Legislative Update

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Nearly one month into the 2019 legislative session, CCJL is keeping a close eye on bills that would create new lawsuits or impose new costs on Colorado businesses and the working families who rely on them.

Here’s a look at emerging bills and issues:

Criminal History of Job Applicants - House Bill 1025 (sponsored by Reps. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, and Jovan Melton, D-Aurora) prohibits employers from excluding people with a criminal history from applying for a job opening. It does not say that employers can’t consider someone’s criminal history, only that those applicants cannot be automatically excluded from applying. Commendably, the bills’ sponsors did not create a new “right to sue” (aka private right of action) as the enforcement mechanism, instead relying on a state agency to investigate possible violations. This is a procedure that others should emulate if they truly wish to address a perceived problem rather than create incentives for more litigation.

Homeless Right to Sue - HB 1096 (Rep. Melton) is the latest iteration of the so-called Right-to-Rest Act. The bill targets local government ordinances which regulate when and where people are allowed to sleep or camp on public sidewalks, in parks or on other public property. It also compares such ordinances to “cruel and unusual punishment” and allows for enforcement via lawsuit.

Add District Court Judges - Senate Bill 43 (Sen. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, and Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs) adds 15 new district court judges in several judicial districts around the state. Given the increased demands on our state’s court system, CCJL supports this bill as a means of ensuring that legitimate claims can be handled without needless expense or delay.

Pay Disparites - SB 85 (Sen. Jessie Danielson, D-Wheat Ridge, and Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood) is advertised as “equal pay for equal work.” That’s a worthy goal, but the text of the bill, as introduced, sets too many “litigation traps” by treating every conceivable pay disparity as evidence of discrimination - and grounds for a lawsuit. For example, the bill doesn’t recognize that an employer with offices in Vail, Colorado Springs and Akron has a legitimate reason to pay a different salary to managers at those locations based on the vastly disparate costs-of-living in those communities. Another serious concern is that the bill completely eliminates the authority of the Department of Labor to investigate and enforce wage discrimination claims and turns that authority over to the civil litigation system with privately-hired attorneys acting on behalf of aggrieved employees. The bill also creates significant, additional burdens for businesses in terms of job posting requirements and record keeping.

Increase Lawsuit Damage Caps - SB 109 (Sen. Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder) increases the existing limitations on jury awards for non-economic damages (pain and suffering, emotional stress, loss of enjoyment of life) from the current $468,000 (or $936,000 in extreme cases) by adjusting for inflation. While inflation applies to the cost of goods and services, there’s no way to measure the value of intangibles like “pain and suffering.” There is no doubt that this legislation will increase costs to Colorado families and consumers who will see the value of their present insurance reduced and face the cost of paying higher premiums for additional coverage to keep the same protections today.

 

Report: Colorado verging on 'Judicial Hellhole' status

Monday, December 10, 2018

Anyone wondering why insurance premiums are on the rise in Colorado need look no further than four recent decisions by the Colorado Supreme Court.  Those rulings expand liability and increase litigation costs, so consumers can expect to pay more for insurance coverage.

After all, insurance companies simply set premiums to cover their anticipated costs.

As a result, a new report by the American Tort Reform Association finds Colorado teetering on the verge of becoming a “Judicial Hellhole.”

 

Liability-expanding decisions by the Colorado Supreme Court coupled with the prospects of a pro-plaintiff legislative agenda has created an unfair and unbalanced environment for those who face lawsuits in the Centennial State. The state appears to be moving in a dangerous direction and if it does not correct course, the Colorado Supreme Court or the state may find itself in unwanted company on next year’s Judicial Hellholes list.

Four Colorado Supreme Court decisions issued in 2018 have exposed insurers to expanded liability, which will lead to higher rates for consumers.

Each of these decisions addressed the responsibility of insurers to promptly pay valid insurance claims. That is a reasonable and common requirement, however, Colorado takes an outlier approach. Under Colorado’s bad faith law, a person can recover the amount of the covered benefit that was improperly delayed or denied, plus two times that value (essentially, triple damages), plus attorneys’ fees and costs.

