Colorado imposes a comparative negligence standard on damages. In particular, the Colorado legislature has declared that no defendant shall be liable for an amount greater than the defendant’s percentage of negligence or fault. However, if a defendant believes a nonparty is liable for the plaintiff’s damages, the defendant must take specific steps to protect itself and explicitly designate the nonparty at fault. Plaintiffs frequently move to strike…
On August 31, 2018, the Colorado State Judicial Branch released the revised Colorado Rules of Probate Procedure. The procedure for seeking Court approval of a personal injury settlement with a minor or disabled person is now governed by C.R.P.P. 62. Although Rule 62 provides very detailed instruction on how to obtain Court approval of a settlement with a minor or disabled person, defense counsel must still walk a fine ethical…
On April 8, 2019, Colorado’s Governor, Jared Solis, signed Senate Bill 19-109 into law, increasing the caps on damages.[i] The law represents the first increase in damage caps in twelve years and will go into effect on January 1, 2020.
On May 22, 2019, Governor of Colorado Jared Polis signed HSB 19-1283 into law, which goes into effect on January 1, 2020. Once the new law goes into effect, claimants may be able to obtain substantially more information regarding policy limits prior to filing a suit. Insurance providers should be aware of the new law, and should be aware of the increased need to obtain defense council early in a case to avoid unnecessary litigation…
Eighth Amendment—Corporations—Excessive Fines—Workers’ Compensation Noncompliance
Colo. Dep’t of Labor & Emp’t, Div. of Workers’ Comp. v. Dami Hosp., LLC (June 3, 2019)
Dami Hospitality, LLC (“Dami”) is the owner-operator of a Denver motel. Dami employs between four and ten people at any given time. As an employer of three or more persons, Dami is required by statute to maintain…
Scholle v. Delta Air Lines, Inc. (May 23, 2019) P.3d, 2019 COA 81, 2019 WL 2219704; Colorado Court of Appeals, Division VI
Under the Collateral Source Rule in Colorado, generally, payments a plaintiff’s insurer makes to their insured in relation to injuries sustained are not admissible evidence to show the cost of plaintiff’s medical expenses. Instead, Colorado law allows a plaintiff to present as evidence of his or her damages the higher amount the medical provider billed.
We are all familiar with the notion of statutes of limitations, with the legal terms having found its way into the average law person’s lexicon. However, what appears to be a relatively simple legal theory can actually give rise to a multitude of considerations. This article is intended as a survey of the commonly encountered ones, as well as a guide to evaluating a potential violations of an applicable statute of limitations.
The Colorado Ski Safety Act was first enacted in 1979 by the Colorado General Assembly. Some of its purposes are to define the responsibilities of skiers using the ski area and the rights and liabilities between skiers and the skier and ski area operator.
The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) is responsible for enforcing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (“EPA”), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”), Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), Sections 102 and 103 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (“GINA”).
What was the intent of the Colorado Legislature?
Colorado Revised Statute Section 42.4.237(7) provides that evidence of seat belt non-use “shall be admissible to mitigate pain and suffering damages with respect to any person who was involved in a motor accident and who seeks any subsequent litigation to recover damages for injuries resulting from the accident.” The Supreme Court of Colorado has held the use of the world “shall” signifies the legislature intended for seat belt non-use to be admissible, if the non-use is supported by competent, sufficient evidence. The General Assembly of Colorado enacted the Mandatory Seat Belt Act to promote seat belt use. In the Act, the amount of pain and suffering damages is decreased in proportion to injuries attributable to seat belt non-use. Thus, the legislature’s intent is clear and the non-use of a seat belt is an affirmative defense and is admissible.
The Colorado Court of Appeals, Divisions I and V have both recently issued rulings in the last month with holdings that may affect civil litigants, particularly insurance carriers. In Lorenzen v. Pinnacol Assurance, the Colorado Court of Appeals, Division I, addressed the issue of what constitutes a viable theory of causation and the requirements for adequately pleading a claim for noneconomic injuries unrelated to physical impairment. Additionally, in Houchin v. Denver Health and Hospital Authority, the Court of Appeals, Division V, addressed whether claims brought under the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act against a state hospital operator are subject to the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act.
“Mean Streets,” “Roadhouse,” “Boondock Saints,” and “A Bronx Tale” all have epic bar fight scenes. The common denominator is a tavern frequented by, let us just say, a rough crowd and a tavern owner who is presumably looking the other way. Of course, it is just Hollywood. Or is it? What about our neighborhood watering holes? Those establishments are not immune from the occasional or sometimes frequent disagreements among patrons devolving into fisticuffs or worse.
Brown v. American Standard Insurance Company of Wisconsin (January 24, 2019 WL 302838)
Cancellation of issued insurance policies must be based on accurate information.
Plaintiff Michael Brown purchased a motorcycle insurance policy from American Standard. Soon after, American Standard mailed a notice to Mr. Brown canceling the policy because he did not have a valid driver’s license. Mr. Brown did not dispute the cancellation. He was then in a motorcycle accident and sustained serious injuries. When Mr. Brown made a claim for benefits pursuant to the American Standard uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, American Standard denied the claim due to lack of coverage.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates Colorado’s population increased 13.2 percent between April 1, 2010 and July 1, 2018.[i] In the last full calendar year alone, Colorado added almost 80,000 people, making it the seventh fastest-growing state in the country. Naturally, these new residents, in addition to the natives, need places to live, learn, shop, play, and get health care. So it should be no surprise Colorado has experienced a building boom paralleling its population increase.
