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Joey BunchJoey BunchOctober 21, 20174min175
The Colorado Civil Justice League cited breakthrough tort-reform legislation this year as it honored 55 of the legislature’s 100 members Friday at the Four Seasons hotel in Denver. “Common sense in the courtroom requires justice for those who have been wronged, balanced by fairness for those who may be wrongfully accused,” CCJL executive director Mark […]

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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirSeptember 20, 20173min3510

Tort-reforming Colorado Civil Justice League has announced a lengthy list of state lawmakers who will be feted at a league luncheon Oct. 20 for their efforts in the statehouse to curb excessive litigation. A press release from the league Tuesday said the legislators will receive the “Common Sense in the Courtroom Award,” along with a satisfying meal, at the annual luncheon at the Denver Four Seasons downtown. (Tickets are available at www.CCJL.org.)

Here’s more from the announcement:

“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.
A highlight of the 2017 legislative session was the passage of House Bill 1279 which addressed construction litigation by ensuring that homeowners are fully informed of costs and risks of litigation and given a formal voice in determining whether to initiate a lawsuit to resolve alleged defective construction.
“The most encouraging development this year is the growing coalition of legislators who value economic growth for all Coloradans above the narrow interests of personal injury lawyers and a handful of plaintiffs,” Hillman added.
The league notes it’s the “only organization in Colorado exclusively dedicated to stopping lawsuit abuse while preserving a system of civil justice that fairly compensates legitimate victims.”
For a full list of the lawmakers who’ll receive the award, check out the full press release; here’s the link again.

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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirSeptember 7, 20172min1100

…is torte. Because it sounds too much like tort. (Sorry; just had to go there.) Even though one’s luscious and the other’s litigious, they’re still too easy to confuse. OK, to be precise, we don’t actually know what’s on the menu at the Colorado Civil Justice League‘s annual Legislative Awards Luncheon Oct. 20 in Denver; we’re just making a reasonable inference.

The business-backed, tort-reforming group, which advocates against laws it believes invite more costly litigation, will recognize state lawmakers who have been allies in the fight. They’ll receive the group’s Common Sense in the Courtroom Award.

Tickets to the event are now on sale, says a CCJL press announcement in this morning’s inbox. You can reserve your your seats here.

Guests at the luncheon also will hear from a nationally accliamed expert on tort reform. Here’s more about that from CCJL:

Featured speaker at this year’s event is Malini Moorthy, head of global litigation for Bayer Corporation, who will speak about “The Mass Tort Machine.” Moorthy is a nationally recognized expert in civil justice reform and complex litigation in the life sciences industry. Last year, she was named a Visionary Leader in Litigation by Inside Counsel magazine. She was also recognized by the National Center for Law and Economic Justice for her extraordinary service to the legal profession and nonprofit community.

And here’s the when-and-where:

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 20

Denver Four Seasons Hotel
Cottonwood Ballroom
1111 14th Street • Denver 80202

Doors open 11:30 a.m. • Luncheon 12 noon

 


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJuly 6, 201713min1111

Remember Brad Jones? Not all that long ago, he was the enfant terrible of conservative-libertarian politics in Colorado. You may recall his tenure as the young man behind the upstart blog Face The State, which among other things exposed an email exchange between two Democratic state lawmakers bashing school choice; it led to the virtual public flogging of one of them, then-Rep. Michael Merrifield of Manitou Springs. Think back far enough, and you might recall Jones as the University of Colorado undergrad and College Republicans chair who made waves staging a campus bake sale mocking affirmative action and held a “conservative coming-out day.” While a student, Jones also worked for Republican former Colorado U.S. Rep. Bob Schaffer’s unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign in 2004. He graduated CU in 2005, worked for a time for the tort-reforming Colorado Civil Justice League and then went on to start and run two successive iterations of Face the State. And Jones did stints as a radio host and a fill-in panelist debating politics on public TV. Now only 33, he has in some ways had a more storied political career than many politicos experience in a lifetime. So, where is he now? Still in Denver, but there’s more. Read on.

