Justia Consumer Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Colorado Supreme Court
LHM Corp v. Martinez
Plaintiff Canuto Martinez successfully sued a car dealership, Defendant Larry H. Miller Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram 104th (“LHM”), for violating section 6-1-708(1)(a), C.R.S. (2021), of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act (“CCPA”). The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review was whether the judgment was final for purposes of appeal when the district court determined that Martinez, as the prevailing plaintiff, was entitled to an award of attorney fees under the CCPA, but the court had not yet determined the amount of those fees. The Supreme Court resolved the tension between Baldwin v. Bright Mortgage Co., 757 P.2d 1072, 1074 (Colo. 1988) and Ferrell v. Glenwood Brokers, Ltd., 848 P.2d 936, 940–42 (Colo. 1993) by reaffirming the bright-line rule established in Baldwin: a judgment on the merits is final for purposes of appeal notwithstanding an unresolved issue of attorney fees. To the extent the Court's opinion in Ferrell deviated from Baldwin, "its approach lacks justification and generates uncertainty, thus undermining the purpose of Baldwin’s bright-line rule." The Court concluded that both litigants and courts were best served by the bright-line rule adopted in Baldwin. The Court therefore overruled Ferrell and the cases that followed it to the extent those cases deviated from Baldwin’s rule concerning the finality of a judgment for purposes of appeal. Applying the Baldwin rule here, the Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals dismissing LHM’s appeal in part as untimely, though under different reasoning. View "LHM Corp v. Martinez" on Justia Law
Ybarra v. Greenberg & Sada, P.C.
Francis Ybarra filed suit against the law firm of Greenberg & Sada, alleging that it violated the Colorado Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by obtaining a judgment against her in the Denver County Court on behalf of State Farm Auto Insurance Company. While represented by Greenberg & Sada, State Farm, as the subrogee of an insured to whom it had paid a claim for damages caused by Ybarra, had taken a default judgment against Ybarra. In her complaint, Ybarra alleged particularly that in doing so Greenberg & Sada violated the Act in a number of ways, including by filing State Farm’s negligence action in Denver rather than Jefferson County, where Ybarra is a resident; by using a false representation or deceptive means in attempting to collect a debt by filing for damages in tort; by providing an address for Ybarra’s residence, where it knew or should have known she did not reside; by making false representations of the character, amount, or legal status of the “debt” by alleging that she owned the car she was driving, which she denied; and by failing to comply with the Act in various other ways. The district court granted Greenberg & Sada’s motion to dismiss, finding that the subrogated tort claim upon which State Farm took a default judgment against Ybarra was not a debt as defined by the Act, and therefore the requirements for collection of a debt imposed by the Act did not apply to Greenberg & Sada. Because a tort, as distinguished from a judgment awarding damages for its commission, does not obligate the tortfeasor to pay damages, the Colorado Supreme Court determined it could not be a transaction giving rise to an obligation to pay money, as required in order to constitute a debt within the contemplation of the Act. And because an insurance contract providing for the subrogation of the rights of a damaged insured is not a transaction giving rise to an obligation of the tortfeasor to pay money, but merely changes the person to whom the tortfeasor’s obligation to pay is owed, it also could not constitute a transaction creating debt within the contemplation of the Act. The judgment of the court of appeals was therefore affirmed. View "Ybarra v. Greenberg & Sada, P.C." on Justia Law
Align Corporation, Ltd. v. Boustred
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
Van Rees v. Unleaded Software, Inc.
