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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 NjegomirJune 9, 20176min560

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.



Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMarch 21, 20173min540

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 NjegomirFebruary 23, 20174min500

The Colorado Civil Justice League — the state’s self-described “advocate for limiting lawsuit abuse” — has buttonholed a couple of pending legislative proposals it fears will drive more litigation.

The league makes no apologies for being the Capitol’s resident buzzkill on potentially popular legislation that seems to have solid prospects for passage, and these two bills are no exception. In fact, Senate Bill 88 and House Bill 1173 both have bipartisan sponsors, which bodes well for the measures. In the case of SB 88, there’s even a Republican and a Democrat listed as co-lead sponsors in each chamber.

However, as the league points out in a press statement today, its “primary concern with both of these bills is their potential to increase litigation and interference with freedom of contract.”

SB 88 would require a health plan to give notice whenever it bumps a physician or other health care provider out of its network of covered providers. Among its other provisions, the measure also would require health plans to develop and disclose criteria they use to include, exclude and dump doctors and other providers from their networks.

HB 1173 would prohibit an insurance carrier from taking any adverse action against a physician or other health-care provider for expressing disagreement with the carrier’s decisions regarding a patient’s coverage. So, if your doc were to complain, say, to the state insurance commissioner about your insurer’s refusal to cover a test, the insurer under this bill would be barred from taking a counter-step like limiting that doctor’s ability to serve other patients covered in that network.

So, both measures obviously stand to warm the hearts of consumers, but here’s the catch, contends the league: Where such good intentions are legislated on health-care coverage, overeager personal-injury lawyers won’t be far behind. By the lights of the league, both bills invite more lawsuits and pose other hidden hazards:

As introduced, SB 88 restricts freedom of contract between insurers and health care providers by creating additional contractual prohibitions in state statute.  Further, after writing these provisions into statute, the bill defines these contractual violations as “unfair or deceptive trade practice(s)” – akin to false advertising or knowingly making false statements – inviting new opportunities for litigation.  HB 1173 would seem to protect slanderous comments if provided as testimony to a governmental body or as “any other public activity in any forum.”  After inviting new litigation, the bill provides for one-way recovery of court costs and attorney fees (only for a prevailing plaintiff).
CCJL believes that contractual matters between private parties should be resolved privately and disputes resolved by negotiation rather than litigation.
HB 1173 is scheduled for a vote by the full House Friday; SB 88 is headed for a hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday.