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Colorado Court of Appeals Opinions
September 26, 2013

The Court of Appeals summaries are written for the Colorado Bar Association by licensed attorneys Teresa Wilkins (Denver) and Paul Sachs (Steamboat Springs). Please note that the summaries of Opinions of the Colorado Court of Appeals are provided as a service by the Colorado Bar Association and are not the official language of the Court. The Colorado Bar Association cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the summaries.

2013 COA 134. No. 11CA0699. Mullins v. Medical Lien Management, Inc.
Car Accident—Settlement—Lien—Counterclaim—Evidence—Testimony—Hearsay—Admission—Lay Witness.

Plaintiff Jerry Mullins appealed the trial court’s judgment in favor of defendant Medical Lien Management Inc. (MLM). The judgment was affirmed.

This interpleader action stems from settlement proceeds recovered by Mullins due to a car accident. Mullins’s law firm, Darrell S. Elliott, P.C. (DSE), withheld a portion of the settlement pursuant to the fee agreement. However, MLM claimed to hold a medical lien of $17,081.10 on the settlement funds, which represented charges for care provided to Mullins by SpineOne P.C., as a result of injuries sustained by Mullins in the car accident.

Mullins asserted that the trial court erred in ruling in favor of MLM on its counterclaims because MLM had abandoned its counterclaims when it failed to reassert them in its answer to Mullins’s amended complaint. MLM had asserted counterclaims in its original Answer and continued to pursue those counterclaims during the case. Therefore, MLM did not waived its right to pursue them, and the trial court did not err in permitting MLM to litigate its counterclaims, even though it did not reassert them in responding to Mullins’s Amended Complaint.

Mullins also asserted that the trial court abused its discretion by admitting evidence and testimony presented by MLM because MLM failed to provide notice of the evidence to Mullins before trial. MLM’s first fourteen trial exhibits were identical to the exhibits MLM had attached to its summary judgment motion. The remaining exhibits were documents Mullins had given to MLM as part of the parties’ initial discovery disclosures. Accordingly, Mullins was familiar with the content of the trial exhibits, and their late disclosure could not have caused Mullins surprise that would have required their exclusion. Further, Mullins had notice of the witness’s identity because an affidavit in support of MLM’s motion for summary judgment contained statements from the witness similar to his testimony. Thus, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by allowing MLM’s witness to testify.

Mullins further argued that the trial court abused its discretion by allowing MLM’s witness to testify as a lay witness about the reasonableness and necessity of SpineOne’s medical bills. The witness’s conclusions, however, did not involve a process of reasoning that could not be reached by an ordinary citizen without specialized training or experience. Therefore, the trial court did not err in allowing this witness to testify about his lay opinion.

Finally, Mullins’s argument that the trial court abused its discretion by admitting numerous exhibits that contained hearsay failed because all three documents constituted admissions by a party opponent. The trial court’s judgment was affirmed.

2013 COA 135. No. 11CA1942. People v. Wilburn.
Deferred Judgment—Revocation—Medical Marijuana—Prescription—Affirmative Defense.

The People appealed the trial court’s order finding that defendant did not violate the conditions of his deferred judgment. The order was disapproved.

The probation department filed a complaint to revoke defendant’s deferred judgment, alleging in part that defendant had violated the condition that he not use or possess any narcotic, dangerous, or abusable substance without a prescription. The trial court found that defendant had not violated the conditions of his deferred judgment and dismissed the revocation complaint. The court essentially determined that defendant had established an affirmative defense to the revocation because he satisfied conditions of the Colorado Constitution pertaining to medical marijuana.

On appeal, the People contended that the trial court erred by concluding that defendant established an affirmative defense to revocation of the deferred judgment. Although the Colorado Constitution sets forth an affirmative defense to criminal prosecution based on the medical use of marijuana, it does not provide a defense to an administrative proceeding such as the revocation here. Because defendant violated his plea agreement by not possessing a prescription for medical marijuana, the People could seek revocation of his deferred judgment. Although the court erred in dismissing the revocation complaint, however, it does not follow that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to make its decision. Hence, its order was not a nullity, and the trial court’s ruling was disapproved.

2013 COA 136. No. 12CA1866. Idaho Pacific Lumber Company, Inc. v. Celestial Land Company Limited.
Judgment—Creditor—Debtor—Garnishment—Independent Contractor—Exemption—Writ of Assistance.

Plaintiff Idaho Pacific Lumber Company, Inc. (judgment creditor) appealed the trial court’s order in favor of Celestial Land Company Limited (garnishee) regarding a debt it owed defendant Jack B. Kaufman (judgment debtor). The order was affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case was remanded.

Judgment creditor served garnishee with a writ of garnishment on personal property and a writ of continuing garnishment for any debt owed to judgment debtor. Garnishee, who was an independent contractor rather than an employee, answered the writs on the basis that the debt owed to judgment debtor constituted earnings, and therefore only 25% was subject to garnishment.

On appeal, judgment creditor contended that the trial court erred in concluding that the debt owed to judgment debtor by garnishee constituted earnings under CRS § 13-54.5-101(2)(a)(I). Because indebtedness owed to an independent contractor is not earnings, the exemption was inapplicable.

Judgment creditor also contended that the trial court erred by denying its motion for a writ of assistance to collect all of judgment debtor’s property. There is no Colorado authority that supports judgment creditor’s request for such a broad writ of assistance under CRCP 69. Accordingly, the trial court did not err in denying judgment creditor’s motion for a writ of assistance. Finally, judgment creditor’s request for attorney fees pursuant to CRCP 103(8)(b)(5) was denied.

2013 COA 137. No. 12CA1963. Egelhoff v. Taylor.
Spurious Liens and Documents—Administrative Remedies—Subject Matter Jurisdiction.

Defendant Lesley Joe Taylor appealed the judgment declaring invalid his putative lien against the property of plaintiff Martin Foster Egelhoff. The judgment was affirmed.

Taylor filed a document purporting to be a lien with the Denver County Clerk and Recorder, asserting that Egelhoff owed him $500 million and that this debt was secured by Egelhoff’s real and personal property. The lien was found to be invalid pursuant to CRS § 38-35-204 and CRCP 105.1.

On appeal, Taylor asserted that the court erred in concluding that his lien was spurious and, thus, invalid. Taylor did not provide a transcript of the hearing. Therefore, it is presumed that the court’s ruling declaring the lien invalid is supported by the record. Further, neither the documents Taylor sent to the district court nor his arguments on appeal provided any legal or factual support for the validity of the lien. Accordingly, the district court did not err in finding the lien spurious and thus invalid.

Taylor also contended that Egelhoff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies before challenging the liens as spurious under CRS § 38-35-204 and, therefore, the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. Egelhoff had no available administrative remedies to exhaust. The proper procedure for removing a spurious lien is to file a petition in a court seeking an order to show cause under CRS § 38-35-204, as Egelhoff did here. In addition, both Taylor and Egelhoff proceeded in this action as private parties, not state agencies. Therefore, the doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies was inapplicable.

Colorado Court of Appeals Opinions

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