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
Oasis Legal Fin. Grp. v. Coffman
This case concerned the nature of transactions that petitioners, national litigation finance companies, made with tort plaintiffs seeking funds to pay personal expenses while waiting for their lawsuits to settle or go to trial. Plaintiffs usually agreed to pay the companies a sum of money from the future litigation proceeds. By the terms of the agreements, any money the companies give tort plaintiffs were not to be used to prosecute the legal claims. The specific issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court’s review centered on whether the companies’ forwarding of expense money to tort plaintiffs constituted a “loan.” Petitioners contended they were “asset purchases,” but the Colorado Uniform Consumer Credit Code interprets these transactions as loans. The Supreme Court agreed with the UCCC: these transactions are loans. View "Oasis Legal Fin. Grp. v. Coffman" on Justia Law
Mercantile Adjustment Bureau v. Flood
After losing on her Colorado Fair Debt Collection Practices Act claim at the county court, Elizabeth Flood's trial counsel, Gary Merenstein, paid the fees of several appellate attorneys who represented Flood in an appeal to the district court and later to the Supreme Court because they were not willing to work on a contingency basis. Flood ultimately prevailed in her appeal, and the Supreme Court awarded attorneys' fees. On remand to the county court to determine Flood's entitlement to and the amount of the attorneys' fees, the opposing party, debt collector Mercantile Adjustment Bureau(MAB), argued that Flood was not entitled to receive attorneys' fees for her appellate counsel's work. MAB argued that the arrangement between Merenstein and Flood, wherein he agreed to pay her appellate attorneys' fees and expected to be reimbursed for these fees from any court award of attorneys' fees received by Flood, constituted unethical financial assistance of a client in violation of Rule 1.8(e) of the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct. The county court rejected MAB's argument and awarded Flood the requested attorneys' fees. MAB appealed to the district court, which affirmed the county court. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that Merenstein did not violate Rule 1.8(e) by paying the fees of Flood's appellate counsel and therefore affirmed the district court's decision in part. However, the Court concluded that the district court erred in applying the Colorado Appellate Rules, which require an appellee to make her request for attorneys' fees in her answer brief, to an appeal to the district court from the county court. The Court reversed that part of the district court's ruling applying the Colorado Appellate Rules to deny Flood's request for attorneys' fees incurred in the current appeal. The case was remanded to the district court to return it to the county court for proceedings to determine whether Flood was entitled to appellate fees as the prevailing party in this appeal and, if so, the amount of Flood's reasonable attorneys' fees and costs incurred in connection with this appeal—including the proceedings before the Supreme Court. View "Mercantile Adjustment Bureau v. Flood" on Justia Law
Garcia v. Medved Chevrolet, Inc
Consumers brought a class action against ten automobile dealerships operating under the "Medved" name and their owner John Medved, alleging violations of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act (CCPA). Plaintiffs alleged that Medved's sales documents failed to disclose the price and existence of various dealer-added aftermarket products, injuring Plaintiffs who paid for those products. Plaintiffs sought certification of two classes: one which included customers who paid for the add-ons but that were never installed, and another class for those who paid for the add-ons but who were unaware of them due to Medved's sales documents. The trial court determined that Plaintiffs could prove causation and injury in their CCPA claims with circumstantial evidence. However, the trial court did not consider whether the individual evidence presented by Medved rebutted the class-wide inferences of causation and injury which was crucial to certification of both classes. The appellate court concluded that the trial court erred by not rigorously analyzing the evidence presented by Medved to refute Plaintiffs' theories of liability. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court, and remanded the case back to the trial court for further analysis to determine "to its satisfaction whether Plaintiffs could establish causation and injury.
State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Reyher
The class certification issue presented in this case arose from a dispute concerning the payment of medical bills under the Colorado Automobile Accident Reparations Act (No-Fault Act). Plaintiffs Pauline Reyher and Dr. Wallace Brucker filed suit against State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (State Farm) alleging that it failed to pay full, reasonable amounts in medical expenses in violation of the No-Fault Act and its own contracts. Plaintiffs subsequently moved to certify two classes that included all insureds and providers, respectively, who submitted medical bills to State Farm and were reimbursed for less than the full amounts. The trial court denied the motion for certification on grounds that Plaintiffs failed (among other things) to establish the "predominance" requirement. The appellate court reversed and remanded the case to enter an order certifying the class. State Farm appealed, arguing that the appellate court's finding of "predominance" was made in error. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's decision and reversed the appellate court.