Appeals Case History

Appellate Victories

Denver Public Schools v. Denver Classroom Teachers Association (Colo. 2017)
The Supreme Court considered whether the Innovation Schools Act of 2008, CRS §§ 22-32.5-101 to -111, precludes a local school board from approving an innovation plan submitted by a “new” innovation school, that is, a school that has not previously opened as a non-innovation school and has yet to hire teachers. The Court reversed the appeals court decision to uphold DPS’ opening of new innovation schools.

Featured articles:

Denver School District No. 1 v. Denver Classroom Teachers Ass’n, 2017 CO 30, Court Listener

DPS Broke Innovation Law, Appeals Court Rules, Chalkbeat

Appeals Court Rules Denver Schools Didn’t Follow State Innovation Law, The Denver Post

Court Prohibits Innovation Designation For New Schools, Colorado LegiSource

Stresscon Corp. v. Travelers (Colo. 2016)
Stresscon’s general contractor, Mortenson, sought contractual liability damages from Stresscon, citing construction delays, and Stresscon in turn sought indemnification from Travelers. In line with the district court decision, the appellate court rejected Travelers’ claim that the no-voluntary-payments clause of their insurance contract relieved it of any obligation to indemnify Stresscon for payments Stresscon had made without its consent. The Supreme Court reversed, the petition succeeding in obtaining remand, with Denver district court judges reaffirming the original $2 million judgment and increasing it by $600,000.

Featured articles:

Travelers Prop. Cas. Co. v. Stresscon Co., Justia

Colo. Justices Urged To Limit Notice-Prejudice Rule, Law360

Colorado Supreme Court Declines to Extend Notice-Prejudice Rule to No-Voluntary-Payments Clause,

JP Morgan, Nigeria’s Money, London Lawsuit. Bad Faith? Not April Fools!, Insurance Claims and Bad Faith Law Blog

Arrabelle at Vail v. Vail Resorts (Colo. App. 2016)
This case involving a Reciprocal Easements and Covenants Agreement (RECA) between the two parties focused on whether a mixed-use community constituted a “small planned community” under the Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act (CCIOA) and therefore violated the RECA agreement. The appellate court invalidated Vail Resorts’ circumvention of statutory protection granted to homeowners by asserting that it was not.

Featured articles:

Arrabelle at Vail Square Residential Condominium Association, Inc., v. Arrabelle at Vail Square LLC, Justia

Minor Child v. Children’s Hospital (Colo. 2016)
In this medical malpractice action, the initial court findings were to dismiss the patient’s comparative negligence and the hospital’s assumption of risk in the case of a minor child that committed suicide under their care. In appeals, the supreme court rejected the hospital’s efforts to avoid liability for failing to protect the patient.

Featured articles:

No. 15SA151, P.W. v. Children’s Hospital—Torts—Medical Malpractice— Comparative Negligence, The Supreme Court of the State of Colorado

In re P.W. v. Children’s Hospital Colorado, 2016 CO 6, Court Listener

In re Avandia Marketing Sales Practices (3rd Cir. 2016)
Sean successfully represented his client, with the court holding the lawyer in question liable for contributions to a common benefit fund.

Featured articles:

In re: Avandia Marketing Sales Practices & Products Liability Litigation, No. 18-2259 (3d Cir. 2019), Justia

Supreme Court Says Glaxo Must Face Racketeering Lawsuits Over a Diabetes Pill, Stat News

Leone v. Owsley (10th Circ. 2015)
This successful appellate trial case overturned a summary judgment in a case that challenged the valuation of hedge fund interest. The 2016 retrial resulted in a $1.9 million verdict on part of Sean’s client.

Featured articles:

Leone II v. Owsley, FindLaw

Like Marriages, Business Partnerships Sometimes Wind Up in Court, Denver Business Journal

Little v. Shell Oil (5th Circ. 2015)
This case involved a cleanup fund created by the California legislature in 1989 as a means to mitigate costs associated with leakage below storage tanks in commercial gas holding tanks. In appellate trial, Sean successfully represented his client leading to an overturning of the dismissal of the original False Claims Act lawsuit and ordering the trial judge removed.

Featured articles:

Shell Oil Could Lose Millions Over False California Environmental Cleanup Claims, The Sacramento Bee

Drilled, Baby, Drilled: The Strange Battle to Keep Big Oil From Cheating, Westword

Boulders v. Law Firm (Colo. App. 2015)
In the original trial, the jury found defendant Otten Johnson Robinson Neff and Ragonetti PC (Law Firm), guilty of malpractice and awarded damages based on claimed business losses by Boulders at Escalante LLC (Developer). In appeals, the judge found that the evidence was insufficient to support this claim and the multi-million dollar judgement was overturned.

Featured articles:

Boulders at Escalante LLC v. Otten Johnson Robinson Neff and Ragonetti PC, FindLaw

Boulders at Escalante-Foreseeability and Causation in Legal Malpractice Actions, Nemirow Perez Blog

Five Mistakes to Avoid When Facing a Legal Malpractice Claim, Dentons

Justus v. State (Colorado PERA) (Colo. 2014)
In this case, the plaintiffs stated that the pension rate contractually agreed upon by the Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association for yearly increase was unfairly changed. The district court released a summary dismissal, stating that the change was within the contractual rights. In appeals this decision was overturned, with the court finding that the yearly increase must be recalculated each year based on the individuals’ COLA calculation at the time they retired (without adjustment in perpetuity). Sean’s team overturned the appeals court ruling to uphold constitutionality of statutory pension reforms, saving $18 billion in public monies.