Colorado Politics: For a number of years, you had a reputation as a no-holds-barred, in-your-face political advocate, blogger and journalist — whether it was staging a campus bake sale spoofing affirmative action or, later on, exposing the emails of anti-school choice lawmakers. Then, you seemed to drop out and move on from Colorado politics. Why the transition — and what are you up to nowadays?

Brad Jones: It wasn’t so much a transition as a crash-landing. Face The State, the investigative-journalism outfit I was running at the time, ran out of money. I learned the hard way how donor pledges don’t always result in cash for payroll. These days I am a contract web developer, part-time paramedic, volunteer firefighter and CEO of a startup seafood sales business.

CP: What sparked your interest in politics in the first place, and why did you choose a rightward path at an age when so many young people veer left?

Jones: I grew up in Arlington, Virginia; you can see the Washington monument in D.C. from the end of my childhood home’s cul-de-sac. My parents weren’t all that political, but I found myself fighting a losing but formative battle against the county’s all-Democrat school board. I was the captain of my high school’s rifle team — three-position, just like in the Olympics — and we actually practiced and competed at a small, four-lane range in the basement of our rival school. Rifle is a really boring sport in many respects. It’s slow-moving and you need what amounts to a telescope to follow the action. It was the school’s oldest sport and the team was actually quite good. Hardly anyone paid attention to us because we paid almost all our own expenses and there are basically no spectators. After the attacks at Columbine, some local activists were shocked — shocked! — to discover students with “guns at school.” Never mind being perfectly legal under Virginia law, the rifle team and our single-shot, bolt-action .22 caliber rifles were a menace to society, and a budget item to convert our range into storage space quietly made its way into the next year’s budget.

The team succeeded in having the fate of the range pulled out as a separate agenda item, but the school board voted swiftly to ban us to a location off campus at significant expense. Fighting for our survival was a crash course in political sausage-making. My experiences with CU-Boulder’s faculty and staff only served to reinforce my then-conservative views.

CP: How would you describe your political views today, and have you evolved?

Jones: I’m libertarian. I was a registered Republican since moving to Colorado, but changed affiliation to the Libertarian Party a few years ago. While I find Trump intellectually bankrupt, he was only the last of a long line of Republicans — including many in Colorado — to sour me on a party I once proudly supported. In college, I thought our young, socially liberal but pragmatic cohort of College Republicans represented a positive change in direction of the overall party. Over time, I learned my optimism on that front was misplaced. The party’s more recent embrace of Trump — whether reluctant or exuberant, doesn’t matter — reflects the broader abandonment of any real limited-government principles. Partisan politics in 2017 is entirely tribal. I used to argue for picking one of the two major parties in elections along the lines third parties spoiled close elections. Today, I find myself unable to morally justify a vote for most Republican candidates.

CP: Face the State in its earliest iteration was sort of the prototype conservative Colorado blog; it was the pioneer. What lessons did you learn from that experience? Any regrets?

Jones: I’m proud of the full arc of work at Face The State. While our reboot was less “blog,” the focus was always investigative journalism. When we launched, Denver was a two-newspaper town, podcasts were novel and not yet understood, and the Blackberry was king among politicos. That doesn’t sound at all like the landscape today, does it? The positive way to spin FTS’s fall is that we were ahead of our time.

I’ve had a lot of time to perform a post-mortem on Face The State. That we were just a little ahead of our time could be a component but ignores the important choices we made. FTS was an unprofitable but willingly-subsidized venture in its first form, and an explicitly non-profit, donor-funded enterprise in the second. In both cases, though, the money came from politically-motivated people who wanted to create political change in a conservative/free-market direction. I think there were two main mistakes.

First, donors have trouble with political investments that do not have measurable results in the near-term. Campaigns are measured in vote counts, but the battle of ideas never ends. Even think tanks like the Independence Institute, which I personally support, can point to legislation passed or defeated or referenda at the ballot box.

