “shall not ever be amended” without the Declarant’s written consent. Shortly before the Association filed the present action, and without obtaining the Declarant’s consent, the requisite number of the Project’s unit owners voted to amend the declaration to delete the foregoing dispute resolution provisions. The Declarant moved to compel arbitration, arguing that the attempted declaration amendment was ineffective absent its written consent and, thus, the Association was bound by the arbitration provision contained in the original declaration. The district court denied the Declarant’s motion, reasoning in pertinent part that the consent-to-amend provision violated and was therefore void under CCIOA. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded that the consent-to-amend provision contained in the Project’s original declaration was consistent with CCIOA and was therefore valid and enforceable. Furthermore, the Court concluded that because the unit owners did not obtain the Declarant’s consent to remove the arbitration provision, the attempted removal was ineffective, and the declaration’s arbitration agreement remained in force. View "Vallagio at Inverness Residential Condo. Assn. v. Metro. Homes, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff’s initial attorneys were discharged for cause and replaced by successor counsel. Initial counsel had been hired on a contingency basis. When discharged, they asserted a lien against any settlement or judgment entered in the underlying action and in favor of the plaintiff. The underlying action was subsequently settled, and successor counsel filed a motion to void the lien. Initial counsel responded by moving to strike successor counsel’s motion and to compel arbitration, based on an arbitration clause contained in initial counsel’s contingent fee agreement with the plaintiff. The district court ultimately concluded that this dispute was between the lawyers, and thus, the arbitration clause contained in initial counsel’s contingent fee agreement with the plaintiff did not apply. The court then determined that initial counsel was not entitled to fees because it had been discharged for cause, and under the express terms of the contingent fee agreement, it had forfeited the right to those fees. Initial counsel appealed, and a division of the court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, concluding that successor counsel’s motion to void the lien at issue was properly filed in the underlying action and that the underlying action was a “proper civil action.” In light of this determination, the Supreme court further concluded that the lien dispute was between initial and successor counsel and that therefore, the matter: (1) was not subject to arbitration pursuant to the arbitration clause in initial counsel’s contingent fee agreement with the plaintiff; and (2) was properly before the district court. View "Martinez v. Mintz" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued General Steel, Discount Steel, and those companies' presidents for abuse of process, malicious prosecution, and civil conspiracy, based on their filing an arbitration complaint against him. The trial court found in favor of Plaintiff. The court of appeals held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by (1) refusing to include additional elements reflecting the heightened standard in Protect Our Mountain Environment, Inc. v. District Court (POME) in the jury instruction for Plaintiff's malicious prosecution claims; and (2) trebling an exemplary damages award against Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) POME does not apply where, as here, the underlying alleged petitioning activity was the filing of an arbitration complaint that led to a purely private dispute; (2) therefore, the trial court did not err by refusing to include additional elements reflecting POME's heightened standard in the jury instruction for Plaintiff's malicious prosecution claims; and (3) the trial court did not err by trebling the exemplary damages award against Defendants. View "Gen. Steel Domestic Sales, LLC v. Bacheller" on Justia Law

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In an arbitration proceeding between Respondent SunOpta Grains and Foods Inc. (SunOpta) and Colorado Mills, LLC, an arbitrator, at SunOpta's request, issued subpoenas to petitioners SK Food International and Adams Vegetable Oil, Inc. SK Food and Adams were not parties to the underlying arbitration. Neither company was incorporated in Colorado, was registered as a foreign corporation in Colorado, or maintained a principal office in Colorado. The subpoenas, which requested business records, were served on SK Food and Adams at their places of business in California and North Dakota. When SK Food and Adams refused to comply with the arbitration subpoenas, SunOpta asked the district court to enforce them. The district court issued an order enforcing the subpoenas.In response, SK Food and Adams filed a petition for a rule to show cause, which the Supreme Court issued. The nonparties appealed the district court's order enforcing the subpoenas. The Supreme Court held that Colorado courts, as a matter of state sovereignty, have no authority to enforce civil subpoenas against out-of-state nonparties. Accordingly, the Court vacated the district court's enforcement order, and remanded case back to the district court for further proceedings. View "Colorado Mills, LLC v. SunOpta Grains and Foods Inc." on Justia Law