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State v. Center for Excellence in Higher Education, Inc.

2023 CO 23. No. 21SC781. Colorado Consumer Protection Act—Colorado Uniform Consumer Credit Code—Right to Jury Trial—Evidence of Unconscionability.

May 15, 2023

In this civil enforcement action initiated in Denver District Court under the Colorado Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) and the Colorado Consumer Credit Code (UCCC), Colorado’s attorney general and the administrator of the UCCC (collectively, the state) and the respondent corporate entities and individuals that made up the career school known as CollegeAmerica (collectively, CollegeAmerica) ask the Colorado Supreme Court to consider whether a division of the court of appeals erred when it (1) concluded that civil penalty claims under the CCPA are equitable and thus that CollegeAmerica is not entitled to a jury trial on those claims; (2) remanded the case for a new trial on each of the state’s CCPA claims; and (3) concluded that CRS § 5-6-112(3)(a) of the UCCC requires individualized evidence (e.g., evidence regarding specific consumers) in determining whether CollegeAmerica’s loan program was unconscionable.

The Court concluded that the division below properly determined that the state’s CCPA civil penalty claims were equitable in nature and thus did not entitle CollegeAmerica to a jury trial on those claims. The Court further concluded, however, that the division erred in remanding the case for a new trial without first assessing whether the parties had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue of significant public impact and, if so, whether the evidence sufficiently established such an impact. Last, the Court concluded that the division correctly determined that CollegeAmerica’s loan program was not unconscionable, although it disagreed with the division’s conclusion that individualized evidence regarding the probability of repayment was necessary to establish unconscionability.

Accordingly, the Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the division below, and it remanded the case to the division for further proceedings consistent with its opinion.

Official Colorado Supreme Court proceedings can be found at the Colorado Supreme Court website.

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