“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.
Tag Archives: Offers of Settlement
Ambiguity keeps lawyers employed. In this case, a construction contract had an ambiguous “Cost/Plus” price provision that “included, without limitation” “wages [of] construction workers directly employed.” Owner believed the price was limited to the actual cost of wages. Builder believed “costs” referred to fixed wage rates that included unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, and other expenses. Owner did not object to Builder’s interpretation until after litigation arose. The court of appeals held that Owner was estopped from arguing his interpretation was correct because he had full knowledge of the facts, unreasonably delayed, and Builder detrimentally relied on Owner’s delay. This was the first time a Colorado court applied the equitable estoppel doctrine to the interpretation of an ambiguous contract. It was remanded to recalculate damages.
Scene 1: “I just got rear-ended – I’m OK, just shaken.” Scene 2, days later: “My neck and back really hurt.” So starts a familiar drama in this personal injury case. The defense in this damages-only trial was how much of the medical bills the defendant should pay. The trial court instructed the jury to reduce damages if they found plaintiff had continued expensive treatment though it did not resolve her pain. The court of appeals reversed, finding zero support for the proposition that a plaintiff has an affirmative duty to end treatment if it is expensive and ineffective. Another instruction on the reasonableness and necessity of treatment, which was also given, sufficiently addressed the issue. Addressing evidentiary issues, the court cited Cosgrove for the collateral source rule, and approved admission of evidence of delayed recovery syndrome and previous domestic violence.
A cyclist is attacked on federal land during a sponsored race by two “predator control dogs” whose owners had a permit to graze sheep in the area. The trial court granted summary judgment for the owners, finding that the Premises Liability Act (PLA) abrogated the cyclist’s common law tort claims, and a claim under the “dog bite statute” was excluded by the “predator control dogs” exception. The court of appeals disagreed in part. First, because the owners were grazing sheep pursuant to a Forest Service permit, they were “landowners” under the PLA, which abrogated common law tort claims. But, the owners were not in “control of” the land, so the predator control dog exception did not apply. The statutes did not conflict because the remedies under each are different. Finally, the court agreed that a settlement offer from the owners was successfully withdrawn and thus not enforceable.
Certiorari was granted in this case on “Whether the court of appeals erred in holding that the working dog exemption to section 13-21-124, C.R.S. (2012), applies only when a bite occurs on a dog owner’s property or property under his or her control, and that “control” of property exists only if one has the right to exclude others from it.”
Timing is everything, especially when making settlement offers with a motion for summary judgment pending. The facts of this case present a twist on the old “mail box rule.” Defendant sent a statutory settlement offer to plaintiff. The next day, the trial court ruled in favor of defendant, granting summary judgment in full. Plaintiff then accepted the offer before defendant received actual notice of the ruling, because defendant did not opt for e-file notices. Defendant then attempted, unsuccessfully, to withdraw her offer. Defendant argued that the ruling extinguished the offer as a matter of law. The court disagreed; only two events terminate a statutory offer of settlement: withdrawal before acceptance or the end of the 14 day period. The result was not inequitable because defendant did not condition the offer to expire upon a ruling, and did not receive e-file notices.