Supreme Court endorses phantom damages

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Colorado Supreme Court on Monday handed down a bizarre 4-3 ruling that allows plaintiffs to recover health care costs that they never owed.

The court majority ruled that it's not sufficient for the party at fault to simply reimburse the injured victim for medical costs paid by the victim's insurance. Instead, the court ruled that the victim has a right to recover the original amount billed by the health care provider -- even if the victim or his insurer actually paid far less.

Richard B. Tucker was injured at an event sponsored by Volunteers of America (VOA) and was billed $74,242 for his injuries. However, Tucker's insurer, Aetna, had negotiated a discount and satisfied those debts with a payment of $46,236.

At trial, VOA was found 51% liable for Tucker's injury, but the court ruled that VOA's payment for medical costs must be based on the amount originally billed, not the lesser amount that was paid. Since the health care provider's bill has been satisfied by Aetna, Tucker is allowed to "keep the change."

The majority opinion was written by Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey and joined by Justices Michael Bender, Gregory Hobbs and Alex Martinez.

Writing for herself and Justices Nathan Coats and Allison Eid, Justice Nancy Rice said the majority's opinion insists that VOA "pay a plaintiff damages that neither the plaintiff nor his insurer ever actually incurred."

Rice added that the majority opinion is contrary to "the legislature's clear intent, the statute's plain language and sound public policy."

Legislators honored for 'Common Sense in the Courtroom'

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

DENVER — Colorado Civil Justice League today announced 48 state lawmakers from both parties who have earned the Common Sense in the Courtroom award for their votes to curb lawsuit abuse.

"CCJL awards legislators who take a stand against abusive lawsuits," said Jeff Weist, lobbyist for CCJL.

Winners will be honored at CCJL's Annual Awards Luncheon on Tuesday, Dec. 7, at the Westin Tabor Center in Denver.

Senators honored by CCJL include: Sen. Greg Brophy (R-Wray), Sen. Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs), Sen. Ted Harvey (R-Highlands Ranch), Sen. Ken Kester (R-Las Animas), Sen. Keith King (R-Colorado Springs), Sen. Mike Kopp (R-Littleton), Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud), Sen. Linda Newell (D-Littleton), Sen. Shawn Mitchell (R-Broomfield), Sen. Josh Penry (R-Grand Junction), Sen. Scott Renfroe (R-Greeley), Sen. Mark Scheffel (R-Parker), Sen. David Schultheis (R-Colorado Springs), Sen. Nancy Spence (R-Centennial) and Sen. Al White (R-Hayden).

Representatives receiving accolades: Rep. Cindy Acree (R-Aurora), Rep. David Balmer (R-Centennial), Rep. Randy Baumgardner (R-Hot Sulphur Springs), Rep. Laura Bradford (R-Grand Junction), Rep. Edward Casso (D-Thornton), Rep. Kathleen Curry (U-Gunnison), Rep. Brian DelGrosso (R-Loveland), Rep. Bob Gardner (R-Colorado Springs), Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma), Rep. Cheri Gerou (R-Evergreen), Rep. Daniel Kagan (D-Denver), Rep. Jim Kerr (R-Littleton), Rep. Steve King (R-Grand Junction), Rep. Kent Lambert (R-Colorado Springs), Rep. Larry Liston (R-Colorado Springs), Rep. Beth McCann (D-Denver), Rep. Wes McKinley (D-Walsh), Rep. Frank McNulty (R-Highlands Ranch), Rep. Tom Massey (R-Poncha Springs), Rep. Mike May (R-Parker), Rep. Carole Murray (R-Castle Rock), Rep. Kevin Priola (R-Henderson), Rep. Joe Rice (D-Littleton), Rep. Jim Riesberg (D-Greeley), , Rep. Ellen Roberts (R-Durango), Rep. Christine Scanlan (D-Dillon), Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling), Rep. Ken Summers (R-Lakewood), Rep. Amy Stephens (R-Monument), Rep. Spencer Swalm (R-Centennial), Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez), Rep. Glenn Vaad (R-Greeley) and Rep. Mark Waller (R-Colorado Springs).

"At CCJL, we are grateful for the bipartisan coalition of legislators who understand the importance to Colorado's economy of a court system that promotes fairness and follows the rule of law," Weist added.

CCJL is the only organization in Colorado focused exclusively on stopping lawsuit abuse while preserving a system of civil justice that fairly compensates victims of wrongdoing.

This year, the General Assembly confronted several attempts to increase litigation costs, including legislation that would provide new incentives for employees to sue employers, tenants to sue landlords, and customers to sue store owners.

In addition to honoring lawmakers, CCJL's Awards Luncheon will feature keynote speaker Sherman "Tiger" Joyce, president of the American Tort Reform Association.

'Mother of all false claims bills' dies in Senate

Monday, October 18, 2010

House Bill 1357, "the mother of all false claims bills" which would have subjected all state vendors to fines and penalties for erroneous billings — even when no "specific intent to defraud" could be demonstrated — died in the Colorado Senate on Tuesday, May 11. The bill was sponsored by Reps. Buffie McFadyen (D-Pueblo) and Joel Judd (D-Denver) and by Sens. Chris Romer (D-Denver) and Betty Boyd (D-Lakewood).

On a standing vote, a bipartisan block of Senators rose in opposition to HB 1357, sending it to defeat on a count of 13-20 with one senator absent/excused and Sen. Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass) presiding over Senate proceedings for the vote.

Voting against jackpot justice and for a sensible system of false claims regulation were:

  • Sen. Greg Brophy (R-Wray)
  • Sen. Bill Cadman (R-Colorado springs)
  • Sen. Joyce Foster (D-Denver)
  • Sen. Dan Gibbs (D-Silverthorne)
  • Sen. Ted Harvey (R-Highlands Ranch)
  • Sen. Mary Hodge (D-Brighton)
  • Sen. Ken Kester (R-Las Animas)
  • Sen. Keith King (R-Colorado Springs)
  • Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud)
  • Sen. Shawn Mitchell (R-Broomfield)
  • Sen. Linda Newell (D-Littleton)
  • Sen. Josh Penry (R-Grand Junction)
  • Sen. Scott Renfroe (R-Greeley)
  • Sen. Mark Scheffel (R-Parker)
  • Sen. David Schultheis (R-Colorado Springs)
  • Sen. Nancy Spence (R-Centennial)
  • Sen. Lois Tochtrop (D-Thornton)
  • Sen. Al White (R-Hayden)
  • Sen. Bruce Whitehead (D-Hesperus)
  • Sen. Suzanne Williams (D-Aurora)

Meanwhile, another false claims bill limited to Medicaid fraud, Senate Bill 167 (Sen. Betty Boyd D-Lakewood, Rep. Jim Riesberg D-Greeley), passed its final hurdle when the Senate voted to accept House amendments. The bill now goes to Gov. Ritter for consideration.

Although CCJL initially opposed SB 167, sponsors accepted a number of amendments proposed by CCJL in Senate Health & Human Services Committee, after which CCJL adopted a "neutral" position on the bill.