Our goal with Face The State was, all along, to show via powerful reporting the limits of big government and stifling regulation. Donors liked stories that resulted in public disgrace or resignation — think Mike Merrifield, Michael Garcia — but had trouble understanding why we’d write about mismanagement at CHFA or a Highlands home crumbling amid Historic District abuse. Even more frustrating was the mainstream media’s blatant gatekeeping of our stories. Today it’s common for the largest, most respected newspapers to credit online outlets for breaking news. Our donors would read our story in the Denver Post and ask, where’s Face The State’s name? They went out of their way to ignore us.

The second error is all me. I should have early on recruited an advisory board who could help provide top-cover with our donors and others. I was under 30, had little business experience, and was simply outgunned by professional political handlers. We were forming a board when we closed shop, and it was a painful lesson to learn.

CP: Why do you think so many college students become liberals/progressives, at least, for a time? Describe what it was like being identifiably on the right at CU in Boulder — of all places.

Jones: The first question is easier to answer; college is no longer, and probably has not been for some time, primarily a vehicle for higher education. Cheap, no-questions-asked federal student aid has made schools, and especially the University of Colorado, black holes for these publicly-subsidized tuition dollars. Much of this increase in spending goes to administration and “student services,” not classrooms. Evidence the “Center for Community” on CU-Boulder’s campus, a towering monument to diversity consultants and self-segregating student groups. Students who spend 12-plus years in public schools learning from predominantly liberal teachers are primed to fit right in to a campus culture that actively encourages you to find your inner victim.

As for my personal experience, I learned a lot about myself and the way the world “really” worked while at CU. One example: Our “affirmative action bake sale” was an idea blatantly ripped-off from other campuses but nonetheless a powerful demonstration of how racial preferences are, themselves, tragically racist. After the university tried to unconstitutionally bar us from even holding the event, we were quite literally overrun by student protesters who would defend the university. Looking on were then vice-chancellor of student affairs, Ron Stump, and the chief of the CU police department. I doubt that’s the kind of “safe space” they would tolerate for any liberal event on campus. I imagine the situation is much worse today.

CP: What’s the greatest challenge facing those on the political right today?

Jones: The Republican Party is totally bereft of any intellectual integrity. If I were a GOP voter in the last few election cycles, I would have every right to feel cheated and betrayed by a Congress that promised Obamacare repeal and instead delivers a budget-busting, populist tragedy that simply changes the law’s name.

That’s not to say there aren’t elected Republicans with integrity, but the national trend is such that there really is no recognizable Republican brand for limited government.

CP: Who is your favorite Democrat on today’s political scene — in Colorado or beyond — and why?

Jones: I’ve always respected Jared Polis. I disagree with much of his politics, of course, but he is willing to take the occasional unpopular stand and has generally engaged his critics with respect. He’s also willing to lead on issues like banking for marijuana businesses, which is a critical safety and business issue for Colorado. My congresswoman, Diana DeGette, seems to understand she basically has job security for life, but is about as politically consequential as a House freshman.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJune 9, 20176min550

The Colorado Civil Justice League long has served as the state’s standard bearer for tort reform. Working with prominent business groups, the league has taken the lead in advocating policies that rein in what it sees as runaway litigation and unwarranted damages awards that can cripple the economy.

Up against those efforts? The proverbial plaintiffs’ bar — the state’s personal-injury lawyers, who contend “tort reform” is a euphemism for curtailing basic civil rights — but not much in the way of organized opposition.

Or so we’d thought until we stumbled across Caps HarmColorado on Twitter:

The campaign is part of a nationwide project by the New York Law School’s Center for Justice & Democracy and aims to push back at industry-backed tort reform groups. Colorado’s iteration of the effort also has a Facebook page as well as a rudimentary website, which argues the case for a very different kind of reform in Colorado — one that would make it easier to sue for negligence in the Centennial State:

If you or a family member are badly hurt because a big company acted recklessly, you should be able to take that company to court and be fully compensated.  But in Colorado, you can’t.  That’s because Colorado lawmakers have enacted some of the harshest laws in the nation limiting the rights of everyday Coloradans.  And if you or your child is a patient injured in an unsafe hospital, the restrictions on your rights are even more severe.

