It is the promise, not the paper it’s written on, that makes a contract. Plaintiff is a capital advisory firm. It had an agreement with Defendants to help them find financing. Defendants later contracted with another firm that did secure financing for Defendants. Plaintiff sought to enforce a provision that entitled it to 4.5% of the financed amount. Defendants argued the agreement was void because two of three provisions violated CRS 12-61- 101 (brokerage laws) and CRS 11-51-604 (securities laws), and thus the whole agreement was void. The trial court agreed; the court of appeals did not. Looking to the number of promises in the agreement, the court held that, in essence, each provision was its own “contract” even though they were all memorialized in the same agreement. The two unlawful provisions were severed so the agreement was not void, and judgment for Defendants was reversed.
Tag Archives: Breach of Contract
CapitalValue Advisors, LLC v. K2D, Inc., d/b/a Colorado Premium Foods; Kevin LaFleur; Don Babcock; and Triton Capital Partners, Ltd., 2013 COA 125 (August 15, 2013)
DCP Midstream, LP, v. Anadarko Petroleum Corp.; Kerr-McGee Oil & Gas Onshore LP; and Kerr-McGee Gathering LLC, 2013 CO 36 (June 24, 2013)
Do courts manage cases “to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action?” (CRCP 1). They should. Here, Plaintiff sought information about thousands of gas wells and contracts, though it sued on far fewer. The trial court permitted broad discovery. In a wide-reaching opinion, the Court reversed and ordered all trial courts to actively manage discovery when objections to scope arise under CRCP 26(b). Those objections should be explicitly addressed in the context of the cost-benefit, proportionality, and other “good cause” factors in CRC 26(b)(2)(F). The Court would not distinguish between discovery of “claims and defenses” and “subject matter,” though the concurrence would have. The Court also reiterated that the attorney-client privilege applies to a Title Opinion if it is a confidential communication made in the course of obtaining advice.
“We all get a second chance; it’s called tomorrow.” Anon. Moye White (MW) represented David Beren in probate litigation. MW employed and assigned to Beren’s case an attorney with a past of disciplinary proceedings, mental illness, alcoholism, and related arrests. MW sued Beren for its attorneys’ fees; Beren counterclaimed for breach of fiduciary duty claiming he should have been told about the attorney’s history. The court of appeals disagreed; a law firm does not have a duty to disclose such history to a client. Any risk posed by an attorney’s past conduct is speculative, and therefore not material. For the same reason, no ethical duty to disclose such information exists under professional conduct rules 1.4 or 7.1. The court of appeals also upheld costs awarded MW for uploading documents into a document review platform and costs incurred after a pretrial offer of settlement.
“The other car collided with mine without giving warning of its intention.” (Anonymous). Here, MLM paid an accident victim’s medical bills in exchange for an assignment of settlement funds, if any. MLM gave notice of the assignment to the tortfeasor’s insurer Allstate, who then settled. Allstate paid the victim instead of MLM. MLM sued Allstate for breach of both the settlement contract and the assignment. The trial court dismissed MLM’s claims. The court of appeals reversed, holding: 1) personal injury claims may be validly assigned prior to settlement, as they were here; 2) the notice of assignment was sufficient and triggered Allstate’s duty to pay MLM, despite its lack of consent; and 3) because the victim had a claim against Allstate, MLM had a claim. Finally, the court rejected a request to apply the Federal pleading standards in Bell Atlantic v. Twombly. Dismissal reversed.
Fidelity National Title Company, f/k/a Security Title Guaranty Company v. First American Title Insurance Company, 2013COA80 (May 23, 2013)
It was a $1million mistake. A title company (Agent) closed 2 loans, for 2 different banks, 2 months apart, assuring both banks that they were first position lienholders for the same property. The Agent’s underwriter eventually paid over $1 million to resolve the banks’ competing claims over foreclosure proceeds. Underwriter sued Agent, and won. Agent appealed, challenging the interpretation of their contract and the applicability of a statutory defense for reliance on a payoff statement. The court of appeals held: 1) Agent was an “escrow” because it “handled” money during the closings, 2) Agent couldn’t rely on a “payoff statement” under CRS 38-35-124.5, as it didn’t indicate the amounts owed to the actual creditor or holder of the debt, and 3) the contractual phrase “actual prejudice” meant “substantial detriment to the significant interests of the party.” Affirmed.
