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Riggs Oil & Gas Corp. v. Jonah Energy LLC.

2024 COA 57. No. 23CA0449. Colorado Rules of Appellate Procedure—Appeals in Civil Cases—Extension of Time to File a Notice of Appeal—Excusable Neglect—Prejudice to Parties.

May 23, 2024

The district court entered judgment in favor of numerous plaintiffs against Jonah Energy LLC. The district court subsequently granted the plaintiffs’ “Motion to Release Escrow and Approve Forms of Assignment” on January 23, 2023. Jonah Energy sought to appeal the ruling, and pursuant to C.A.R. 4(a)(1), its notice of appeal was due in the court of appeals 49 days from January 23, 2023, which was March 13, 2023. On March 13, according to counsel for Jonah Energy (counsel), his assistant selected an option in the Colorado courts’ e-filing system to commence a new case filing in the district court rather than the court of appeals. At 4:36 p.m. on March 13, the e-filing system sent a submission receipt for the notice of appeal to counsel indicating that the notice of appeal had been filed in Denver District Court. The next day, the district court sent counsel a rejection notice stating, “Document is captioned for the appeals court.” Later that day, counsel filed a notice of appeal in the court of appeals along with a motion for leave to file the notice of appeal out of time because counsel’s late filing was due to excusable neglect. A motions division accepted the untimely appeal, and the parties briefed the issue of the untimely filing of the notice of appeal.

Jonah Energy argued that the court of appeals should consider prejudice to the parties as part of its excusable neglect analysis. Under C.A.R. 4(a)(1), a party in a civil case must file a notice of appeal no later than 49 days from the date of the judgment or order unless the party seeking to commence the appeal missed the filing deadline due to excusable neglect pursuant to C.A.R. 4(a)(4). The court held that prejudice to the parties is not considered when determining whether the late filing of a notice of appeal under C.A.R. 4(a) was attributable to excusable neglect. Rather, prejudice is only considered if the court first determines that the neglect was excusable and then analyzes whether it should exercise its discretion to accept the untimely notice of appeal. Here, appellant’s untimely notice of appeal was not a result of excusable neglect but rather resulted from counsel’s carelessness when he failed to timely read the district court’s submission receipt showing that his nonlawyer assistant had filed the notice of appeal in the wrong court. Accordingly, the court did not consider the issue of prejudice, and it dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

The appeal was dismissed with prejudice.

Official Colorado Court of Appeals proceedings can be found at the Colorado Court of Appeals website.

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