January 29, 2020 Feature

Civil Theft Claims Not Barred by Economic Loss Rule

Separation of powers prevents judge-made rule from barring statutory claims

By Catherine M. Chiccine

The economic loss rule does not bar a statutory claim for civil theft, even where the theft also breaches the parties’ contract, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled. Separation of powers principles prevent this judicially created rule from limiting statutory causes of action, the court reasoned. This ruling follows the recent trend toward contraction of the economic loss rule.

Separation of powers between judicial and legislative branches

Separation of powers between judicial and legislative branches

Photo illustration by Elmarie Jara / Getty Images

Civil Theft Also Breaches Parties’ Contract

In Bermel v. BlueRadios, Inc., the plaintiff had contracted to provide services for the defendant, a wireless data and communications company. The plaintiff’s contract prohibited him from removing any proprietary information from the defendant’s premises. In August 2014, the plaintiff sued the defendant for unpaid wages and expenses he had incurred on behalf of the business. In anticipation of his lawsuit, the plaintiff knowingly forwarded thousands of emails from his business email account to his personal email account. Those emails contained the defendant’s proprietary information.

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