We often hear and repeat the statement that “knowledge is money”. Hopefully, I can shed some light on this statement when evaluating a meth case in Colorado by the following article. I often get calls about methamphetamine contamination cases and plaintiffs are “disillusioned” with their counsel and the status of their case.
Much of what is written about the legal obligations in methamphetamine (meth) deal with Seller and Buyer in a real estate transaction. Sadly, this statute focuses on disclosure involving a residential or commercial sale of real property and the attendant legal obligations of the parties to that transaction. See C.R.S. § 38-35.7-101 et seq.
If methamphetamine is discovered during the real estate transaction, the Buyer can have it tested and must promptly disclose to the Seller. Buyer can either terminate the contract to purchase or assume liability and have property remediated.
If Seller fails to disclose, and Buyer learns after the sale of an illicit meth lab, Buyer can sue within three years and recover damages associated with the costs of remediation, health costs and attorney’s fees. While this relief sounds relatively simple and all encompassing, it is fraught with assumptions that by a simple reading, one is lulled into believing recovery will be straight-forward and relatively quick.
As implied above, mere reliance on the above-reference statute provides legal relief to the buyer, but also contains a number of pitfalls. As an example, a defense attorney can focus on the aspect that that the methamphetamine contaminated property is not an illicit meth lab as well as that that the criminal act of methamphetamine is an intervening criminal act and excuses the property owner from liability.
Further, it is possible for a court to conclude that the while the property is heavily contaminated by use, no manufacture of meth was conclusively determined, therefore, it does not constitute a clandestine meth lab. Courts focus and rely on the Plaintiff’s methamphetamine expert for this determination. Sadly, if the property is found not to be an illicit meth lab, recovery under the statute will be impaired or possibly denied.
Costs of bringing suit to enforce recovery can be daunting as well as time consuming. Experts are required for trial, and their fees can be high, depending on the expert’s length of involvement and trial preparation. Additionally, documented test of contamination by industrial hygienist are required.
Well-versed defense counsel are thoroughly aware of the high costs associated with preparing such a case for trial and also realize that delaying trial increases the prospects of settlement at a cost detrimental to the Plaintiff.
One can also imagine what occurs in a situation where a tenant is involved in a meth-contaminated unit and whether the above statute affords legal relief to them?
The experienced real estate litigator will delve into other theories of relief which provide a panoply of remedies often not contemplated by the statute. Do see my other articles on this unfortunate but prevalent issue in Colorado. Our firm has handled, is well-versed, and prevailed on its cases involving methamphetamine contaminated residences in the State of Colorado. If confronted with any legal issue involving methamphetamine, contact Schunk & Associates for additional information.
To learn more about methamphetamine issues, please link to an additional article here.