Featured articles:

JUSTUS v. STATE, Findlaw

Colorado Supreme Court Rules PERA Can Cut Cost-of-Living Increases, The Denver Post

Pressing Questions in the Colorado PERA Public Pension Lawsuit, Justus v. State, Colorado Pols

The Top Ten: Damning Evidence in the Colorado PERA Retiree Lawsuit, Justus v. State, Colorado Pols

Plaintiffs Will Not Appeal Colorado Supreme Court Decision, Save PERA COLA

Supreme Court Hears Justus v. State & PERA, Save PERA COLA

Colorado OCC v. PUC (Colo. 2012)
At the district court level, the judgment was in favor of the Colorado Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC) in regards to the setting of maximum rates for telecommunications services. At the Supreme Court level, the judgment was reversed, overturning the lower court order that required the national telecommunications provider to refund $30 million.

Featured articles:

Ofc. of Consumer Counsel v. Pub. Utils. Comm’n, Justia

U.S. ex rel. Maxwell v. Kerr McGee Co. (10th Cir. 2008)
This qui tam action against the oil mogul Kerr-McGee was brought by Mr. Bobby Maxwell, a senior auditor for the United States Department of the Interior. Maxwell claimed that Kerr -McGee underpaid royalties for federal offshore oil leases, defrauding the US Government. When the jury returned with a multimillion dollar settlement for Maxwell, the district court reversed the prior ruling on subject matter jurisdiction, stating that the information in the suit had been disclosed to the public, removing jurisdiction under the False Claims Act. Under Sean’s legal leadership, the 10th Circuit court found that the transfer of information was not deemed public disclosure, which resulted in the overturning of the trial court dismissal and restoring the $22 million False Claims Act award.

Featured articles:

UNITED STATES MAXWELL v. United States of America, Amicus Curiae, Findlaw

Two Recent Decisions Hold That A Whistleblower Is Not Barred From Bringing A Qui Tam Lawsuit Based Upon Facts Already Known To The Government As A Result Of Audit Or Investigation That Is Not Known To The General Public, National Law Review

Kerr-McGee Settles Suit Over MMS Royalty Payments, Law360

Qui Tam Plaintiff Awarded $2.2 Million in Attorneys’ Fees, Vandeventer Black Blog

Kaiser v. Bowlen (10th Cir. 2006)

Split Decisions

Yellowbear v. Lampert (10th Cir. 2014)
In a landmark case that Chief Justice Gorsuch stated was “one of the ten most important opinions as a Tenth Circuit Judge, Sean headed up the appeals process for Andrew Yellowbear, who was serving time for murder in a Colorado penitentury. Yellowbear requested access to sweat lodge religious ceremonies, which were denied. The Supreme Court panel vacated the summary judgement from the district court, offering a summary judgement in favor of Yellowbear.

Featured articles:

Yellowbear v. Lampert, FindLaw

Yellowbear v. Lampert, 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

Don’t Believe the Hype: Gorsuch’s Yellowbear Case Reveals Nothing, People For America

Appeal From the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming (D.C. No. 2:11-CV-00346-ABJ), The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

Sweat Lodge Decision Shows Gorsuch’s Attention to Religious Liberty, The Washington Times

RLUIPA Explained in Tenth Circuit Decision re Denial of Sweat Lodge Access, Prison Legal News

Appeals Court: Indian Inmate Can Use Sweat Lodge, The Washington Times

Litigious Wyoming Inmate Complicates Tribe’s Giant Land Claim, The Denver Post

Inmate Claims Religious Discrimination, Casper Star Tribune

Decoding Gorsuch’s Picks for His 10 ‘Most Significant’ Opinions, Reuters

Jo Ann Howard, et al. v. Cassity, et al. (PNC Bank) (8th Cir. 2017)
In this case, appeals litigation led to the affirming in part and vacating in part of a $355.5 million jury verdict against national bank.

Featured articles:

8th Circ. Picks Apart $289M PNC Insurance Scam Judgment, Law360

Pro Bono Cases

Ghailani v. Lynch (10th Cir. 2017)
After a terrorism conviction, plaintiff Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was denied the right to practice group prayers while being held in a Supermax prison facility. The district court dimissed his claims of freedom of religion violation. Sean spearheaded the appellate trial that ended with a reversal of the dismissal.

Featured articles:

Ghailani v. Lynch, United States Court of Appeals, 10th Circuit

Ex-Gitmo Detainee’s Religious-Freedom Case Advances, Courthouse News

Ex-Guantanamo detainee Ghailani may pursue prison prayer claim: U.S. court, Reuters

United States v. Jordan (10th Cir. 2016)
In this case, the defendant pled guilty to felony drug charges, agreeing to the sentencing range offered by the Sentencing Commission. After the sentencing, the range was lowered. The court rejected claims of innocence based on newly discovered evidence.
Dwyer v. State (Colo. 2015)
The plaintiff in this case sued the state for violation of Amendment 23 which requires an annual increase to the “statewide base per pupil funding.” After review, the Supreme Court ruled that the “negative factor” legislation in question did not in fact violate the Amendment. In a 4-3 decision, the constitutional challenge to the state education funding legislation was dismissed.

Featured articles:

Dwyer v. Colorado, Justia

Complaint in Colo Case,

State Supreme Court Hears Arguments on School Funding, Colorado Politics

Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to School Funding Formula, Chalkbeat

Colorado Supreme Court Rebuffs School Funding Challenge: What It Means, Colorado Public Radio