In re: Kayla Fox v. William Alfini, Jr. D.C. and Brady Chiropractic Group. P.C. (December 3, 2018, 2018 WL 6441601)
Kayla Fox who was in her early thirties suffered a stroke immediately after receiving chiropractic treatment and survived. Fox and her parents later contacted an attorney to discuss a possible malpractice action against the chiropractor. The attorney recorded a portion of this initial consultation.
The debate over health care and what policies states should implement is not unique to Colorado. Across the country the debate rages as to the function of the government in relation to health care. In Colorado, the November midterm election resulted in a Democratic sweep: the state house, state senate, and governor are now all members of the Democratic party. As a result, there are already several proposed bills that would drastically change the landscape of health care in Colorado.
Insurance—Bad Faith—Independent Medical Exams
No. 18SA135, Schultz v. GEICO Casualty Company, § 10-3-1115, C.R.S. (2018)
Plaintiff-petitioner Charissa Schultz was injured in a 2015 car accident when the other vehicle driver failed to stop at a stop sign. The other vehicle driver’s insurance company settled for its $25,000 policy limit, and Schultz made a demand on her own uninsured/underinsured motorist benefits under her GEICO policy, which also had a $25,000 limit.
When a person is injured in the workplace, generally speaking, the only compensation the employee is entitled to comes from his or her employer’s worker’ compensation insurance. To the chagrin of employees and plaintiffs’ attorneys, while a workers’ compensation claim can certainly result in money and benefits, both temporary and permanent disability payments are usually considered not adequate to compensate the employee. Further, typical forms of non-economic damages recoverable in civil actions are not available before a workers’ compensation board, such as pain and suffering and punitive damages seeking to punish an employer for dangerous work conditions or inadequate safety policies and procedures. However, conduct a state-by-state survey and one will find vastly different exclusivity statutes, providing for wide-ranging exceptions. So, knowing the scope of recovery under your state’s workers’ compensation is important.
Can a Colorado trial court in a personal injury trial instruct the jury to consider the effects on plaintiff’s injuries of alternative incidents (such as a second car accident) if the defendant fails to introduce evidence supporting such an instruction? In Herrera v. Lerma, 2018 COA 141 (September 20, 2018), the Colorado Court of Appeal answered the question in the negative and held such instruction would invite the jury to engage in “mere conjecture.”
It is axiomatic that hosting parties and welcoming friends, families and even strangers into our home, serving alcohol, food and other arrangements has become engrained in our social fabric. Commonly accepted, with little regard for legal consequences, we desire to host the perfect party, make our guest feel welcome and ensure everyone has fun. Often, we overlook indiscretions that could have legal consequences, such as, a minor sneaking alcohol or a guest having one too many. Social responsibility would suggest that as host we consider the safety of our guests and even people our guests may come into contact with after they leave the party. The law, however, does not always encourage what may seem as the most socially responsible course of action.
Hernandez v. City & County of Denver, 2018 WL 5074557
Stella Hernandez sued Deputy Sheriff Tracey Dodson and other Denver Detention Center employees for personal injuries she sustained while incarcerated. In her Complaint, Ms. Hernandez advances allegations of negligence, as well as willful and wanton conduct.
Can a non-client sue an attorney for malpractice or breach of contract absent a showing of fraud, malicious conduct, or negligent misrepresentation? In Bewley v. Semler, 2018 CO 79 (Sept. 24, 2018), the Colorado Supreme Court answered the question in the negative. Absent such claims of wrongdoing, the strict privity rule bars claims against attorneys by non-clients, because, as the court ruled, holding otherwise may force attorneys to place non-clients’ interests ahead of clients’ interests.
RIGHT TO A JURY TRIAL – CIVIL ACTIONS
Mason v. Farm Credit of Southern Colorado, 419 P.3d 975 (Col. Sup. Ct.)
Between 2008 and 2011, Zachary Mason entered into several loan agreements with Farm Credit of Southern Colorado (“Farm Credit”) wherein he granted Farm Credit a perfected security interest in some of his crops, farm equipment, and other personal property. After he defaulted on the loans, Farm Credit filed a lawsuit, in 2012, on various claims based in contract and tort.
Rooftop Restoration, Inc. v. American Family Mut. Ins. Co.
In this recent Colorado Supreme Court decision, the Court issued an opinion interpreting and applying C.R.S. §§ 10-3-1115/1116, the statutes that provide a private right of action against an insurer for unreasonable delay or denial of insurance benefits. The Court held claims under the statute are not subject to the one-year statute of limitations applicable to penalties and insureds are entitled to recover two times the covered insurance benefit in addition to the covered benefit, for a total of three times the covered benefit. In order to reach this conclusion, the Court looked at the language of the accrual statute associated with Colorado’s statutory scheme for statutes of limitation. The accrual statute states that a cause of action for penalties accrues when the determination of overpayment or delinquency is no longer subject to appeal. The Court reasoned that an action for unreasonable delay/denial never leads to a determination of overpayment or delinquency. Thus, the Court reasoned, if a cause of action for unreasonable delay/denial is a penalty subject to the one-year statute of limitations, it would never accrue and the clock to bring the claim would never start ticking. The Court concluded the “penalty” actions referred to in the statute of limitations cannot include unreasonable delay/denial actions. Accordingly, the Court held claims under C.R.S. §§ 10-3-1115/1116 are not governed by the one-year statute of limitations in C.R.S. § 13-80-103(1)(d).