Articles Posted in Business Law

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In 2012, Respondent Allister Boustred, a Colorado resident, purchased a replacement main rotor holder for his radio-controlled helicopter from a retailer in Fort Collins, Colorado. The main rotor holder was allegedly manufactured by Petitioner Align Corporation Limited (“Align”), a Taiwanese corporation, and distributed by Respondent Horizon Hobby, Inc. (“Horizon”), a Delaware-based corporation. Align had no physical presence in the United States, but it contracted with U.S.-based distributors to sell its products to retailers who, in turn, sell them to consumers. Boustred installed the main rotor holder to his helicopter and was injured in Colorado when the blades held by the main rotor holder released and struck him in the eye. He filed claims of strict liability and negligence against both Align and Horizon in Colorado. The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review centered on the stream of commerce doctrine and the prerequisites for a state to exercise specific personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded that World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286 (1980), set out the controlling stream of commerce doctrine, which established that a forum state could assert jurisdiction where a plaintiff showed a defendant placed goods into the stream of commerce with the expectation that the goods will be purchased in the forum state. Applying this doctrine, the Court concluded Boustred made a sufficient showing to withstand a motion to dismiss. View "Align Corporation, Ltd. v. Boustred" on Justia Law

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In 2012, Khalil Laleh brought a forcible entry and detainer action against his brother, Ali Laleh. The litigation later grew so unwieldy that the trial court appointed Gary Johnson as an accounting expert (and later as a special master) to resolve the feuding brothers’ complex accounting claims. The Laleh brothers signed an engagement agreement with Gary C. Johnson and Associates, LLC, setting forth the scope of Johnson’s services and payment. Johnson commenced work, but before he completed his accounting reports for the trial court, the brothers settled their case and the court dismissed the suit. Johnson later informed the trial court that Khalil and Ali refused to pay both his outstanding fees and his costs incurred post-settlement in attempting to collect the outstanding fees. Following a hearing, the trial court issued an order ruling that Johnson’s fees were reasonable, and that he was entitled to the post-settlement costs he incurred in trying to collect his outstanding fees. In reaching the latter conclusion, the trial court relied on language in the engagement agreement stating that the Lalehs “are jointly and severally responsible for the timely and complete payment of all fees and expenses” to Johnson. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded that a separate provision of the engagement agreement authorized the award of the disputed post-settlement collection costs. View "Laleh v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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Creager Mercantile Co., Inc., a wholesale distributor of groceries and tobacco products, sells Blunt Wraps, a type of cigar wrapper made of thirty to forty-eight percent tobacco. Blunt Wraps are designed to be filled with additional tobacco or marijuana and then smoked. The Colorado Supreme Court was called on the determine whether Blunt Wraps could be taxed as “tobacco products,” as that term was defined in section 39-28.5-101(5), C.R.S. (2016). Because Blunt Wraps are a “kind” or “form” of tobacco, and are “prepared in such manner as to be suitable . . . for smoking,” the Court held Blunt Wraps fell within the plain language of the definition of “tobacco products” under section 39-28.5-101(5) and were taxable accordingly. View "Colo. Dept. of Revenue v. Creager" on Justia Law

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Rocky Mountain Retail Management, LLC, d/b/a Rocky Mountain High, filed an application for a license to operate a medical marijuana center in the City of Northglenn. The Northglenn City Council, acting as the City’s medical marijuana local licensing authority, denied Rocky Mountain’s application after receiving evidence at two public hearings. Rocky Mountain sought judicial review of the City’s decision in the district court, arguing that the denial was not based on substantial evidence in the record and was therefore arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion. Rocky Mountain also asked the district court to declare certain licensing provisions of the Northglenn City Code unconstitutionally vague, including section 18-14-7(h), which sets forth factors a local licensing authority may consider before approving or denying a medical marijuana center license. The district court ruled that section 18-14-7(h) was unconstitutionally vague, and that the City’s denial of the license in reliance on that invalid provision was arbitrary and capricious. The City appealed. Because the phrase “number, type, and availability” in section 18-14-7(h) provided sufficient notice to applicants and reasonably constrained the exercise of the City’s discretion, the Colorado Supreme Court held section 18-14-7(h) was not void for vagueness. Furthermore, the Court held that the City’s decision to deny Rocky Mountain’s license application was supported by substantial evidence in the record, and therefore was not arbitrary and capricious. View "Rocky MountaIn Retail Mgmt. v. City of Northglenn" on Justia Law