Read the full ATRA Judicial Hellholes report HERE.

Meanwhile, Forbes' Best States for Business ranks Colorado 8th overall, but 40th in costs and regulations as the state's worsening lawsuit climate (now ranked 35th) becomes a bothersome factor.


 

 

'Common Sense' legislators to be honored by CCJL at Oct. 24 event

Sunday, September 23, 2018

DENVER — Colorado Civil Justice League has announced winners of its Common Sense in the Courtroom Awards, given to state legislators who have demonstrated a commitment to curtailing lawsuit abuse.

Awards will be presented at CCJL’s Legislative Awards Luncheon on Wednesday, Oct. 24, at the Denver Four Seasons.

CCJL is the only organization in Colorado exclusively dedicated to stopping lawsuit abuse while preserving a system of civil justice that fairly compensates legitimate victims.

“Common Sense in the Courtroom requires justice for those who have been wronged, balanced by fairness for those who may be wrongfully accused,” said CCJL executive director Mark Hillman.

The best news from the 2018 legislative session was the bills that didn’t pass.Late in the legislative session, two bills were introduced to discourage arbitration – an alternative to litigation that often saves time and money.  The alternative to arbitration?  Hiring a lawyer and filing a lawsuit, of course.

Other bills were introduced to address business practices that result in perceived greed or inequity.  The irony, however, is that in each of these bills the remedy to alleged “corporate greed” was to create new incentives for profiteering by personal injury lawyers.

"At CCJL, we are grateful for the bipartisan support of legislators who understand the importance of an efficient and balanced court system to our state's economy," Hillman said.

Common Sense in the Courtroom Award recipients include:

  • Representatives Jon Becker (Fort Morgan), Susan Beckman (Littleton), Perry Buck (Greeley), Terri Carver (Colorado Springs), Marc Catlin (Montrose), Phil Covarrubias (Brighton), Justin Everett (Littleton), Matt Gray (Broomfield), Chris Hansen (Denver), Steve Humphrey (Eaton), Tracy Kraft-Tharp (Arvada), Lois Landgraf (Fountain), Polly Lawrence (Douglas County), Tim Leonard (Evergreen), Kimmi Lewis (Kim), Larry Liston (Colorado Springs), Paul Lundeen (Monument), Hugh McKean (Loveland), Patrick Neville (Franktown), Dan Pabon (Denver), Bob Rankin (Carbondale), Kim Ranson (Douglas County), Judy Reyher (La Junta), Lori Saine (Firestone), Shane Sandridge (Colorado Springs), Lang Sias (Arvada), Dan Thurlow (Grand Junction), Kevin Van Winkle (Highlands Ranch), Yeulin Willett (Grand Junction), David Williams (Colorado Springs), Jim Wilson (Salida), Alex "Skinny" Winkler (Northglenn) and Cole Wist (Centennial).

  • Senators Rachel Zenzinger (Arvada), Angela Williams (Denver), Jack Tate (Centennial), Jerry Sonnenberg (Sterling), Jim Smallwood (Castle Rock), Ray Scott (Grand Junction), Kevin Priola (Brighton), Tim Neville (Littleton), Beth Martinez Humenik (Thornton), Vicki Marble (Fort Collins), Kevin Lundberg (Berthoud), Kent Lambert (Colorado Springs), Cheri Jahn (Wheat Ridge), Chris Holbert (Parker), Owen Hill (Colorado Springs), Kevin Grantham (Canon City), Bob Gardner (Colorado Springs), Larry Crowder (Alamosa), Don Coram (Montrose), John Cooke (Greeley) and Randy Baumgardner (Hot Sulphur Springs).

    This year's luncheon is sponsored by American Furniture Warehouse, Colorado Association of Mechanical and Plumbing Contractors, State Farm, HuschBlackwell, Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell and COPIC.