The Colorado Supreme Court granted certiorari in one case today involving the governmental immunity act : Marilyn Daniel v. City of Colorado Springs, 2012COA171. As noted in the comments to the CLR summary of the court of appeals’ opinion, this case is related to other cases pending before the Court addressing what constitutes a “public facility.”
JUSTICE COATS and JUSTICE EID would have granted Sonitrol Corporation v. Core-Mark Midcontinent, Inc.; et. al. Court of Appeals Case Nos. 10CA2289 & 11CA369 (April 29, 2013) to address two issues concerning a cause of action for willful and wanton breach of contract, one of which was framed in terms of whether the court of appeals erred in applying its “own notions of public policy … contrary to Colorado’s public policy of protecting freedom of contract and allocation of risk.”
You don’t know what you don’t know; that is why an appeals court must have a complete record before it to render a decision. Here, the court of appeals believed it had a sufficient record; the Court disagreed. CAR 10(b) requires the appellant to submit a record with all evidence relevant to the issue on appeal. Relevance is defined by CRE 401 and conversely by CRE 402 — which excludes irrelevant evidence. It follows, therefore, that all evidence admitted at trial on a claim was relevant; otherwise it would have been excluded. Thus, the record on appeal must include everything in the record related to the issue on appeal. Because CAR 10(b) puts the burden on the appellant, the consequences for failing to designate a complete record fall on the appellant. Here, the appellant won in the court of appeals. But for violating CAR 10(b), the Court dismissed the appeal entirely, with prejudice.
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation [as Receiver for Community Banks] v. Yale Fisher, 2013CO5 (January 22, 2013)
There is an old saying, “Banks will only lend money to people who don’t need a loan.” Actually, banks normally off-set the risk of non-payment by adding a 36% default interest rate. But in this case, the original agreement did not include 36% default interest. A series of later modifications added a 36% default rate, but without noting it as a changed term. That seemed to make the rate ambiguous. The Supreme Court disagreed, finding the later modifications unambiguously included the 36% rate. The Credit Agreement Statute of Frauds, CRS 38-10-124, allows for extrinsic evidence to be considered to resolve ambiguous credit agreements. Here, extrinsic evidence suggested that the 36% rate was only added later as a computer error. However, as the contract was unambiguous, the statute didn’t apply and the evidence could not be considered. The borrower owed 36% on the defaulted amount.
Raptor Education Foundation, Inc., v. Colorado Department of Revenue, Division of Motor Vehicles, 2012COA219 (December 27, 2012)
The individual freedom to contract, enshrined in the US and Colorado Constitutions and known as the Contract Clause, can add another case to its storied history – specialty license plates. In 2000, the Raptor Education Foundation contracted with the Department of Revenue for the exclusive right to buy a specialty plate. In 2002, the Department was court-ordered to sell the plates only to members of the REF. In 2009, the Legislature amended the law (CRS 42-3-208) to allow non-REF members to buy the plates. The REF sued. The court of appeals, after finding that the constitutional challenge could be addressed even though it was not raised in a pleading, struck down the legislation as unconstitutional. The law violated the Contracts Clause because it was not directed at a general social problem and was an unforeseeable substantial impairment to the existing contractual relationship.
To trustee or not to trustee? That was the question facing a son, who was trustee for a trust benefiting his father. The trust, established in 2004, took a turn for the worse in 2008 and 2009. After a significant loss, the father sued his son, claiming he breached the trust agreement. The trial court found the son breached the agreement by purchasing stocks on margin and failing to diversify investments, which the trial court found to be “imprudent” under the uniform prudent investor rule, codified at CRS 15-1.1-102. The court of appeals reversed in part, finding it was error for the trial court to utilize the statutory rule because the trust documents expressly permitted the son to invest trust assets without regard to whether the investments would be permissible under law. Although a trust cannot contract away all fiduciary duties, it can reduce the threshold for imprudence.