In addition, when it comes to the personal responsibility of corporations and health care providers that cause injury or death, Colorado’s laws relieve these wrongdoers of accountability for their misconduct.

The website elaborates on how caps, or statutory limits, that have been placed on various kinds of jury awards — for non-economic damages, for punitive damages, for medical-malpractice cases and the like — shortchange victims of negligence.

True confessions: While both the group’s Twitter account and its Facebook page show a 2012 startup, we’d never heard of them until the other day. Don’t we feel silly! Perhaps one reason for Caps Harm Colorado’s low-profile is the evident lack of a local presence; no in-state contacts are apparent on any of the group’s media, which loop visitors and followers back to the Center for Justice & Democracy.

So, is it a worthy, if not-so-new adversary for the Colorado Civil Justice League? The league’s longtime executive director, former Colorado Senate Majority and Minority Leader Mark Hillman of Burlington, didn’t hold back when asked for his reaction via email:

” ‘Caps Harm’ is a project driven by a lawsuit-loving faction at the New York Law School.  It attempts to discredit lawsuit limits across the country, claiming to want to be sure people get a ‘fair shake’ in court.  This is a one-sided approach that ignores that most people never file a lawsuit, yet they still need good jobs and affordable goods and services.  Lawsuit limits ensure that legitimate victims can be properly compensated without turning our courts into a litigation lottery in which a handful of trial lawyers and plaintiffs strike it rich at the expense of everyone else.  Frivolous lawsuits make everything we buy more expensive and reduce our choices as consumers.”

That said, we look forward to further input from both sides.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMay 22, 20173min460

To the cheers of the business community and the jeers of the plaintiff’s bar, the Colorado Civil Justice League regularly champions public policies to rein in what it contends is excessive, costly litigation. Generally speaking, legislation at the Capitol that would make it easier to sue, or to reap larger damages awards, gets a thumbs-down from the advocacy group.

And by that measure, Colorado’s 2017 session didn’t do badly in the league’s eyes. Notably, it preserved the status quo on most of the issues the league tracks — and even moved the ball the right way in one policy area.

Which for the league translates to a B grade for the session, as noted in a blog post today on its website.

What did lawmakers do to rate above average even if, for the most part, they did nothing at all? Construction-litigation reform, of course:

Sponsored by Rep. Alec Garnett (D-Denver), Rep. Lori Saine (R-Firestone), Sen. Jack Tate (R-Centennial) and Sen. Lucia Guzman (D-Denver), HB 1279 was the product of many hours of work including a much larger coalition of lawmakers from both parties, as well as advocates representing homeowners and homebuilders.

RepWhile not as ambitious as we might have hoped, the bill nonetheless moves the ball forward by ensuring that homeowners are fully informed of costs and risks and given a formal voice in determining whether to initiate litigation to resolve alleged defective construction.

Anything that makes it more difficult for a cadre of plaintiffs attorneys to steamroll HOA members down the path toward litigation is an improvement over the status quo, which has construction of multi-family owner-occupied projects crawling at a snail’s pace.

The league also lauds bipartisan votes that it says were “instrumental in advancing worthwhile bills or defeating others that invited further lawsuit abuse.”

Read more; here’s the link again.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirApril 24, 20175min48
Legislation to bar employers from inquiring about the criminal history of job applicants underwent nips and tucks last week to soften its impact before being approved by majority Democrats in the state House today on a party-line vote. Among the tweaks amended into House Bill 1305 was the removal of provisions that some critics said set up a […]

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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirApril 14, 20174min44
Even amid the ever-shifting alliances of hardball politics, there are some loyalties you generally can rely on. You know, like how the environmentalists, the abortion-rights advocates and the trial lawyers are generally in the Democrats’ corner. And the gun owners, the right-to-lifers and the fossil fuelers — to say nothing of the tort reformers — will line up with the GOP. […]

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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMarch 21, 20173min530

Colorado tort reformers are cheering the progress of legislation to rein in a “lawsuit tax” they say drives excessive and costly litigation. Senate Bills 181, sponsored by Sen. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, and 191, sponsored by Sen. Jack Tate, R-Centennial, would tweak what the Colorado Civil Justice League calls, “obscure laws that drive up the cost of a lawsuit beyond the actual cost of damages.” Though the laws in question go unnoticed by much of society, the League contends the ripple effects undermine the overall economy.

