SunOpta Case Summary
Colo. Mills, LLC v. SunOpta Grains & Foods, Inc.
No. 11SA82, Colorado Supreme Court (February 6, 2012)
In an arbitration proceeding between SunOpta Grains and Foods, Inc. and Colorado Mills, LLC, an arbitrator issued subpoenas (regarding product pricing) to two out-of-state, nonparties to the litigation at SunOpta’s request. These two parties, SK Food International (SK Food) and Adams Vegetable Oil (Adams), refused to comply with the subpoenas and SunOpta asked the district court to enforce them. The court issued an order enforcing the subpoenas, basing their authority to do so on Colorado’s version of the Revised Uniform Arbitration Act and Colorado’s long-arm statute. SK Food and Adams filed a petition for a rule to show cause.
1. Colorado courts have no authority to enforce a civil subpoena against out-of-state nonparties. Enforcement of these subpoenas is within the authority of the state where such discovery is to take place.
2. While an arbitrator has the authority to permit discovery as appropriate in the case, and to issue subpoenas for attendance of witnesses and production of records (§13-22-217 C.R.S. (2011)), a Colorado court may not enforce such a subpoena against a nonparty who is out-of-state. “A district court has the same authority to enforce subpoenas in civil actions regardless of whether arbitration is involved or not.”
3. Colorado’s long-arm statute only subjects residents and non-residents who have engaged in an enumerated act within Colorado to the jurisdiction of the courts of Colorado. §13-1-124 C.R.S. (2011). Because neither SK Food nor Adams engaged in an enumerated act within Colorado, the long-arm statute does not apply. There is no authority in Colorado, or any other state, for applying a long-arm statute to enforce a civil subpoena against an out-of-state nonparty, and the recent adoption of the Uniform Interstate Depositions and Discovery Act by many states, including Colorado, indicates that a mechanism separate from long-arm statutes is required to enforce these subpoenas.