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In July 2010, the City and County of Denver issued nine Notices of Final Determination, Assessment and Demand for Payment against various online travel companies: Expedia, Inc.; Hotels.com LP; Hotwire, Inc.; Orbitz, LLC; Trip Network, Inc.; Priceline.com Incorporated; Travelweb, LLC; Site59.com, LLC; and Travelocity.com LP. The Notices claimed unpaid taxes, penalties, and interest due according to the city lodger’s tax article, for the period from January 2001 through April 2010, totaling over $40 million. These online companies filed nearly identical protests, requesting hearings before a Denver Department of Finance hearing officer, and the protests were consolidated by stipulation. Denver petitioned for review of the court of appeals opinion reversing the judgment of the district court and remanding with directions to vacate the subject tax assessments against respondent online travel companies (“OTCs”). The district court had largely upheld the hearing officer’s denial of protests. Unlike the hearing officer and district court, the court of appeals concluded that the city lodger’s tax article was at least ambiguous with regard to both the purchase price paid or charged for lodging, upon which the tax is to be levied, and the status of the OTCs as vendors, upon which the ordinance imposes the responsibility to collect the tax and remit it to the city; and the intermediate appellate court considered itself obligated to resolve all ambiguities in the lodger’s tax article, being a tax statute, in favor of the OTCs. The Colorado Supreme Court found the “fair and reasonable interpretation” of Denver’s lodger’s tax article was that it imposed a duty on the OTCs to collect and remit the prescribed tax on the purchase price of any lodging they sell, to include not only the amount they have contracted with the hotel to charge and return but also the amount of their markup. The judgment of the court of appeals was therefore reversed, and the matter was remanded for consideration of the remaining issues raised on appeal by the parties. View "City & Cty. of Denver v. Expedia, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case centered on a contract dispute between Clean Energy Collective LLC (CEC) and two defendants, Borrego Solar Systems, Inc. (Borrego) and 1115 Solar Development, LLC (1115 Solar). CEC was a Colorado limited liability company; Borrego was a California corporation headquartered in San Diego, and 1115 Solar was a Delaware limited liability company with its principal place of business in California. Borrego was 1115 Solar’s parent company and owned the latter in its entirety. CEC’s claims against Borrego and 1115 Solar arose from an asset purchase agreement (“APA”) to construct several solar photovoltaic projects. The APA specified that CEC would pay defendants to construct three power-generation projects in Massachusetts and allowed for additional projects pursuant to separate contracts governed by the APA’s terms. After the parties were unable to resolve disagreements regarding pricing and payments for projects subject to the APA (all of which were to be completed outside Colorado) CEC sued the defendants in Colorado, asserting claims for breach of contract and breach of warranty. The issue presented for the Supreme Court's review was whether the trial court erred in concluding Borrego was subject to general personal jurisdiction in Colorado. Because the trial court did not assess whether Borrego was essentially at home in Colorado, the Court concluded it did not fully apply the test announced in "Magill v. Ford Motor Co.," (379 P.3d 1033), and therefore erred in exercising general personal jurisdiction over Borrego. Applying the complete test itself, the Court concluded Borrego was not subject to general jurisdiction in Colorado. View "In re Clean Energy Collective LLC v. Borrego Solar Sys., Inc." on Justia Law