The unheralded measures passed the state Senate last week.

As we’ve reported here before, SB 181 takes on what are sometimes called “phantom damages.” The League explains:

Let’s say someone injured in an auto accident receives an initial bill for $140,000 for medical costs. The injured party’s insurance company settles the bill for a negotiated amount of $40,000. But when the injured party sues the at-fault driver for other damages — like pain and suffering or physical impairment — he will begin by claiming the full $140,000 in damages for medical costs. That’s because current law says that juries cannot be told that those bills were actually settled for $40,000.

The difference between the two amounts equals the phantom damages, i.e., an amount never actually paid out for expenses incurred by the plaintiff — yet included in the amount submitted to the jury as the basis of the plaintiff’s claims for pain and suffering.

SB 181 would change that, instead requiring juries to be informed of both amounts when deciding what reimbursement to award.

And 191 would rein in the interest rates that are assessed on damages awards; critics say current law encourages plaintiffs and personal injury lawyers to drag out disputes to reap the rewards of statutorily, yet arbitrarily, set interest rates that inflate the final payout.



Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMarch 2, 20174min480

Those who contend that litigation is out of control across society point to a “lawsuit tax” as one of the culprits. You won’t find a lawsuit tax per se in the state revenue code, of course, but the tort-reforming Colorado Civil Justice League says there are laws on the books that amount to pretty much the same thing. They are “obscure laws that drive up the cost of a lawsuit beyond the actual cost of damages,” as the League puts it in a press release this week.

The League is supporting a couple of bills now pending in the legislature to address the issue.

Senate Bill 181 takes on what are sometimes called “phantom damages.” The press release explains:

Let’s say someone injured in an auto accident receives an initial bill for $140,000 for medical costs. The injured party’s insurance company settles the bill for a negotiated amount of $40,000. But when the injured party sues the at-fault driver for other damages — like pain and suffering or physical impairment — he will begin by claiming the full $140,000 in damages for medical costs. That’s because current law says that juries cannot be told that those bills were actually settled for $40,000.

The difference between the two amounts equals the phantom damages, i.e., an amount never actually paid out for expenses incurred by the plaintiff — yet included in the amount submitted to the jury as the basis of the plaintiff’s claims for pain and suffering.

SB 181 would change that, instead requiring juries to be informed of both amounts when deciding what reimbursement to award.

Senate Bill 191, meanwhile, would rein in the interest rates that are assessed on damages awards; critics say current law encourages plaintiffs and personal injury lawyers to drag out disputes to reap the rewards of statutorily, yet arbitrarily, set interest rates that inflate the final payout.

The plaintiffs’ bar, of course, begs to differ. Particularly when it comes to the issue of phantom damages, the counterpoint from trial lawyers against changing the law is that defendants should have to own up to their negligence. Plaintiffs shouldn’t be shortchanged for their pain and suffering just because their health insurers were successful in bargaining down their bills for medical care.

The League, however, contends:

SBs 181 and 191 preserve the right of an injured party to be fully and properly compensated for their injuries, while sparing Colorado drivers and homeowners the burden of paying for phantom damages and ridiculous interest rates.

Tort reform long has been a cause associated with the GOP, and these bills are no exception. SB 181’s sponsors are Sen. Bob Gardner and Rep. Yeulin Willett. SB 191’s sponsors are Sen. Jack Tate, Willett and Rep. Cole Wist. All are Republicans.