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This case concerned the relative priority of competing charging orders filed by 15 multiple judgment creditors against a foreign judgment debtor’s membership interests 16 in several Colorado limited liability companies. In July 2013, Chase Bank obtained an Arizona judgment of over $20 million against several defendants, including Reginald Fowler, an Arizona resident. As part of its postjudgment collection efforts, Chase obtained Arizona orders charging Fowler’s membership interests in three Colorado limited liability companies. In March 2014, respondents Douglas McClure, Nancy McClure, and Spiral Broadcasting, L.L.C. (collectively, “the McClures”), obtained a stipulated judgment for $1.5 million against Fowler, among others, in the Arizona Superior Court. In April 2014, the McClures domesticated their Arizona judgment in Colorado, and between May and July 2014, they obtained and served Colorado orders charging Fowler’s membership interests in the LLCs. Now confronted with facially competing charging orders, the LLCs paid Fowler’s then-due distributions into the Colorado District Court registry. That same day, the McClures moved for release of the distribution funds to them, and several days later, Chase sought and obtained leave to intervene and opposed the McClures’ motion. The district court ultimately ordered the distribution funds released to the McClures. Chase then domesticated its Arizona charging orders with a different Colorado District Court, and moved for reconsideration of the release order, arguing that its newly-domesticated charging orders should be deemed effective as of the date they were issued in Arizona and entitled to priority over the McClures’ charging orders. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded first that for purposes of determining the enforceability of a charging order, a membership interest of a non-Colorado citizen in a Colorado limited liability company is located in Colorado. We further conclude that when, as here, a judgment creditor obtains a foreign charging order that compels certain action by a Colorado limited liability company, the charging order is ineffective as against the limited liability company until the creditor has taken sufficient steps to obligate the company to comply with that order. Although the authorities are not uniform as to the steps to be taken, under any of the applicable scenarios, the charging orders obtained by Chase did not become effective until after the respondents had obtained and served competing charging orders. The Court thus concluded that the McClures’ charging orders were entitled to priority over Chase’s competing charging orders. View "JPMorgan Chase Bank N.A. v. McClure" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Jessica Ferrer and her companion, Kathryn Winslow, were injured when a taxicab driven by Tesfamariam Okbamicael struck them as they crossed a street in Denver. Okbamicael worked for Colorado Cab Company (“Yellow Cab”), which owned the taxicab. Ferrer brought this suit against Okbamicael and Yellow Cab (collectively, “Defendants”), alleging that Okbamicael was negligent and that Yellow Cab was vicariously liable for his negligence under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Ferrer also alleged that Yellow Cab was liable for her injuries suffered in the collision under theories of direct negligence (negligence as a common carrier) and negligent entrustment, hiring, supervision, and training. In an amended answer to the complaint, Yellow Cab admitted that Okbamicael was an employee acting within the course and scope of his employment with Yellow Cab at the time of the accident. Defendants then moved for partial judgment on the pleadings, seeking to dismiss Ferrer’s direct negligence claims against Yellow Cab. The trial court granted Defendants’ motion, applying the rule from “McHaffie v. Bunch,” (891 S.W.2d 822 (Mo. 1995)), that an employer’s admission of vicarious liability for an employee’s negligence bars a plaintiff’s direct negligence claims against the employer. Agreeing with the trial court’s application of the “McHaffie” rule, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "In re Ferrer" on Justia Law

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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

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Petitioner John Van Rees, Sr. contracted with respondent Unleaded Software, Inc. to perform web-related services and to design additional websites. After Unleaded missed deadlines and failed to deliver the promised services, Van Rees sued, asserting multiple tort claims, a civil theft claim, three breach of contract claims, and a claim for violations of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act (CCPA). The trial court granted Unleaded's 12(b)(5) motion, dismissing all but Van Rees' contract claims, on which a jury found in Van Rees' favor. Van Rees appealed, and the court of appeals affirmed. After its review, the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part. The appellate court had determined that the tort and civil theft claims were barred by the "economic loss rule" because they were related to promises memorialized in the contracts, and the CCPA claim failed to allege a significant public impact. The Supreme Court found the issue pertaining to the economic loss rule was not whether the tort claims related to a contract, but whether they stemmed from a duty independent of the contact. The Court found pre-contractural misrepresentations in this case distinct from the contract itself, and could have formed the basis of an independent tort claim. Accordingly, the Court reversed as to Van Rees' tort claims. With respect to civil theft, the court affirmed the court of appeals on the ground that the claim failed to adequately allege the "knowing deprivation of a thing of value." View "Van Rees v. Unleaded Software, Inc." on Justia Law